Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Open letter to Senator Stuart Syvret

Dear Stuart

Your political capital must have hit a low ebb for you to feel the need to publicly state: “I have never been a member or supporter of organisations such as the Tax Justice Network and Attac and so on. I don’t agree with them. If we didn’t have the finance industry, we wouldn’t have an economy.”

Virtually everything about that statement is misleading, with the exception of your never having been a member of either organisation. You most certainly do support what both organisations represent. You do agree with the policy measures they propose at national and international levels. And to state that Jersey would not have a finance industry if international efforts to crack down on abusive tax practices were to succeed, or if a Tobin Tax were introduced, is to openly concede that the Jersey economy is based on supporting illicit activities which governments and multilateral agencies around the world recognise as harmful. Why, in the context of an exchange with a member of the public over issues of political integrity, did you see the need to distance yourself from your strongly held principles?

You and I go back a long way. You regularly consulted me when I was an economic adviser to the States. We sat together on the Arts Trust and I supported you when the crisis blew up over the Chairman’s foolish megalomania. I also supported you when you challenged the manner in which the Limited Liability Partnership law was introduced to the States; in fact I provided the evidence that proved Reg Jeune’s knowledge of his conflict of interest in that affair. You were a backbencher at the time, and you made it very clear to me – in your typically trenchant style – that you regarded the island’s tax haven activities as globally harmful. And as you know, you are the politician I refer to in my chapter of A Game As Old As Empire when I spoke about meeting with Andrew Edwards during his 1998 review of the regulation of the Crown Dependencies.

We have kept in regular touch throughout the past 9 years since I quit my job in Jersey and settled in the UK. You have frequently sought advice from me and my colleagues, some of whom rank amongst the top financial experts in their fields, and we have gone out of our way to provide analysis and advice. Neither fees nor publicity have been asked for or offered. Time and again we have provided the ammunition you have used so effectively in the States. Don’t delude yourself that other States members don’t know this. They do. But the public doesn’t, and it’s the public you seek to deceive. Why?

Over the years you have talked ceaselessly about the realpolitik of Jersey politics, which boils down to not rocking the boat on issues of real substance. History is littered with radical politicians who, having succumbed to the trappings of power, abandon principles and friends and go it alone in the deluded belief that they change the system from within. Charles Fox, for example, destroyed his reputation for political integrity when he was seduced into taking office alongside Lord North. Fox became the subject of ridicule and scorn. Your attempts to publicly distance yourself from your inner convictions risk turning you into a latter-day local version of Fox. It is time for you to come out and state publicly what you stand for on the important issues of the day.

I hope that you will respect the spirit in which this letter is written and look forward to your reply.

John Christensen