Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Over the last few months I have been watching reports on the upcoming American elections and the race to become the Republican and Democrat nominations to ultimately run for the White House. At the moment it seems that it may boil down to a fight between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (If Hillary becomes America's first female President, will that make Bill, First Gentleman?).

More frightening is the possibility that the nuclear button will be at the end of Donald Trump's fingers. However, as recent results have been declared, it seems that Republican voters are believing that Donald Trump is the viable option to fight either Clinton or Sanders for the keys to the Oval office. If that nightmare scenario becomes a reality then the world should be afraid, very afraid.

Either Trump is a great actor, he is certainly a showman, or he is the Election Joke and nobody has seen the funny side yet? His unscripted oratory at conventions and caucuses appears to whip up xenophobia, racism, violence and mayhem. One of his pet projects, he declares, is to build a high wall along the Mexican border and make the Mexicans pay for it. He also wants all Muslims to be deported from the United States, saying that immigrants should go back to their own country, failing to see the irony in the fact that, apart from Native American Indians, every other person in  America is descended from immigrants. Trump's family is descended from Germany.

Across the many television stations in the US, there is a unique type of advert used by political rivals called the 'Attack Ad'.

Wikipedia describes an Attack Ad as:
"an advertisement whose message is designed to wage a personal attack against an opposing candidate or political party in order to gain support for the attacking candidate and attract voters. Attack ads often form part of negative campaigning or smear campaigns, and in large or well-financed campaigns, may be disseminated via mass media."

Attack Ads are the worst in personality politics. Instead of attacking the individual's  policies, these adverts attack the individual, often with scurrilous and libellous comments, which would not be allowed in many other civilised countries. 

Because of the rise of social media over the last twenty years, ordinary people who, in the past, would be moaning to their mates on a Friday night in the pub, now have access to a much wider audience for their gripes. In Jersey, never has a local politician been as accessible to their electorate as in the age of instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter and the like. However, many stay away from social media, while others seem to engage frequently with their voters. Unfortunately, I have witnessed sustained personal attacks from the public, voters and incumbents of the House. Surely this is no way to engage in political debate. My father once said that you can attack the policy, even come up with an alternative to that which is being discussed, but you should never resort to petty name calling and personal attacks as a person would lose their credibility in an instant.

In some of the hustings in 2014, during Jersey's first General Election, candidates verbally attacked other candidates sharing the platform. This is unforgivable and lacks class. To change a well known saying slightly,

"Comment in haste, repent at leisure*". 
(*original saying is marry in haste, repent at leisure)

Too many people shoot from the hip, without loading the gun or more recognisably, they fail to engage brain before using their mouth (or fingers if they are typing). Things are often said in the heat of the moment, which, with the luxury of hindsight, they would not have said in that manner. Once you have published the comment, you cannot take it back as it is published in real-time. Even if you delete the comment, it is already out there.

In the run-up to the 2018 General Election, to be held in May for the first time, it would be nice to think that there will be robust political jousting without the unnecessary personal antagonism.

Play nicely children ! 


When Sir Cecil Clothier came over to the island in the mid 90s, I was a Centenier in St. Helier. The Clothier Committee had been set up to look into the machinery of government within the States of Jersey and to pass on recommendations to the House.

I remember well having to run a Centenier's enquiry evening in the vastness of the St. Helier Town Hall Assembly Room with Sir Cecil and five panel members watching on as I dispensed justice to those that were listed to attend that night. Each person, quite rightly, had to be asked if they minded their 'dirty linen' being washed in front of six eminent strangers. Had anyone not agreed, they would have been re-allocated a different date.

After each person had left the room, I was quizzed on my decision making by the panel. It was an exhaustive but extremely interesting peek into the Committee's remit that evening and I am glad that I was given the opportunity to take some small part in the Clothier process.

I was always of the opinion that once the findings of Sir Cecil's report had been shared in the States Chamber that the choice should have been either to implement the findings in their entirety or reject the report wholesale. However, the States decided to cherry pick parts of Clothier they felt were palatable and reject large swathes of it. Thus was borne 'Ministerial government'.

I honestly believe that the island is too small to run efficiently with Ministerial government. There may have been gripes and problems with the old Committee system, headed by a President, which usually consisted of between four and six other members, but States members were more closely involved in decision making than is currently the case.

What we have is a Cabinet headed by a Chief Minister (Prime Minister). While each ministry has Assistant Minister/s and scrutiny panels are set up in some sort of pseudo opposition, many members are sitting on the periphery, peering through the window wondering why they have not been included in important decision making.

My late father, Graeme, was a teenager when he lost his sight. However, he was a highly intelligent young man who was 'discovered' by a couple of forward thinking politicians, as he ended his teen years mending wicker furniture in a shop near the old Oddfellows pub in town.

During his secondary education, the school that he attended did not know how to deal with a disabled child (this was in the late 1940s) and was 'marked as absent' throughout his senior school years, even though he attended school (St. Paul's). He was then educated by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (London) and back in Jersey, sat the Commonwealth examination for the Chartered Institute of Secretaries. My mother recalled that he took his exam in a freezing cold store cupboard at South Hill, because he needed an invigilator to read the exam questions for him to answer. When the results for the 5,000 people that year that took the exam across the Commonwealth were published, my father came out as top of the Commonwealth and became a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries. His first job was as a clerk in the States Greffe.

During his early months at the Greffe, he wasn't given the chance to be allocated a States Committee. There were still prejudices within society about those with a disability. One of the Committee secretaries was a good friend of my father's, Graeme Huelin, who because of an onerous workload, farmed out some of the notes of Committee meetings to my father to transcribe (despite being blind, my father was an accomplished touch typist). On one of the next Committee meetings, Graeme Huelin was asked who typed up the notes for the meeting and he had to concede that it was my father. On the strength of his contemporaneous dissemination, he was given his first Committee. Graeme Huelin (my God father) went on to become the Bailiff's Secretary and then a Deputy for St. Brelade.

I was brought up around the Committee system and I remember that my sister and I fought over who was going to read Dad the latest Committee briefs, agendas and minutes, perched on the couch feeling very grown up (there were no electronic gadgets to assist in the 60s).

I believe that reasoned debate around a Committee table gave every States member a belief that they were making decisions at the heart of government and while the President was the spokesperson for that Committee, there were often five or six other members who were responsible for the decisions made which, nowadays, is made by one person, often without challenge among his/her ministry colleagues. 

Simply put, there is too much power in too few hands. There is less challenge at the point before a decision is made and Ministers start believing their own hype. The Committee system may have been a little slower, but decisions were made after proper debate around the Committee table. The vote in the meetings went with the majority and not the result of one persons megalomaniacal standpoint.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hello Blogland

My name is Roisin Pitman and I am a 53 year old retail business owner from Jersey. I was born and educated in the island and left school at sixteen to pursue a career in banking, with Lloyds Bank.

At 20 years of age I decided that banking wasn't for me and set about applying for the States of Jersey Police Force which I joined on 1st October 1982 and successfully completed basic training at Ashford Police Training Centre (Grosvenor Hall) in Kent.

During my time as a police officer I undertook uniformed patrol duties and worked in the criminal investigation department, drove traffic vehicles, was in the heavy motorcycle section and was part of the drugs squad and force intelligence unit. In 1990, without warning I lost my sight overnight when both retinas simultaneously detached. Between 1990 and 1994 I underwent 32 eye procedures in Jersey and at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, but was discovered to have an hereditary, progressive connective tissue disorder. On 5th July 1993, with one eye now permanently lost, I was medically retired from the Police.

In September 1993 I went into business with my father and sister at our locally established retail business (Trek Plus), selling specialist outdoor clothing and equipment. I have now been running the business as Managing Director since 2002 and jointly own it with my sister Christine.

In what spare time I have had over the years, I have been a mobile disc jockey, a cub scout leader, a footballer and a martial arts instructor. I founded and still run my Aikido club from Fort Regent which is now 29 years old. I have studied aikido for thirty-six years and currently am the highest graded aikido exponent, with a disability, in the world, holding a 6th Dan black belt under Master Yasuhisa Shioda of Tokyo, Japan. I also hold a 4th Dan in Mushin-Do under the late Master Francis Ramasamy of Penang, Malaysia. 

This season (2015-16) I started playing league football for St. Paul's Ladies as one of the goalkeepers in the squad at the club based in my home Parish of St. Saviour.

Last year I registered another business, with a view to offering self protection solutions to the public sector, corporate and private clients. For the last twenty-five years I have lectured and run courses in self defence for Beaulieu Convent, Hautlieu, Highlands College, the Children's Department, Adult Education Services, Highlands staff and numerous Honorary Police Forces. I have recently lectured in Brighton and at Oxford University. I have taught aikido in many countries around Europe and Malaysia and have clubs in Jersey, Guernsey, Warrington, Farnham, the Italian Alps and Brittany. I am also the Director of Disability Martial Arts for the Jersey Sports Association for the Disabled and an Avon Representative.

I have never been particularly political but I am passionate about the island of my birth and I have watched the island lurch from one disaster to another over the last twenty or so years. My late father, Graeme Pitman, tried several times to enter the States of Jersey, standing both as a potential Deputy in our home district of Petite Longueville (St. Saviour No 1) and as a Senator aiming for an islandwide mandate.

During the hustings I regularly heard people say that my father was the one that always spoke sense, however, this didn't materialise when the votes were counted. My late mother once said to me that Dad would have been so frustrated in the House had he been successful.
My father's nickname, among the local media was the "incorruptible civil servant". He was honest, direct, and did not suffer fools. Even though he lost his sight as a teenager, it did not stop him rising through the ranks in the Jersey civil service. He was a Committee Secretary in the States Greffe, Chief Administrative Officer for the Department of Public Building & Works (now Infrastructure) and Chief Officer of Fort Regent until his retirement in 1992. He was a highly respected senior civil servant for forty years on a fraction of the wages that are paid out to some of the civil servants today. Many on six figure salaries are not even Chief Officers, but underlings.

I have exercised my right to vote on every election since I became eligible to vote at the age of eighteen in 1980. The politicians that sat in the States Chamber were unpaid and served for the good of their island and its people. Many were retired business people, who had run or continued to run successful businesses and wanted to give something back to the community. When the 2014 general election occurred (the first one in Jersey) I was hard pressed to use my full allowance of votes for Senator. There were just no inspirational candidates. Some manifestos promised the earth with no hope of deliverance and others promised one thing and then promptly voted the other way. For the first time in living memory the public have almost unanimously lost faith in the House and its inhabitants. We feel let down and lied to with so much spin being employed that the resultant wind could power the whole of our electricity grid without need to pipe it in from France.