An ill-judged tweet, a Constable made to resign and the last days of the Parker era – who needs this much news?

THIS column-writing lark can be a bit feast or famine.

Gary Burgess, ITV journalist and columnist for JEP. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30478655)
Gary Burgess, ITV journalist and columnist for JEP. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30478655)

Some weeks there’s simply nothing obvious to write about, then other weeks it’s a case of which of the myriad issues and events knocking around would make the best subject matter.

This week is a bit like that.

Plan A was to focus on ‘that’ tweet from Deputy Lindsay Ash.

You’ve got to feel sorry for him. It must be awful being challenged by the ‘woke left’ and ‘trolls’ (to use his words) when all you’ve done is make an arguably misogynistic and racist joke online on International Women’s Day.

I won’t repeat what he said. A quick Google search of ‘Lindsay Ash’ and ‘joke’ will fill in the blanks for you.

In his entirely unprivileged position of Assistant Treasury Minister with his hands on the government’s billion-pound-budget purse strings, with a direct line to the Chief Minister, and access to the machinations of the corridors of power that most of the rest of us can only dream of, it can’t be easy.

Rather than a quick apology for, at best, a crass error of judgment to say what he did when he did, as an elected leader of the Island, from his position of power, and as somebody people should be able to look up to and be inspired by, he doubled down.

Even when eventually deleting the offensive tweet as ‘it detracts from the vital work of the government’, like a kid in a playground who just won’t give in, he said both the Commission for Standards and the Chief Minister thought he’d done nothing wrong.

If he’d done nothing wrong, why delete it?

For what it’s worth I’m a huge fan of many of Deputy Ash’s one-liner jokes that he regularly publishes online. And nobody’s trying to ‘cancel’ him, despite what he may allege. It’s simply a reminder that actions have consequences.

Which brings me nicely to Plan B and some thoughts on Constable Chris Taylor, declared ‘not fit for office’ in this week’s devastating judgment after his latest court hearing.

It’s about as damning as it gets when it comes to a verdict on someone’s ability to carry out their official duties.

It means St John is in for an election to select the next mother or father of the parish, and there’s a chance for a corner of Jersey that’s been synonymous with scandal and murky finances to draw a line and show that it is possible to operate in a transparent way.

Throughout there’s been a sense of arrogance and entitlement from the Constable, who continues to protest his innocence having previously dangerously driven his car into an off-duty police officer who was patrolling a road closure.

This latest hearing was about his use of parish money to fund his failed legal fight.

The conclusion of the case offers reassurance for everybody that the law will catch up with people – whoever they are.

In this instance, it’s Mr Taylor who, when he stood down as an Assistant Chief Minister to fight his first court case, received a glowing letter of endorsement from the Chief Minister lauding his ‘professionalism and experience’.

My Plan C was to ponder the Charlie Parker era.

The chief executive of the Government of Jersey packed his bags and left his office for the final time on Wednesday of this week.

His contract of employment, with a £250,000 annual salary, was brought to an early end in December. Since then, he’s been on a like-for-like fixed-term contract.

The obvious question is why?

When I asked for an explanation, I was stonewalled by the government, which said that answering the question would be a breach of confidentiality.

Before he resigned in November over ‘that’ second-job scandal, I reported that the Council of Ministers was told ending his employment early could cost £625,000.

We don’t yet know the pay-off. We don’t yet know if there even is one. But history shows such golden goodbyes are par for the course.

The most plausible explanation I can find is that Mr Parker would want his pay-off to fall in 2020, a year when he was ordinarily resident in Jersey. If it was to be paid in 2021, a year he may be now ordinarily resident in the UK, he’d be liable for quite a hefty tax bill. The solution? Do exactly what he’s done.

That might be what happened. It might not be. Opacity at the top of government prevents us from knowing such detail.

I have, of course, asked Mr Parker for an interview. That offer has, of course, been declined. Just as he did last November when he wrote that self-pitying letter about not having the chance to give his side of the story… despite me asking him for it.

What is Mr Parker’s legacy? Well, he began a process of modernisation, but it has been characterised by the appointment of consultants costing tens of millions of pounds a year and a restructuring at the top of the civil service, with a clutch of new mega-salary positions.

We also know that within this new-model government bullying remains a problem.

Just this week an independent review of the issue of bullying concluded that there needed to be a change in attitudes ‘from the top down’. Just four innocent-sounding words, but in the context of how these benign-looking reports are written, it was a very pointed statement.

Mr Parker arrived telling his workforce to get on the ‘modernisation train’. What we don’t know is whether he in turn is now departing on the gravy train.

What a week!

For more comment and opinion pieces, see today's Jersey Evening Post.

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