COMMENT: The Jersey Way embodied in a letter from the Bailiff

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It was a letter which accused the inquiry panel of ‘fanning the flames’ when it comes to negatively characterising The Jersey Way, of coming up with an ‘illogical’ and ‘unnecessary’ recommendation, and of exceeding its remit.

The author of this letter? The Bailiff, Sir William Bailhache.

His cascade of criticism is dressed up as being specifically in opposition to proposals to axe the dual-role of the Bailiff, but his language can only serve to undermine the whole inquiry report. He is currently chief judge and the presiding officer in parliament. Having a foot in both judicial and political camps, in most democracies, is a no-no.

Sir William’s four-page missive begins by making it clear he is only commenting on the recommendation that The Jersey Way needs attention, but his blunt prose will be – to some – the embodiment of The Jersey Way.

He says the care inquiry report doesn’t provide evidence that changing the role of the Bailiff would improve child protection. He goes on to say only one anonymous witness aired concerns about the dual-role. And he slaps down the Chief Minister for never being ‘willing’ to discuss the situation with either him or his predecessors. Ouch!

Sir William concludes his letter by placing Senator Ian Gorst in a most unusual position: he asks him to offer the assurance that the care inquiry’s call for the Bailiff’s roles to be split is not the reason for him supporting a fresh look at things. In other words, Senator Gorst is being asked to change his position that he intends to enact all the inquiry’s recommendations.

That kind of pressure is, surely, The Jersey Way.

The letter was copied in to the Council of Ministers and to the Privileges and Procedures Committee. It was that committee which determined it would be prudent for the information to be in the public domain to help States Members with their decision-making when it comes to the question of the Bailiff.

It’s less than two months since the publication of the care inquiry’s report. In that time, it would appear more time and effort has gone into criticising and picking apart its findings (see previous columns about Deputy Lewis and Senator Bailhache).

The States meet on 12 September. On that day they’ll consider the call for Deputy Lewis to face a vote of censure (parliamentary speak for a mild telling off) as well as the debate on separating the dual-roles of the Bailiff. It’s their first meeting after the summer recess, and one which will be seen by many as a chance to disrupt all that’s cosy about The Jersey Way.

And so, onto the subject I was planning to devote this whole column to: men’s health.

I was stopped by a stranger in a coffee shop in St Aubin last week. He’d been undergoing treatment for cancer, and had seen an online blog about my own ongoing health problems (just Google my name and ‘Desperate for a diagnosis’ if you fancy a gander).

He made the excellent point that men are, generally, rubbish at seeking help with their health. He spoke of colleagues on the building site where he works who clearly have significant health problems, yet won’t go to see their doctor about it. He spoke of the suicide rates among men, and particularly young men, being much higher than those of women. And he spoke of his frustration that it isn’t spoken about enough.

So here goes. I know, from personal experience, of the importance of seeking medical assistance if something’s wrong. In the past I was diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent both surgery and chemotherapy. In the past few years, I’ve undergone two further surgeries to remove tumours from my chest and lungs, and I’ve been off work for most of this year with a still-undiagnosed string of symptoms which have seen me darken the door of an oncologist, endocrinologist, gastroentirologist, microbiologist and radiologist. I’ve been prodded and poked, had a camera shoved down my throat and waved around my innards, and – today – I have two CT scans.

And while, at one end of the spectrum, there’s me and my mystery illness occupying the minds and time of far too many medics for my or their liking, there are others suffering in silence right now with both physical and mental health problems.

Please, please, please, if you know something’s not right with you, make an appointment and seek help. You’re not giving in, you’re not wasting anybody’s time, you’re not showing weakness. Actually, it’s a sign of strength, and a help to yourself and the wider health system in the long run if things are dealt with sooner rather than later.

I never did get the name of the man who stopped for a natter. But thanks for doing so – and I hope your crusade to get us men more health aware makes a difference.

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