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We need an inspiring leader to demonstrate vision and empathy

Voices | Published:

By Gary Burgess

Gary Burgess

A FRIEND and former colleague of mine, Leah Ferguson, died last week at the age of just 39. Her dignified approach to her terminal cancer diagnosis was astonishing and humbling.

We worked at ITV Channel Television together where, as political correspondent, she made sense of the sometimes crazy world of Jersey’s States Assembly. Her warmth, compassion and integrity in her story-telling was matched by her curiosity, generosity and kindness away from the cameras.

For a life to end so quickly and so young is just wrong. But I know those who knew Leah, myself included, are grateful for whatever time each of us had with her in our lives.

On Tuesday this week, the father of one of my dearest friends died. You probably won’t know Henry Mitchell. He was a councillor and former mayor of Blackpool who was made an Honorary Alderman of the town.

I knew him as Happy Henry, the People’s Mayor. His love for his hometown was obvious to all who knew him or followed his career in the local news up north. As a ward councillor he represented his constituents, as a council committee member he fought myriad campaigns to improve the lives of the often-forgotten, as mayor he championed the brash, bright and bawdy Lancashire seaside town in a way that was always authentic.

I mention Leah as a reminder to us all to live life to the full. To live for today and avoid putting off things to another day. That day may never arrive.

I mention Henry as he strikes me as precisely the type of character so rare in Jersey’s politics right now. Somebody who cares passionately about the community they serve, somebody who will fight for the rights of those who don’t have the voice, platform or power, and somebody unafraid to grapple with difficult issues to get the job done.

At a time when it feels the default setting of Jersey’s current parliament is to delay and dither, to set up one review panel and working party after another, and to take nearly half a year to come up with a set of priorities the rest of us could have conjured during our lunch break, it really is time for those both within the Council of Ministers, and the rest in the States Assembly, to show to us all that the class of 2018 won’t be remembered for all the things they failed to do.

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It’s nearly six months since the General Election. Half a year of a four-year term gone. We have very little to show for it.

Indeed, a general strike in the public sector could well be the stand-out moment of 2018 – not exactly what those who stood for election on a platform of fairness, equality and social justice had in mind.

If ever there was a time for Jersey’s equivalent of the mayor to step forward and demonstrate leadership and vision, and to inspire a group of people who feel utterly disillusioned about their perceived lack of value, then it is now.

Where’s our Chief Minister?

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When will he sit down and listen to public-sector workers’ fury about their pay deal and use his own influence to bring them back from the brink?

To quote Senator John Le Fondré’s own manifesto from earlier this year: ‘I am well aware there is public disillusionment with the States, particularly in decision-making and a failure to engage properly with people.’

Now’s your chance, John.

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