From a publisher’s standpoint I like The Guardian. It has Charlie Brooker and Mark Kermode, decent typography and was the first broadsheet to shrink to a more convenient size. That definitely made it more palatable from a physical point of view and also distanced it from The Times and Telegraph, pillars of conservative society. In doing so, however, it seems to have become both physically and journalistically like The Daily Express, particularly if you live in Jersey.
You can’t go more than a few weeks at the moment without a social media share of an article published in The Guardian bombasting Jersey and all who live here. Flipboard shared the story with me this morning. It fell under the paper’s ‘Long Read’ category (see repetitive). Yes, we get it, left wing journalists hate offshore finance – but them so do a lot of Jersey residents. Each article seems to hang on some characterised Robin Hood (or Trotsky in this case) character who they can photograph looking meek and self deprecating as an ‘insider’ to allow the author to present to the world just how terrible Jersey is, again. It’s a classic expose piece that the aspiring anti-establishment journo, Oliver Bullough in this case, can use to hash out the same old story again and again. Essentially “Jersey has its own taxes, people in the UK have harder lives and it’s not fair”.
The latest article highlights the States’ black hole and declares Jersey bankrupt. It does make you wonder about the IFC (That’s International Finance Centre in longhand, but I like the punchy acronym presented on the site boards alongside all the justification for the spending money on it). Sure, it’s a punt but I get the speculate to accumulate principle. We’ve hung our hats on farming and, as Oli B outlines, selling buckets and spades hasn’t been getting us far of late. That having been said, I wouldn’t write us off just yet. Whether you agree with offshore finance or the finance industry in general, it’s not really all because of Jersey. What about the city of London? I hear they have banks there too? The City of London has actually been described as a tax haven itself by the new statesman and Oliver writes for those guys too? If half the UK’s considerable (£1.6 trillion) debt was spent on education and healthcare as Oli highlights ours is in Jersey, they’d be laughing.
Rus Newton has already come back with a great response here that highlights some of the key points and also these comparisons with the UK;
- Jersey’s forecast deficit of £125mn in 2019 represents around 3% of the island’s £4bn GDP. By comparison, according to UK’s ONS Britain’s general government deficit in 2015 was 5.1% of GDP and peaked in 2009/10 at 10.8%.
- Jersey has barely any external debt; UK has £1.6 trillion (87.5% of GDP).
- Jersey’s balance sheet shows £3.3bn (almost 100% of GDP) fixed assets. It’s almost impossible to find a comparable number for UK, but one figure suggests £158bn of liquid assets (8% of GDP).
- UK central government expenditure is running at 35%-40% of GDP; Jersey’s (£674mn) is substantially less than 20% of GDP.
Alas, it’s not really the figures these journalists are interested in. For them it’s the prospect that people in Jersey have better lives than their UK dwelling, Guardian reading counterparts and that making the comparison will endear them and their viewpoint to the readership. They may even sign up to Guardian dating and meet other people to moan about it with.
The most offensive thing about the viewpoint is that it uses solely pointed references to labour its inaccurate and misplaced agenda. It’s not balanced journalism, it’s a witch hunt. It overlooks the general population of Jersey. People that have average lives, the same problems as everyone else in the UK and DO pay tax, albeit differently to the UK. But have you seen the price of bread? Seriously, the UK attacking Jersey is irrelevant. They’d have to take it up with Charles II and he’s not about to explain things. I’m sure a lot of people in Jersey would like to be able to afford to go to Oxford as Oliver did. He’s been applauded for his writing on Russia but I think his approach to critising Jersey is a little keen. Sure, any action that leads to debt and uncertain futures for a nation, or Crown dependency, is worthy of consideration but as the statistics above highlight, perhaps Mr Bullough should start looking closer to home when he’s looking for a corporate to kick.
This article recalls my Guardian Jersey assassination attempt in recent times; that of Oliver Thring, who was invited to come and eat here by Genuine Jersey. His article in 2011 managed to somehow be based on food and still get in a good measure of slagging off everyone that lives here. ‘Jersey isn’t a foodie island. At best, the food is a distraction, and at worst it’s irrelevant‘. A little harsh, surely. We’ve got a disproportional number of entries in that tyre companies’ restaurant guide for a start and some amazing Genuine Jersey products and places to serve them. It’s a shame that this Oliver managed to overlook these things and, like his recent namesake, turn to using his public school education and journalism training to hang his story on Haut de la Garenne’s child abuse enquiry, rather than the food he was here to enjoy. ‘ The wildest accusations of bloodied sheets, shackles and fragments of child skulls were all disproved, but it was the biggest news story Jersey had had for a long time, confirming half-embedded prejudices that only weirdos and the Barclay brothers roam the Channel Islands’. Well, fuck you very much Oliver.
Whether it’s slagging off local food or our economy or Jersey in general, there must be something about Olivers. The Guardian recently reported that it was the favourite name for a newborn boy in the UK last year. They’re supporting an Over-zealous-Oliver breeding programme, clearly. Oliver, the twisted Dickensian antihero that famously asked for more. I think in these instances it’s fair to say we’ve had enough.