Retracing the e-trail, by Peter Roffey
Tuesday 15th October 2013, 5:00PM BST.
ONCE again we’ve seen the perils of politicians using internet forums but behaving as if they’re only talking to a small group of acquaintances.
This time it was a ‘reply all’ response to email traffic between deputies, but if any of our elected representatives don’t yet realise that sharing things with all their colleagues is exactly the same as sharing them with the whole island they’re either naive or slow on the uptake.
As a result, a bit of good-natured banter ends up as a front-page story with the banner headline ‘Islanders labelled as “inbreds” by deputy’.
Whose fault was it that this unfortunate headline was generated?
The Press’s fault for printing it?
You really can’t blame them for running a story that a deputy had presumably given them and which was bound to generate considerable reaction.
Deputy Elis Bebb’s fault for making the ‘inbreds’ remark in the first place?
Partly, obviously, and for not realising that a bit of innocent joshing of a colleague, with whom he’s probably on friendly terms, was bound to go public if made as part of an exchange open to all States members.
Deputy Paint’s fault, for being over sensitive and thin-skinned?
After all, he’s been pretty robust in his language towards non-locals in the past. Not long ago, on a Sunday phone-in, he told a long-term resident campaigner for better disability provision that if he didn’t like Guernsey the way it was ‘there’s a boat from the end of the White Rock every day’.
So is this a case of being able to dish it out but not able to take it?
Or was it the fault of whichever deputy went running to the media?
Again, partly, but someone leaking such exchanges should really be taken as an absolute given.
There is a more serious side to this slanging match.
The whole issue of the rights of locally born people versus non-locally-born residents is likely to take centre stage soon when the new population policy is brought back for reconfirmation.
So it’s vital to detoxify the subject.
All of us living in Guernsey just now have enough problems to overcome without creating some sort of pathetic ethnic divide. So, in an attempt to sanitise this potential running sore let’s remember how this ‘slur on true-bred Guernsey folk’ came about.
A few deputies, having nothing better or more pressing to do, were discussing the Herm lease by mass email.
Deputy Mike Hadley (English) criticised Treasury and Resources’ handling of the matter. That led Deputy Dave Jones (English) to launch an almost totally unrelated attack on his own people and their impact on the world.
Very odd from such a passionate supporter of UKIP, which is almost an English National Party, but I’ve given up on understanding Deputy Jones’ contradictions, and anyway I digress.
At this point Deputy Matt Fallaize (Guernsey) was obviously as puzzled as me and inquired, tongue-in-cheek, if this exchange over the possible Anglicisation of Herm was only open to settlers from the UK or if locals could join in?
Cue Deputy Bebb’s (Welsh) obviously flippant reply that ‘the inbreds have a vote too’.
Then there was the thin-skinned response from Deputy Paint and the leak to the Press. A real storm in a tea cup.
For the record, although I am locally-born and bred – and certainly don’t believe my fellow locals are genetically challenged –
I can’t bring myself to feel insulted by this light-hearted exchange.
Far less so than I am by the increasing use of that horrible diminutive ‘Guern’.
I only wish that Deputy Bebb had had the sense to realise that sending his response to 47 States members was very different to pulling the leg of three or four local friends.
As I say, the bigger issue is trying to avoid any feeling of ‘them and us’ in Guernsey at a difficult time for the island. I will never back away from calling for the residential (and other) rights of the local population to be protected. Those for whom Guernsey is the only home they’ve ever known need to be assured that they will not be rejected by their own island. But it would be a great shame if that was achieved at the cost of a pointless, bad-tempered division between locals and non-locals.
With that in mind, Deputies Bebb and Paint need to mind their language.
As for anti-English diatribes from Deputy Jones? You work it out – I can’t.