A week in politics

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The logic, you see, is to leave the town in perpetual darkness, thus making old Monty, the owner of the local nuclear power station, a wad of cash.

So darkness reigns as the great metal disc casts a shadow over the entire town (things don’t work out for our protagonist, who takes a bullet in the chest for his pains, but that’s another story).

The reason for mentioning all this is that Monty’s sun-blocker is the best way to describe the effect that the Haut de la Gar-enne investigation is having on the States.

To quote old man Truman again, States Members should be acting like primeval savages gazing up at a full moon — electioneering should be in full swing, desperate rows should be sparking up left, right and centre, and mud ought to be flying.

But — unless tomorrow’s Order Paper proves me wrong — it isn’t.

The shadow of Haut de la Garenne hangs so darkly over Island politics that nothing else is happening. More to the point, nothing else seems to attract much interest.

I was chatting to a States Member the other day — nothing desperately unusual there, but it’s one of the weirder parts of my job — and I asked him the standard journalist question: ‘Anything going on, then?’

The response: a blank stare.

The answer: no.

And that’s because the standard-issue political fodder seems more than a little petty when police are digging up bones and teeth that may or may not have belonged to children living in the care of the state at Haut de la Garenne.

It’s partly because States Members — including, apparently, the Council of Ministers — find out what’s going on at Haut de la Gar-enne through the pages of the JEP and other media.

And it’s why a suggestion that senior police officers allowed Home Affairs Minister Wendy Kinnard to mislead the States — according to Senator Jim Perchard, the politician who now has responsibility for child protection matters — got such a muted reception.

For what it’s worth, this is just about the only story I can imagine in which I don’t much care whether the States were misled by the police or not. I’d rather the police just got on with their job, and I don’t really want them to spend their time updating States Members on every bit of progress.

And although it’s a strange thing to find myself writing, there’s a bit of me that wishes that States Members — all of them — would simply stay out of it entirely.

A question . . . Why do States Members hate me? I’m not talking about GST, or the fact that they’ve let house prices go screaming mental over the last ten years, or even the fact that it cost me £60 to fill up my car with petrol three days ago.

Those things are bad, really bad, and collectively they are going to pose some heavy questions over the elections, but they’re not personal.

But tomorrow’s States Order Pap-er . . . that’s personal.

It’s a monster — a sprawling beast of leviathan proportions, like the Death Star and a blue whale and the Grand Canyon all rolled into one.

And I’ll have to sit through almost every minute of it.

That’s every minute of a likely three-day set of debates including relatively uncontroversial matters like (deep breath): the Waterfront Masterplan, funding for school milk, a law making it illegal to carry £10,000 cash into the Island, a law to give the police powers to arrest you for ‘insulting or abusive behaviour’, and plans to regulate charities through the not-entirely-light touch of the Jersey Financial Services Commission.

There’s more, much more, but you get the drift.

During these debates there will be enough hot air to blast a new hole in the ozone layer, enough electioneering to rescue Gordon Brown, and enough nonsense to put a smile on Lewis Carroll’s face — and he’s been dead for 110 years.

You know, it’s almost as if they’ve all looked at the calendar, realised there are only seven sittings to go before the elections and thought ‘Blimey, we’d better get cracking on those manifesto thingies!’

Last week it was announced that the estimated bill for the historic child abuse/ Haut de la Garenne inquiry for 2008 was £6m.

No States Members have distinguished themselves by their conduct in relation to the whole affair (including the unelected ones — it will be a long time before I get over the breathtakingly ill-judged ‘the real scandal is the denigration of Jersey and her people’ speech from Sir Philip Bailhache).

But one of the few things the States got right was promising a blank cheque from the word go — saying that whatever resources the police needed, they would get.

And that’s fine. In fact, it’s the only decent, sane or reasonable way of dealing with it. If that’s what it costs, then that’s what it costs.

But £6m is basically what it costs to run the Environment and Planning departments for a year. I think we’d all be reassured to hear that there’s some control over the spending, and that it’s not, say, going on overtime rates for people to stand outside buildings, or on empty hotel rooms at the Hotel de France . . .

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