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Charlie Parker is just part of Jersey’s perfect storm

Voices | Published:

By Lucy Stephenson

(23996727)

A PERFECT storm is defined as an instance in which a rare combination of circumstances drastically aggravates the event.

Either that or it’s a 2000 disaster movie starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg.

Here in Jersey, however, while the cast may be different, and the glamour of Hollywood distinctly lacking, we’ve had our own perfect storm brewing.

States chief executive Charlie Parker is the man with the plan, the face of the issues confronting our Island today, if you were, and the one, crucially, that everyone is blaming when things aren’t running smoothly.

And it’s not just the critics who are saying it, the view that Mr Parker is to blame for, well, basically everything right now in Jersey is one that has cascaded down to a vast majority of the population.

It’s easy – and cathartic – to blame one person, even more so when he arrived on the scene from the UK full of self-confidence about knocking this little Island into shape without perhaps truly understanding just how quirky a place – and a people – we are.

But, sorry to disappoint, it isn’t all Mr Parker’s fault. Sure, he’s earned himself quite the reputation as a tough boss who hasn’t exactly been making friends. And we may not like everything he has planned or the power he has amassed in such a short space of time.

However, he is simply an ingredient in Jersey’s perfect storm, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that. As he told a Scrutiny panel this week, and this newspaper a few weeks ago, a combination of events are currently coming to a head.

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There’s the pay disputes that have been brewing, he says, for a decade, the new hospital saga that has probably been going on nearly as long and an impending deficit if savings aren’t made that he claims was uncovered by his investigations into what exactly is going on in the public sector. Whoever dropped the ball on that one, it wasn’t on Mr Parker’s watch.

Then there was the changing of the guard following last year’s election – something no one expected, least Mr Parker who was probably given the impression that the next government would be a version of the last.

Mr Parker does not mind being cast as the villain, in fact he does a pretty good job of playing to it.

And we cannot deny that he is here to do a job that needs doing – to shake up a system that had been left to gently motor forward, no questions asked. But we must not forget that in five, ten years’ time, it won’t be about him any more.

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Mr Parker is just a character in this story, after all, and while his decisions today will affect the future and we need to make sure they are right and appropriate for Jersey, it isn’t all about him.

A perfect storm does have a silver lining, however – it has the power to get people engaged with politics and fired up to stand up for what they believe in.

If we were to have a general election today, I have no doubt that the turnout would be higher than it was in May last year, when these issues were just bubbling under the surface, not spilling over. And we would have even more candidates come forward talking about real issues affecting real people.

Unfortunately, the same is not likely for today’s by-election in St Helier 3&4. Because by-elections are funny things at the best of times, and rarely get large numbers of people turning out to vote.

But if you do have a vote to use today, please consider using it. Because every vote really will count.

MEANWHILE, this week the election of two new Jurats – one of them a woman – means that female Jurats now outnumber men for the first time ever.

It has only taken since the 13th century, when the Constitutions of Kin g John ordered that the Island elect their 12 ‘best sworn men’ to keep the pleas. Hopefully that sexist sentence isn’t still in our legislation somewhere, but knowing Jersey it wouldn’t surprise me.

This is one of the few areas of Island life where the scales have tipped, and in favour of women for once.

Perhaps now is the time for the structure around those Jurats, which is still predominantly male, to change too?

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
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