“Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me!” This quote from a classic British comedy film serves as a succinct paraphrase of Stuart Syvret's verbose blog. (Link on the left, if you have got the patience for it.) Of course, another clichéd witticism is “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't really out to get you!”, and in his case, given the number of important (and unimportant) people Syvret has taken pains to deliberately offend over the years, they very probably are really out to get him.
Now Syvret is seeking to renew his mandate as Senator in a by-election. I have voted for him in every election he has stood in, in the past, but this time I have lost confidence in him as a political representative, and shall not do so. I shall explain why not, in the hope that none (neither?) of my readers do so, either.
Mr. Syvret is a magnificent orator able to imbue the many home truths he tells with immense depth and gravity. He is also bold in lifting stones to show the creatures of darkness lurking beneath them. That much I admire, and am happy to praise. Indeed, were that the whole story, I would be writing a different blog canvassing for him. However, the first reason that I have lost my trust in him is that he will tell untruths, be they malicious lies or merely reckless errors, with the same gravity, and identify the wrong people as the creatures he found under the stones. If he will do this where I know he is wrong, how many of the other claims, that I have only his word for, are also false? A very occasional mistake, promptly and apologetically retracted might be forgiveable, but Syvret has launched a plethora of disputed accusations, and stubbornly stood by every word.
(I lost faith in his veracity when he selected local blogger “Tom Gruchy” as his Victim of the Week. Syvret confidently asserted that “Tom” was a certain mutual acquaintance of ours, who has a very distinctive writing style quite unlike “Tom's”, and went on to make plausible but very private and personal revelations about long-past romantic rivalries. It took me until some time afterwards to work out who “Tom Gruchy” really is, but Syvret's readiness to denounce him, for what was plainly another man's scandal, gave me the measure of his own credibility.)
Syvret's long and ineffectual reign over Jersey's Health department ended when he unveiled severe failings in our Children's Service, despite his own senior civil servants denials. His accusations of a conspiracy to conceal the truth from him may or may not be true, but they are at least in accordance with public perceptions of how the upper levels of administration work, here and throughout the English-speaking world, in public and corporate sectors alike. Those who worked on the front line of his Department, however, say that they remember him as taking no direct interest in them, and being content to rule entirely through his allegedly treacherous mandarins. Anyway, once the relationship broke down, Syvret was forced from office in a way that cast a very bad light on Jersey's Civil Service and Council of Ministers, and gave him a large and genuine grievance. THE BY-ELECTION IS NOT ABOUT HIS SACKING AS HEALTH MINISTER. Even if, like me, you think he was wronged by it, that is not the proposition we shall be voting on.
The aggrieved ex-minister then turned to justifying himself on the internet. He has given publicity to various serious and credible people who have also had careers crash apparently as a result of revealing or disputing deficiencies in Jersey's Children's Services. It is a tenable theory that they have all been let down by the same flaws in the system, but Syvret and his disciples would go further, and conclude that they are all victims of one overarching conspiracy. The improbability of this is the second reason I have lost trust in him. THE BY-ELECTION IS NOT ABOUT WHETHER YOU BELIEVE THE SYSTEM TO BE DEFECTIVE, NOR WHETHER YOU BELIEVE IN A GRAND CONSPIRACY. Tentatively, I would say “Yes” and “No” respectively, but there is evidence against both views, too. Whichever, we shall not be voting on it.
Other serious and credible people, elsewhere, are casting doubts on some of Syvret's star witnesses. This muddies the waters. I would contend that each and every claim or accusation, of crime, or conspiracy, or incompetence, or corruption, needs to stand or fall on its own merit, and nothing can either be proved by its proponent being right about something else, nor disproved by its proponent being wrong about something else. There is clearly not enough information in the public domain for anyone to have more than a gut feeling that something is wrong, or that things are all right really, if only the troublemakers would shut up. So, justice has not been seen to be done for or to anybody caught in the linked webs of the Children's Service and Haut de la Garenne scandals. Neither the alleged criminals, nor the alleged concealers of their crimes, nor the supposedly incompetent investigators, nor the alleged victims of abuse themselves. THE BY-ELECTION CANNOT GIVE JUSTICE TO ANY OF THOSE DENIED IT. You cannot vindicate anybody by your vote, so don't let it distort your judgement.
Another reason for losing trust in Syvret as a politician is his disinclination to work constructively with anyone else. Parliamentary politics needs teamwork, and instead he turns viciously on all those he should be working with. His disloyalty and rebelliousness as a minister could be justified by open differences of policy and principle, but then he extends the same enmity to the progressive cause, too. He has publicly vowed to destroy the JDA, for instance. He started by claiming that he knew for a fact that two known paedophiles were JDA members, although he shut up when challenged about how he found out they were paedophiles or how he obtained the JDA membership list. No doubt he will be back with more lies when he gets around to it, though. In the meantime, he has just been generally unsupportive. Even so he pulled strings with his few friends in the party to censor mention of him on a JDA web page. None of the independent progressives ever get any backing from him, either. A VOTE FOR SYVRET IS A VOTE AGAINST PROGRESS AND REFORM.
Even worse than his refusal to work constructively, for six months, he refused to make himself available for the political work he was being paid well for, at all. The charges he fled from facing were for relatively minor offences, and the more serious one was eminently defensible, so his flight was a grave error of judgement, as well as disappointing cowardice from a man who offered himself as our brave champion. So, he shamelessly claimed £20k of public money to be deliberately useless. Now he claims it was to force a by-election, costing another £50k or so of public money. But he could have resigned back then and saved the wasted £20k, had the by-election been the real objective. Putting everyone to the trouble and expense of a by-election in the hope of being re-elected, when he already had the seat do what political work he would from, is an irresponsible sacrifice of the public interest to his personal vanity, anyway, be it part of the plan or mere consequence of the flight. A VOTE FOR SYVRET IS A VOTE FOR PUTTING VANITY BEFORE THE PUBLIC INTEREST. Discourage others from following his silliness, by punishing him with votes for anyone else but him.
Syvret's own excuse for his dereliction is that he has been doing some “investigative journalism”. True, wild accusations continue to appear on his blog. Every action of the officials on his hate list gets interpreted as another piece of the Grand Conspiracy. However, given that this man will shamelessly lie about others on the progressive side of Jersey politics he ostensibly is part of himself, can he be trusted to tell the truth about establishment figures, when not backed by quotes from more reliable sources? Or is he simply blackening the names of everybody he doesn't like, and he is an unfriendly man who doesn't like many people, out of sheer spite? He seems to believe that anyone who cannot afford to bring a defamation action against a respondent who manifestly cannot repay even the court costs must automatically be guilty of anything. This is the old idea of trial by ordeal revived in a more urbane style, not truth or justice. A VOTE FOR SYVRET IS A VOTE FOR PUTTING GOSSIP BEFORE JUSTICE.
The thing that disgusts and annoys myself and others most about Syvret, though is his sheer hypocrisy. He started from the widely shared position that political interference in criminal justice is wrong and inherently corrupt. He was right to question the apparent pressure on the police not to pursue certain corruption and malfeasance cases. However, he has then gone on to rage at the police and allege corruption, because they have not prosecuted anyone on the strength of his hearsay allegations. He is another politician who should be keeping a discreet separation from the judicial process, not trying to call the shots as to who is and is not charged. Instead he calls for the heads of all who stand in the way of his hate campaigns. A VOTE FOR SYVRET IS A VOTE FOR HYPOCRISY.
What the by-election is really about is to put a competent politician, who commands the support of more of the public than the alternatives, into the States to do a job for us for a year or so. I expect that there will be a good choice of old hands and promising newcomers, but, I fear, also a fringe of fruitloops. Stuart Syvret has earned his place amongst the last, by his consistent lack of judgement in the last year or two. Once, he looked like tomorrow's man. Now, having dismally failed to fulfil that apparent potential, he is not even yesterday's man. We must all send this noxious ball of narcissism and spite the message that Jersey wants better from our politicians, by voting for others.
There are a little band of loyal disciples who have been overjoyed at the second coming of their beloved ex-carpenter. Another classic British comedy film sums up their error, though: “He's not the Messiah, he's just a very naughty boy!”