Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sark: the ultimate act of post-election sour grapes

The Barclay Brothers recommended nine candidates for the recent elections to the new Sark government. Only two of those people were elected.

Indeed, in an election with a 87.3% turnout, the 473 Sark electors seem to have sent out a very clear message. They actually elected nine out of twelve candidates which the Barclays identified in a newsletter as "establishment" and therefore not worthy of a vote, in their opinion.

Sadly, the Barclay Brothers have taken umbrage at this message and laid off 140 of the islanders (a third of the island's working population) who they employed. This has been described as a "total economic collapse" of the island.

I feel great symapthy for those ex-employees. I hope and pray that those island establishments, which have been closed, can re-open soon. This may be difficult as the Barclay Brothers are not selling them, purely moth-balling them, so no one else will be able to take them over and re-start the businesses! Some of those made unemployed have lost their homes as well as their jobs!

I also applaud the independence of spirit which the Sark electorate have shown through their election results. But what a cost that independence has been shown to have. 140 people unemployed out of a population of 600 just before Christmas, with no welfare benefits to help them!

What is interesting is that the decision to lay off the 140 people seems, according to the Guernsey Free Press, to have been taken by Sark Estate manager Kevin Delaney.

I wonder if this is in anyway connected to the fact that Mr Delaney only managed to attract 132 votes from Sark residents, short of the 183 threshold needed for election to the "Chief Pleas" parliament?

Here are some interesting comments from Sark residents reported in the Express:

Linda Williams, 55, of the Clos Princess guest house, said: “They are acting like spoilt brats and most people here are angry. That said, we are pleased to see the back of them. They came here supposedly to make improvements on Sark but they haven’t listened to the people. We may need to tighten our belts for a few years but the people here will stick together, and that’s what makes this place so special.”

Diana Beaumont, wife of Michael Beaumont, the island’s Seigneur (or feudal ruler), said: “They started all this democracy business, now they don’t like it because they haven’t won.”

The FT comments powerfully and sensibly:

Using their great wealth to punish the islanders who chose not to vote for them merely confirms the views of those who said they were acquiring too much economic power on Sark.
Both sides must be ruminating on the old adage: be careful what you wish for. And no doubt it is unwise to humiliate a wealthy investor. But after campaigning on modernisation, the Barclays have managed to replace one kind of feudalism with another. Having spoken for democracy, their reaction to the election result is contemptible.

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