FORMER External Relations Minister Sir Philip Bailhache is planning a political comeback at this year’s general election – and says he wants to be Chief Minister.
The Jersey Liberal Conservatives was formally registered as a party at the Royal Court yesterday and Sir Philip has outlined his intention to be its leader. If successful in his party leadership bid – and at June’s general election – the former Bailiff has said he would contest the top job in Jersey politics.
Under the JLC’s constitution, its leader is selected by members chosen to contest seats in the States, those members having been appointed in a process devised by the party’s management committee. The committee comprises the movement’s founding members: former Senator Pierre Horsfall, retired senior civil servants George
Baird and Ann Esterson, Matthew Robins and Susana Rowles, both from the business sector, and Sir Philip himself.
Sir Philip, who is 75 and served as Jersey’s Bailiff from 1995 to 2006, told the JEP that he would offer himself as prospective leader of the Island’s fourth political party, and as a candidate in June’s elections. Asked if he would seek to become Chief Minister, Sir Philip said: ‘Yes, that would follow from being selected or elected as the leader of the party.’
Sir Philip declined to say how many potential candidates had already expressed an interesting in standing for the JLC – established last summer as a movement to gauge public support – but he conceded that the party had some progress to make.
‘What I can say is that we do not yet have sufficient potential candidates, which is a concern, and we hope that our registration as a political party will make it clear that we are serious about contesting the elections, and that a number of people who may have been sitting on the fence in relation to becoming candidates will be persuaded to approach the management committee and allow their names to go forward,’ Sir Philip said.
Following the JLC’s registration, Sir Philip said that the group intended to publish a ‘mini-manifesto’ on which they would invite public feedback before preparing a formal document ahead of the summer elections – the first to be conducted on the basis of redrawn constituency boundaries and without Senators, who were previously elected with an Islandwide mandate.
‘I don’t believe that any other party has put forward the values and aims that we have put forward, and which we assert will be the bedrock against which all policies will be formulated. We think that if we are elected in sufficient numbers to form a government, that we will be able to offer competent leadership and we will explain in our manifesto what we propose to do and how we propose to do it,’ he said.
Sir Philip acknowledged that in the first elections in recent history offering the public a choice of political parties, it was likely that some form of coalition government would be required, adding that it was difficult to say how many seats a party would need to secure to operate effectively.
‘I think that a number of members of the States – and I’m thinking particularly of Constables – will not want to associate themselves with any particular political party, but may be sympathetic to the views and aims of one of the parties. We certainly hope that a number of States Members who prefer to remain independents for a number of reasons would nonetheless share the values and aims of the JLC,’ he said.
Although Sir Philip explained that it was too early to be categoric about the policies that the JLC’s manifesto would contain, he reiterated what he described as ‘a need to sort out’ the loss of democratic accountability, which he said had been created by the ‘so-called One Gov structure’ introduced by ex-government chief executive Charlie Parker.
‘One of the great concerns of the JLC is that [the structure] has created departments which have no minister in charge: a raft of highly paid directors-general has been created with no accountability to an individual minister.
‘The problem is that it is impossible to hold ministers responsible for particular decisions in respect of which they should be accountable. That makes scrutiny by Scrutiny panels difficult. If there is confusion about the decision-making process, there can be no democratic accountability either to the States Assembly or public,’ Sir Philip said