Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Is Jersey in Africa?

I just don't get it. This is about Jersey again, and I make no apologies. If a tsunami hit the island tomorrow it would rightly be all over the papers - yes even here in cold, distant Scotland - and we would probably all dig deep into our pockets to provide for the victims and play our tiny part in restoring normality.

Yet the victims of abuse at the former Haut de la Garenne children's home, the victims - it is becoming clear - of an institutionalised culture of harsh treatment that prevailed for many years - might well wish for a tsunami if it would sweep away the apparatus of the state that so cruelly conspires to deny them justice.

If you think I overstate the case, take the time to read Jersey Senator Stuart Syvret's blog on It will take some time, but I urge you to do it. In case you fear that you are just reading one side of the story, check out your gut feeling - are you reading the words of a person of integrity? Since January there have been nearly 120 postings and thousands of comments.......

OK, have you got the picture now? If you didn't know it before, you will now know that Birmingam Lib Dem MP John Hemming and Grimsby Labour MP Austin Mitchell have been urging the UK Government to intervene, which it is constitutionally entitled to do, to ensure that justice is done. Not much about that in the UK media was there? And maybe you did hear a little fragment of the BBC interview with former Deputy Chief Constable Lenny Harper, who led the Jersey abuse investigation until his retirement earlier this year. But now you also know that he said of the obstruction his enquiry encountered:

"There just seems to be a thread running though of people interfering, and people obstructing, together with a series of delayed decisions, which all very, very, easily lead amongst victims to an even stronger suspicion that they are not being supported, and that people are actively trying to delay the enquiry.

Now even if I look at it from a cold and clinical investigator's point of view, there were a vast number of decisions which just totally escaped me, in respect of a rationale for them. "

And now you will know that a former very senior official has recently been unmasked on the blog as having been involved in the physical abuse of children. And still the British media maintains its silence.

You would think Jersey was in Africa, where we somehow manage to ignore or tolerate flagrant abuses of human rights, either because it's not nice to interfere or because we think that's just the `African way'.

Jersey deserves our attention. The victims of abuse deserve our support. And they deserve it now.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

What future for the SNP?

Is it just me who is wondering what will happen to the SNP post-Scottish independence?

Or, more particularly, what will happen to Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon et al? Alex clearly will become President, Father of the Nation, King or however we decide to honour the architect of our new status. Chris Hoy or Andy Murray will of course be appointed to the Hoose o' Lairds and appointed Sports Minister. But seriously though, what happens to the SNP?

There seem to me to be two options. Either they will all migrate to splinter nationalist parties, such as the FNP (Fife) or SNP (Shetland) or else they will be absorbed into the new political landscape. Whatever that may be. I can't see many of the left-leaning Nationalists wanting to jump into bed with the dejected rump of Scottish Labour (even with Alistair Darling as their emollient new leader), much less Annabel and the Scottish Tories. A few perhaps will be tempted to bolster Tommy Sheridan's ranks and perhaps a few more will turn Green or Lib Dem. Perhaps the majority will be content to retire to the family croft with the comfort of `job done'.

What is Scotland?

With the Labour party in its death-throes, the Conservatives meaningless in Scotland, and with the consummate politician Alex Salmond at the helm, Scotland has now passed the tipping point on its journey to independence.

Which raises the question: just what exactly is Scotland? Earlier this year an unofficial referendum in Berwick-upon-Tweed resulted in a majority in favour of the oft-disputed burgh returning to Scotland. Well fine and dandy. As Descartes once said, "I think I am Scottish, therefore I am."

But why stop at Berwick?

Let's suppose, sometime after Scotland has won its independence, a groundswell of opinion emerges in, say, Cumbria, that folk would prefer to throw in their lot with Scotland. This is overwhelmingly approved in a referendum, so Cumbria joins the party. What next? Perhaps other coterminous English regions would consider their position. How much, after all, do Geordies identify with London? You might try asking Kevin Keegan.

Now I am not saying that Scotland should have designs on currently English territory - I am just following the logic of Descartes. And there would of course have to be a clear geographical rationale for any such arrangements. It would be patently absurd for the good people of the Isle of Wight to harbour ambitions to sport the kilt, although I would have to concede that the Scottish legal system might better address the need for justice in Jersey than then current ruling elite in London.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Why Bother About Jersey?

OK, I guess you know about the Jersey child abuse case, centred around the former Haut de la Garenne children's home. Maybe you think it is just another sad chapter in the litany of child abuse cases that have come to light in recent years. A sad chapter it certainly is - most especially for the victims - but don't imagine this case is just like all the rest. For it seems that in Jersey things are done according to `the Jersey Way', and this all-pervasive culture amongst the ruling echelons of Jersey society has evoved to protect the status quo - potentially at odds with the hopes of the victims for justice.

The closing of ranks of the Catholic church in the face of the earliest abuse allegations against priests is not dissimilar. The first instinct of the church was misguided compassion for the `fallen priests', who, having yielded to the temptation of the flesh, required the full and forgiving support of the church, to the point of denial and even vilification of victims. Later experience has strongly suggested that child-abusing priests were following their vocation as paedophiles and cynically manipulated the church as a vehicle enabling their gratification. Such people never deserved the naive protection of the church.

Read Jersey maverick Senator Stuart Syvret's blog to learn how the Jersey oligarchy is also closing ranks to conceal the truth.