Sunday, 16 May 2010

He's Just A Very Naughty Boy

“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!”


Anonymous said...

I am sorry but i don't agree with anything you have said and i don't think the abuse victims Syvret has been supporting would agree with you either

Anonymous said...

Without agreeing with your decision to vote against Stuart, I do think you have made several important points which many others might if they were less afraid to.

I agree that Stuart is not a person who works well with others, and he is not cautious and judicious enough in his approach to identifying and accusing at least a few of those individuals by name with less than adequate evidence of their wrongdoing. This failure can't always be offset by his ability to uncover and reveal the terribly important facts about individuals who should have been prosecuted long before he named them. He has serious personal flaws which have worked against him for a long time.

His expressed self pity and his accusations of conspiracy all around him are not lovely, but they are often more than justified.

The problem I have with your stated approach to this election is that I do not think Jersey will change and evolve into any decent self governing political entity without Stuart. Jersey history shows amazing tolerance of corrupt and greedy official self protections, leadership stupidity and truly evil concealment of child abuse by use of entrenched government orchestrated cover ups.

These are issues which will not be resolved by that well meaning and polite political discourse which a more transparent system could afford, and a more informed electorate elsewhere could demand.

The evidence of extreme voter complacency in Jersey is all too easy to detect for an outsider. There is simply far too much grumbling about government mistakes and an extraordinary lack of effective citizen demand for change. It seems to be just an acceptable enough situation for too many islanders.

The reforms possible only when an outspoken and sometimes outrageous political folk hero emerges are the very major changes urgently required in Jersey. The need for more people like Stuart might actually be the single most serious problem Jersey faces. He alone has pushed brazenly hard enough to expose what might otherwize have remained a thoroughly institutionalized culture of truly evil abuse concealment.

If my observations are correct, there is not a single individual in the public arena who can replace him without losing Stuart's hard earned momentum for even basic reform. To this Jersey outsider with local ancestral ties, nothing Stuart does as a politician seems as likely to disgrace Jersey as the established power base probably will itself, because the exposure of its seedy underbelly is now inevitable.

Love him or hate him, Stuart is the only one stubbornly determined enough, brilliant and egotistical enough to do what truly must be done in time to save Jersey from itself.


Other Exile said...

There are a number of sentences in capitals in the last contribution - election slogans or just shouting?

On the contrary, where a Minister receives a vote of no confidence on the suggestion of a cabal of senior civil servants it raises serious questions about the way Jersey is run, especially when a similar cabal helps to engineer the suspension of the Chief of Police.

On the contrary, where people feel that they have been let down badly by a system they have the democratic right to elect someone who is going to shout about it. Anyway, it's for the voters to decide why they cast their votes, not you.

There are a number of ways of fighting injustice. Sometimes the best way to continue a protest against injustice is to use the electoral system.

This really takes the biscuit. He usually votes the same way as the JDA and other progressives, but he's rude and sometimes the rudeness is unjustified. So vote for anyone else, however right wing and useless. This approach on the left has a nasty history of which I am sure that you are aware.

Leaving the Island after having the police arrest you for two minor offences, having you and your partner's home turned over without a search warrant, and having an extremely expensive prosecution advocate spoon-feeding a magistrate on what is or is not an admissible public interest disclosure defence against a Data Protection Offence. Those sound reasonable grounds to me. And how do you know what he has been doing for his constituents in the last 6 months?

This seems to be a conclusion drawn from the assertion that Syvret has made defamatory statements and not everybody could afford to sue him. As he pointed out the costs for bringing a complaint of defamation in the Jersey Courts are pretty small – and some of the potential complainants are extremely well-off. Yet not one of them has taken any action. Why?

Lost me there completely – you start by agreeing that there is something seriously wrong with the Judicial and Police systems in Jersey – then you complain that he rages against the same bodies for not bringing prosecutions. Sounds like voting for consistency to me.

Anonymous said...

You've made a lot of allegations here, but you haven't given any proof or evidence. As they like to say to Stuart - put up or shut up!

Ugh, It's Him! said...

Put up or shut up? Being an opinion piece rather than an academic essay, I wrote it from memory, rather than having original sources to hand to quote references. However, my sources were the JEP, Stuart Syvret's own blog, IsThisJersey? and, less reputably, Planet Jersey. And maybe I got some stuff I think I have read from personal conversations instead. Certainly, it was the brief spell as an IsThisJersey contributor that opened my eyes to what a liar the man is. But, as he was defaming one of that site's moderators, I don't think the threads are there anymore, if you missed them.
Thanks to NLH and Other Exile for serious and interesting responses.
Emphasising key points in capitals is shouting slogans, I suppose. I don't usually do it that much, and maybe shouldn't again. But it did help you to focus your answers, too. Obviously, you have fallen for the trick of loading the other baggage onto the election, but you have yet to persuade me that it should not be about getting someone better in, instead.

Other Exile said...

Dear Ugh!

You make some good points and I am glad that you see that the criticisms are intended to be constructive.

If I understand correctly the difference of opinion I have with you is over Stuart Syvret's motives. You say that I have fallen for the trick of loading 'the other baggage' onto this election. I suppose that this means that you think that Stuart's motives are primarily personal vanity, petty vendettas etc., and that the substantive issues that his interventions have raised are beside the point.

What is the explanation for the tone of some of Stuart Syvret's utterances? It looks to me to be more a case of someone who has been driven to extremes of expression by what he has experienced, particularly in the last two years, than vanity or nastiness: that the only way to get people to sit up and take notice was to express himself in this way. Of course he has made mistakes and he has made some enemies of people who should be his friends. But this does not detract from the core, the substance of the message:

a) Jersey has a dysfunctional legal system, which excludes ordinary people from being able to defend their rights;

b) Jersey has an organised political establishment, which wants to maintain the status quo at all costs. Normally this establishment hides behind the label of political independence, but they are quite capable of organising when they see a threat to the status quo;

c) Any attempt to establish more openness in public life is resisted ferociously. A lack of openness allows for tighter cohesion between the members of this group - a little bit of turning a blind eye to someone's wrongdoing means that person is in debt to the rest of the group and therefore much easier to control;

d) The internal opposition is weak and divided, external monitoring of governance is very weak;

e) The Establishment feel that they can act with impunity - arbitrary arrests and house searches, petty harrassment, a suspension of a Police Chief for nearly two years with no substantives reasons being given.

f) Like many other places, sadly, the supine mainstream media are happy to be spoonfed propaganda. Some are worse than others of course, but it is remarkable that major items of political interest are sometimes excluded from coverage by the JEP and the BBC, only to come to public attention through the alternative media;

g) Much of the above is becoming increasingly obvious and it is difficult to see how things could continue this way.

By all means be critical of Stuart Syvret, but please don't confuse the tone of voice with the substance of what is being said: at the moment Jersey needs all the Stuart Syvrets, JDA members and other progressives it can find, even if sometimes they do not like each other very much...

Anonymous said...

And thank you as well, for providing a forum for political views which go beyond the usual entrenched polarization and vicious gossip. It is often difficult in such a small place to find decent political discussions with much long term perspective.

No matter what the election results may be, I fear for Jersey because the days of keeping a lid on its corruption and abuse cover up ended with the internet. Yet, the naked stupidity of those officials who just keep digging themselves in deeper is too obvious to dispute, in my opinion.

Unless Jersey cleanses itself of this rot there will be terrible publicity all over again with no new lessons learned. Better if it can be cleaned up from the inside because outside Jersey I fear there is not going to be any sympathy as the truth continues to leak out.


Ugh, It's Him! said...

Thank you again, Other Exile, for more food for thought. I think your itemised points are all very sound observations on our current predicament.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I too must disagree with you.

I will be voting for Stuart, not because I think he is a messiah - he certainly isn't and in some respects is a somewhat flawed character, however he comes as the whole package and what he has done to expose the dysfunctions in the government of Jersey more than compensates for his somewhat autistic personality traits.

He has made some hurtful and rude remarks about people, I'd rather he hadn't, but to counter this he has also put evidenced facts into the public domain that otherwise would have remained safely locked away. He has changed the face of Jersey politics through his blog, people are much more politically aware than they were five-ten years ago because of his blog and the furore it has caused.

He may have a very robust ego (you would need to, to do what he has done) but it takes someone with such traits, who will not pull back in the face of personal threats and bullying to bring about the changes that are necessary.

The ruling elite are afraid of him, what he knows and what he articulates and that in itself has to be a good thing.

This will be a referendum on the current COM and it is sad that other anti establishment candidates have chosen to stand against Stuart as this will split the vote and play directly into the hands of the ruling elite.

I don't think he would make a good chief minister, but as an active member of the States, he is in my view essential, and therefore gets my vote.

Anonymous said...

If you're going to make allegations against Syvret, and call him a liar etc, then you really must back up your claims with evidence.

It's not good enough to say 'Oh, I'm not being marked on this so I don't need to prove what I am saying' if you expect to be taken seriously.

I don't know you and I don't know him - all I go on is the evidence I have before me.

Your piece and your follow up comments read just like all the other ad hominem attacks on thisisjersey, but at least we know those are from pro establishment commentators.

Stuff like this - and Ted Vibert's letter in the JEP tonight - make me wonder what the JDA's game really is.

Perhaps you are sending out tacet signals to our establishment that you intend to act as a faithful opposition? One that will not rock the boat too much, and could be counted on as a 'safe pair of hands' when CoM positions are up for grabs.

So please prove me wrong - and put up or shut up.

Ugh, It's Him! said...

Anonymous #3:

I have done some googling to see if I can find the comments I was complaining of. As I thought, they were censored sharpish, as in some he was defaming the forum's own chief moderator. Thus I can't find the direct quotes, but I can find SS whingeing about their removal on another forum:
I can't even find the exchange I had with him on ITJ about his JDA peadophiles accusation by trawling through my own comments archive there, so that thread must have been completely deleted.

Anonymous said...

I have just discovered your blog for the first time and I am pleasantly pleased to read this critique of Stuart Syvret’s politics.

Jersey is blighted with the “cult of the personality” (for new entrants look up its Stalinist origins). Populism and demagoguery have substituted for a real popular and organic opposition for many decades. It reflects the immaturity of the political culture or perhaps it is so right wing that anything based on collective interest has come to be regarded as pernicious.

This was evident with Shenton senior in the way he promised lots and delivered little. The last time he was elected he promised to bring thunder and lightning from the heavens to right injustices in the Island. The result was sweet nothing. Shenton senior had the gullible masses in his power and the poor dupes respected him. It was a messiah phenomenon of the meak wishing to be led to salvation. The charismatic individual would do it all for them, if only they retained their trust, and there would be no need to endure any suffering or makes sacrifices. Shenton acted solely in the interests of wealthy property owners and never for the poor, but the poor never seemed to realise.

The tradition continued with Senator Ted Vibert. Charisma replaced democratic participation and empowerment. His top down version of forming an opposition party cramped democratic participation. Cobbling together right wingers with chips on their shoulders and a group of social reformers was a recipe for an ultimate split.

Mr Syvret is a unique phenomena in Jersey politics who has blased a trail for 20 years and survived. There must be something very peculiar about Jersey political culture to allow such a politician success. “Old Jersey” seems to like the maverick individual as much as it seems to loath organised class based politics. Mr Syvret is a rare hybrid of personality, charisma, right wing politics, conservatism and radicalism all in the one bag.

His popularity lies not just in “Old Jersey” but with the poorest sections of Jersey’s working class who perceive him as an expression of themselves. They recognise their subordinate social position but have no consciousness of themselves as being able to change and improve. They are kept poor and atomised by an elite that regards them with benign indifference. When they vote for him in this election it will be a protest vote against that elite, but not a positive demand for something different, for change.

Personality politics have stood in the way of an organised political opposition based on the expression of economic interest. Syvret’s individualism has caused him to wreck many attempts to establish such collective politics and he remains steadfastly aloof. He has also caused much damage along the way. At the time of the Limited Liability Partnership Law scandal, he diverted attention away from the sins of the Policy and Resources Committee, by attacking Uncle Reg. The Establishment got off the hook because he personalised the matter.

The end of the Syvret era will be an opportunity to embark on creating an opposition that can undertake the long overdue reform and democratisation of Jersey. The false messiah must be exposed.

Anonymous said...

But can anyone else even begin to clean up the corruption in Jersey? No, of course not.

Other progressive candidates have a decent shot at winning future elections, but only after Stuart finally finishes his thorough job of exposing the entrenched criminal elite at the helm.

This by-election is a referendum on Stuart's accusations and his well documented evidence of illegal government cover-ups. Other progressives who hijack this by-election only place themselves in the way of that potential for any meaningful change.

Why would anyone who cares about human rights and transparent democracy jump in to block Stuart's path now when he alone brings momentum for change, some solid international support and national press contacts, as per his blog?


Anonymous said...

Stuart does not bring any momentum for change - quite the oposite. He is as big an obstacle to chenge as Frank Walker ever was, as big as the Connstables. As for challenging corruption - that needs to be consistent and all levels. A man who sets himself up as judge, jury and executioner and decides that his opinion is all the evidence that is needed is not the sort we need in government. Sad but true Stuart Syvret is a political dinosaur. That he has become a nasty and vindictive one is all the sadder.

Other Exile said...

Simple Questions

Here is a simple question of political and electoral logic:

In what way does the JDA strengthen its position in the States Assembly by having an existing member of the States Assembly stand in a by-election?

And here is another one:

What particular aspect or aspects of Stuart Syvret's politics justify standing a candidate against him in a by-election, when the risk is that such an action might allow a supporter of the status quo to gain an extra seat in the States Assembly?

And just one more for good measure:

If this is an issue of political principle, why have you not stood another candidate who is not already a States member?

I'd be intereted to know the answers to these questions, as I'm sure some of your other readers would as well.

Ugh, It's Him! said...

Other Exile:

To question 1: It does not help us in any way at all. It is just a hiding to nothing in my personal opinion. However, I am in a tiny and massively outvoted minority of the party on this one, and either have to lump it or flounce out in a huff. Worse, it means supporting my party costs me my chance to influence who the new member will ultimately be. I could vote for a new member in this by-election, probably Suzette Hase,if she has a good campaign, but if Geoff succeeds, then the new member will only be voted on by St Helier 2. I am planning a proper article on these matters soon.

Question 2: His ineffectual gesture politics have thoroughly discredited himself and not reflected well on either progressive politics in Jersey generally or the specific issues he has been riding the bandwagon of. Moreover, he has shown himself to be as desperate an enemy of the JDA as he is of the establishment. Wimping out of facing him down is not really an option. If he takes more votes off Geoff than Geoff takes off Francis, that is the way the cookie crumbles. If you can't handle losing a vote, then democratic politics is not the game for you.

Question 3: On the one hand many supporters were urging Geoff to stand, and on the other, there was no obvious candidate available. Ted Vibert couldn't, I would have been too scary for Middle Jersey and too right-wing for key backers, and we haven't honestly got any other non-States Members who would suit the multiple hustings and general razzamatazz of a Senatorial campaign.

Other Exile said...

Thanks for your straight answers to my questions. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.