RARELY has a more merciless spotlight been trained on Jersey than that which the Jersey Care Inquiry deployed last week. By now the main conclusions are well known, but to me one of the most significant parts of the report was the full frontal assault on the ‘Jersey Way’.
It was devastating in its condemnation of how the Jersey Way became synonyous with a culture of covering up wrong doing and failing to hold people to account.
There was also a wider sense in which the Jersey Way was exposed. The report repeatedly drew attention to the way in which Jersey lagged behind in adopting better standards of childcare. It was staggering to read that there were no external inspections of children’s services between 1981 and 2001. Jersey had its own way of doing things, but it was wrong.
This critique extends well beyond the issue of childcare. It can also be applied to failings that have long been apparent within Jersey politics. For example, the catastrophically low turnout in elections is a reflection of the lack of confidence most people have in the political system. Jersey’s way of doing politics isn’t working either. It was noteworthy that the report explicitly linked political reform with the need to address failings in the Jersey Way. A telling aside urged the States to take another look at the Carswell and Clothier Reports. The implications was that the failure to implement these reports represented another unjustified example of ‘island exceptionalism’.
I read the Care Inquiry’s conclusions on the Jersey Way as a plea for a new bargain between government and governed – an invitation to political leaders to offer a radical new settlement. Big, bold changes that signify Jersey will be different from this day forth. Implementing the Carswell and Clothier recommendations would be a good start. What a legacy for a Chief Minister to show that he (or she) really understood the need for change.
The way in which the Care Inquiry report has been accepted by Jersey’s political leaders does them credit. There will no doubt be some satisfaction that the fallout has been contained; the story has left the national stage. It would be a tragedy if that meant the opportunity to renew Jersey’s social and political fabric were missed.
Jerseyman Jonathan Renouf is a television producer working in the UK and was a member of the Jersey Electoral Commission.Subscribe to our Newsletter