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End of an era as Senator Ozouf decides not to stand

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SENATOR Philip Ozouf – one of the most high-profile figures in Jersey politics for the past 20 years – has announced that he is not seeking re-election and will leave the States in May.

Senator Ozouf at home, nervously awaiting the result of the last Senatorial election in 2014

The 47-year-old, who recently described the past 12 months as a ‘year from hell’ after facing a police investigation into the use of his States credit card and scrutiny over his involvement with the much-maligned Jersey Innovation Fund, plans to pursue other interests.

The Senator’s decision brings to an end a long political career which began when he entered the States as a poll-topping Deputy in St Helier in 1999 and saw him become one of the most controversial and divisive figures in local politics.

But he is describing his departure as a ‘break’ – and has not ruled out standing for election in the future.

‘Nineteen years in front-line politics is a long time for anybody,’ he said.

‘I was going to stand down before the last election in 2014 but I changed my mind. But now it is the right time for me to do other things.

‘It has not been a pleasant year and I wouldn’t have wanted a repeat of that. The endless attacks on me and the constant need for me to justify myself have been difficult to deal with.

‘I recognise I have made decisions that have been unpopular but I believe they were the right ones. But I just need a break now.

‘A week is a long time in politics, and I am not ruling out standing for election again one day,’ added the Senator.

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Following a three-year term as Deputy, he was elected as Senator in 2002 and was comfortably returned to office in 2008. But by 2014 his popularity was starting to wane, and the then Treasury Minister only narrowly managed to beat Sarah Ferguson to the eighth and final Senatorial seat in a vote which was so close it was taken to a re-count.

Over the course of his career the Senator, who reformed Planning and Environment and introduced the Island’s competition laws, has been regarded by many as one of the most dedicated and hard-working politicians.

But he has also been linked to several controversies, and last year was sacked as Assistant Chief Minister by Chief Minister Ian Gorst.

At the time it was believed the sacking was a means to appease Members who were angered by Senator Ozouf’s return to the ministerial ranks after he briefly stepped down following the Jersey Innovation Fund scandal.

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Last week Senator Ozouf said that he had been exonerated over the JIF and the real reason behind his sacking were rumours over the use of his States credit card. He was recently cleared of any wrongdoing over the payments.

Asked if he thought he would have been re-elected had he stood again, he said: ‘I would have fought a hard and forthright campaign and I believe it would have been successful.’

He added: ‘When you sit in the States you do so with such a sense of privilege and it is going to be hard to let go. When I do so, it will be with a sense of sadness for what has happened during the last 12 months, but I’ll also have a sense of pride that I have done what the many thousands of people who voted for me over the years expected me to do.’

Senator Ozouf now plans to spend more time working in his family’s property business, as well as studying at a business school and working as a consultant.

Richard Heath

By Richard Heath
author

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