Storm in Bailhache’s absence
Today the final public meeting of the Electoral Commission was held in the Committee Room at the Town Hall.
In fact it wasn’t a complete Commission because Chairman Senator Philip Bailhache was absent and Deputy Baker only turned up at 11.20am for the hearings that started at 9.00am (although the screen in the lobby said 10.00am).
Left to their own devices the remaining four Commissioners seemed much more relaxed and Colin Storm, the former Guinness and Burger King Supremo was noticeably friendlier and tolerant as chair. He even invited yours truly as the token member of the public present at the outset if the sound was adequate – an issue raised during my own hearing some weeks ago - so the Commission is at least listening on some matters…and they presumably read the JEP too, as revealed during the hearings.
Seven witnesses appeared to give their oral evidence although several proceeded to read scripts that were written in haste at the last possible moment – and it showed.
Deputy Higgins was a rather disappointing self in his presentation and he always seems to be too busy with his aircraft hobby to concentrate on his more important duties public duties as a Deputy.
Shame, because he is a decent sort who means well, but when Colin Storm loaned him a pair of glasses to enable him to read his own script the credibility quotient hit a particularly low point on the scale.
The Deputy did commence though with a jibe at the recent JEP editorial which provoked Storm to clarify in strong terms that the Commission had not yet even considered any of the matters before it. He continued that he did not know why the JEP had written such a thing or whether it was done maliciously or benevolently but he resented that certain people had made that allegation which impugned the Commission’s honesty.
“I can assure you on my honour that we have not yet discussed these matters” Storm protested…
During Senator Farnham’s presentation yours truly passed a note to the Chair asking if the witness could speak up and true to his word Storm interrupted the Senator twice to raise the decibels a bit. So he was not only listening but prepared to act too…
Daniel Wimberley’s 11.00am session commenced with an initial heated discussion arising from a late night
e-mail exchange and his desire to be allowed to rebut an “expert opinion” commissioned and paid for by Advocate Mark Renouf and attached to his written submission “on the final day” allowed.
Colin Storm explained that this document would be examined along with others in the usual way…
Wimberley followed up with a request to see the “expert opinions” received by the Commission but Storm said that these were already published on the Commission’s web-site – which came as a surprise to both of us.
The former Deputy also raised the JEP question and Storm repeated that he did not know if the editorial was malicious or misguided etc but Wimberley persisted “Will you ask the JEP for a retraction?” Storm was unsure – he initially said it was a matter for the Chairman but then that he did not know – but thought it was unlikely that a retraction would be sought.
The exchange seemed to take the wind out of acting Chair Storm’s sails for a while and Dr Jonathan Renouf (the former Hautlieu student turned BBC TV documentary producer) then mostly asked the questions for a while on Wimberley’s “seven principles that the Commission should follow.”
As is traditional for the man from St Mary, his diatribe exceeded the time allowed and he was only silenced by Storm at 11.45am with thanks for all his written research and the promise that “we will read it all.”
Bob Hill next appeared and also explained his growing cynicism and how there was a perception “outside” that there was already a “done deal” by the Commission and that its constitution had been “loaded.” Storm assured him that they all had one vote only and Renouf affirmed “we are only lay members after the event.”
But, asked Bob, suppose there is a split vote between your 6 members? Would the Chairman have a casting vote? Storm responded that at worst there would be a deadlock but then added “This is not a charade; I would not be involved in a charade.”
The hearings eventually - and finally - ended at 12.50pm.
Other questions were asked by Commission members Constable Gallichan of St Mary and Professor Sallis.
Deputy Baker managed a few sentences including the comment that poor voting figures were a reflection of contentment.
Other witnesses were Raulin Amy a
Jersey advocate working for a local practice.
Sylvia Lagadu, a candidate in the most recent Senatorial elections.
Constable Steve Pallett who had been turned from party politics and membership of the JDA through Honorary service in St Brelade…
Anyone for charades?