The winners of my annual ‘Year in Politics’ awards...
By Lucy Stephenson
IT is something of a tradition at this time of year to reflect on the year that has just gone. And what better way than by handing out the annual year in politics awards?
So here goes…
Lost cause of the year: The hospital saga
Considering that we have been warned time and time again, and in no uncertain terms, that we really, really need a new hospital, and the sooner the better, you’d have expected we would have actually got on with it. And a few times this year we were very nearly making a teeny tiny bit of progress in the right direction. But then we got a new government, with a Chief Minister who had never been happy with the plans for the new hospital on the current site and we were back to square one.
Put a vocal opponent of the current site in charge of a review of the situation and it was never going to end well, was it? In the long term they say it will be for the better but for the time being it is difficult to see how and when that will actually materialise, and will any of us actually be around to see it? The issue is still very much in the air with no clear path for what comes next and when we might actually get that new hospital that we so desperately need.
Moment of the year: Election night drama
There was an hour or so on 16 May, perhaps going into the early hours of 17 May, when it looked like Reform Jersey’s own chairman may have lost his seat in the House. Because, as the votes rolled in, the then Deputy Sam Mézec was trailing in the Senatorial ballot and the gap was widening. But then the St Helier vote came in and saved the day, and Senator Mézec’s political career. It wasn’t a moment of the year because I wanted him out, just a particularly exciting election night that really showed that it is never over until the fat lady sings.
A short while later Senators Tracey Vallois and Kristina Moore made history as it was the first time women had taken the top two spots in a Senatorial vote. All in all, election 2018 was not short on drama and excitement.
Surprise of the year: The Chief Minister election
There was only ever going to be one contender in this category, and it is a decision that has marked something of a seismic shift in our States Assembly. Because after Senator John Le Fondré beat incumbent Chief Minister Ian Gorst to the top job by 30 votes to 19, all our preconceived ideas about the government changed overnight. All of a sudden the backbenchers known for their constant questions and scrutiny were in charge and no one quite knew how it was going to play out. We are still asking that question, to be honest, and are yet to get a real flavour of Senator Le Fondré’s style of government.
Hero of the year: The late Deputy Richard Rondel
Despite a long-running battle with cancer, the Deputy was in the States whenever he was able, was still responding to constituents and answering the phone to journalists up until very close to his death last month. He will always be remembered for being a true Deputy of the people, and for a smile that could light up the States Assembly on even the dullest of days. The person who will take his place in St Helier 3/4 will be elected in February and they certainly have big shoes to fill.
Villain of the year: States chief executive Charlie Parker
Not a States Member, but a lot more powerful. And he’s no stranger to the Chamber, having apparently been particularly vocal – some would say too much so – in the back rooms during the recent strategic policy debate. He was always going to have a tough time winning over the people, and he’s not really bothered if he doesn’t anyway – he’s not here to make friends. He made that clear in his first address to staff earlier this year in which he told them to get on the train or be left on the platform. The Charlie Express has been steaming forward ever since, with mixed results and swathes of passengers left behind or chucked off at the wrong stop. There’s definitely an important destination in the sat nav, we can’t argue with that, but the question is will there be any passengers left to deliver by the time it gets there?