25 January 2013

Did you hear the one about the Politician who took a pay increase?

There is an old joke that about lawyers that goes: 'Isn't it a shame how it's the 99% a bad lawyers that give the other 1% a bad name.' Substitute lawyer for politician and you have a ready made joke next time you bump into your local States Member.

As a quick aside, I was interested to hear the evidence given by Advocate Fogarty at a public scrutiny hearing on the mental health of prisoners. She is clearly someone with a great deal of experience in the Jersey legal system and of representing defendants with mental health related issues. She was quite robust in her comments that parts of the system across the board are letting vulnerable people down, and need addressing urgently, commenting also on issues of understaffing, wrong or no diagnoses and an absence of adequate facilities for people with psychiatric issues in Jersey. More on that scrutiny review can be found here by Citizen's journalist, Tom Gruchy (all thoughts are his own).

The reason I bring this issue up is to contextualise. Whilst jokes about the motivation, efficacy and ethics or Advocates and States Members about, I still believe that the vast majority of them go into for basically the right reasons. They want to make a difference and make one for the better. I believe this in the case of Tories, Socialists, Republicans, Democrats and people across the spectrum. I don't agree that all of them are right and often, I believe they are blind by the 'unintended' consequences' of their politics, but they generally want to make a positive difference. Of course, politics will always attract those on the megalomaniac/psychotic spectrum - which is maybe one reason why women are often not attracted to politics. But, hey, who amongst us is perfect?

Today, I am posting my response to Lucy Stephenson, who has written much recently on States Members pay, and who wants to know which of us States Members is taking our below cost of living pay adjustment ( to use politically correct, but also factual terms).

Whilst she is correct that States Members pay is a matter of public interest, I feel that the perennial tone of the discussion, with the media in general (the Channel TV coverage was perhaps even more facile), lacks any meaningful criticism. I have subsequently corresponded with Lucy to re-iterate that none of the comments are personal, but reflect primarily on the caliber of the J.E.Pravda (accountability is a two way street):

JEP journalist, Lucy Stephenson

Letter to Lucy

Hi Lucy,

Why are you only interested in how we are spending the below inflation 1.8 cost of living adjustment that States Members have been awarded, when the remaining 98.2% is also paid by the tax payer? Surely in the public interest, you should be asking us what we are going to be doing with that money also.Have you also thought to look into the pay affairs of the Crown Officers, Bailiff, Attorney General, etc, who are also public servants, but of a different kind? Do you even know whether they are receiving a pay increase? If so, is it more or less than us. Or does JEP populism turn into deference when it comes to these figures?Are you aware that the Crown Officers (they will correct me if I'm wrong) and other Public employee groups also receive incremental pay increases based on length of service? This does not apply to States members.Are you also aware that States Member's pay has fallen behind that of equivalently paid civil servants when benchmarked against? Since 2004, States members pay has consistently lagged in relative terms, as can be seen by the very useful stat attached in this link: (http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyPropositions/2012/P.127-2012Com(2).pdf#search=p.127) quite ably produced courtesy of the States Greffe.This kind of information is not often reported as it does not fit with the populist, 'all politicians are useless kind of mantra' that low quality tabloids like yours are keen to pursue.The most sinister consequence of this populist and partial reporting is that it inadvertently, or by design breeds despondency among the public. It seeks to tar us all with the same brush. It does QUITE RIGHTLY tap into the fact that people out there are suffering, and that we live in an un-equal world, but rather than offering any critical analysis as to why this is the case it takes the easy way out and and targets an easy scape goat.The real questions to ask are 'why is it that we live in an economy where wages, for the majority, do not keep up with inflation?' 'Why do the rich, even and especially in Jersey, get richer whilst the poor, on whose labour their wealth is built, get poorer and continually more oppressed, so they are forced increasingly into State dependency?'These are the kind of questions I would expect from both politicians and journalists. These questions are asked by politicians, although we are a minority in Jersey. They are asked by journalists of most papers everywhere else, whether left, centre or right, but in Jersey there is never any analysis or questioning of the economic model which harms our own people. Why is this?Lastly, to return to my point of 'tarring-with-the -same brush.' There are those politicians in Jersey, in a minority, who fight for workers to be able to have a real cost of living adjustment. You would do well to look at those politicians who voted against the 'modest' increases in minimum wage and against pay rises for public employees in recent years. This is where the inconsistency lies. please do not group me with these.

Kind regards,

Montfort Tadier