It is interesting to see who has been given a seat at the top-floor table
By Lucy Stephenson
ON the ninth floor of Cyril Le Marquand house there’s the biggest table I’ve ever seen. How they got it up to the top floor is something of a myth, but even more mysterious is how decisions are made around that very important Council of Ministers’ table.
I’ve long thought that perhaps the size of the table is to blame for the lack of coherent decision making at times, after all if ministers are sitting so literally far apart how are they supposed to figuratively act as one?
But that’s a discussion for another day, and anyway we haven’t seen any real decisions from the new ministerial team to suggest that they will continue the patterns of their predecessors – yet.
What we have seen, however, is a return to the early days of the Gorst government when there were questions about who exactly was in charge.
Back then it certainly wasn’t States chief executive John Richardson, but the triumvirate of Senators Gorst, Sir Philip Bailhache and Philip Ozouf.
Today it is a similar three-pronged arrangement, and Senator Gorst is still there, albeit as External Relations Minister this time.
But he is joined by Chief Minister John Le Fondré and States chief executive Charlie Parker.
Thanks to changes approved by the States (it is rumoured brought at the request of Mr Parker during his interview as a condition of him taking the job) the chief executive now has more power over departments. Mr Parker himself is also a very forthright character determined to see his vision (because a lot of it is his) carried out, and in the main by ‘his’ people.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed that on the political side of this triangle something of a coalition is developing.
Senator Le Fondré has spoken at local business events, his old school prizegiving and the opening of the new Premier Inn, while Senator Gorst – by far the most experienced of the two – goes to London to meet Westminster representatives alongside the Chief Ministers of Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
But there’s some other characters in the mix at the top, albeit not political ones.
The make up of the recently-announced Channel Island Political Oversight Board gives an insight, and suggests some of the priorities we may see emerge in the next Strategic Plan.
In a press release sent out to the media towards the end of last month, it was announced that senior figures from both Jersey and Guernsey were part of the board and had met for the first time.
From Guernsey this included the Chief Minister, chief executive, external relations lead, president of the Committee for Health and Social Care, the island’s chief strategy and policy officer, treasurer, director of transformation and chief secretary to the Committee for Environment and Infrastructure.
For Jersey the list included the Chief Minister, Senator Gorst as External Relations Minister, Health Minister Richard Renouf, Mr Parker, Treasurer Richard Bell, External Relations group director Kate Nutt, Strategic Policy, Performance and Population director-general Tom Walker, Growth Housing and Environment director-general John Rogers and Director of Communications Stephen Hardwick (who one can assume by his presence on the board, coupled with the fact that he is the only one of Mr Parker’s original ‘hit team of consultants’, is perhaps more involved in the decision-making than his title would suggest).
Today, a version of that press release is on the ‘news’ section of gov.je, however only the political representatives on the board are listed – why? The others were detailed in the ‘notes to the editors’ section of the press release which does not appear online.
Is it simply an oversight? Or did someone realise it gave too much of an insight into who is really calling the shots at Cyril Le Marquand House?
Meanwhile, there’s another big question among us journalists since the appointment of the new Council of Ministers.
Why do many of the new ministers not answer their phones anymore?
Politicians who once were easily reachable – and as backbenchers criticised ministers when they retreated into their ‘ivory tower’ – are now at risk of doing the very same.
Perhaps it is in the ministerial handbook that you stop answering your phone when you become a minister, or perhaps they are now just too busy?
Or is it all part of a wider strategy for all communications to come from the centre?
After all, with new, mostly inexperienced ministers now in place there’s the opportunity to set some new ‘rules’, as it were.
Let’s hope, in the interests of transparency and the public interest, there’s some rule breakers among them if that is the case.
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