Tuesday, 6 October 2009
The birdman of crass
He’s a cuddly and chirpy little chap and doesn’t mean any harm to anybody but we should not be fooled that Mike Stentiford MBE does not have political agenda.
As President of the “National Trust for Jersey”(NTfJ) he heads a very powerful political lobbying group which by its very name lays down a biased belief in Jersey as a Nation and under cover of some very laudable purposes, promotes a very narrow view of Island affairs and priorities.
Of course the preservation of countryside is traditionally linked to conservative land owning or farming interests and the likes of Mike Stentiford, with a life long concern for wildlife, are obvious – but not always compatible – allies in battles against development or other perceived threats to their privileged lifestyles.
Thus, in Jersey where the government is so embedded into the finance business and a belief in ever more commercial and population growth - the need for the NTfJ and others under an environmentalist banner to resist building encroachments into the countryside is thoroughly predictable - just as it is hypocritical.
Be in no doubts however, but Mike Stentiford has a political record because he is a poll topper when it comes to signing nomination papers for election candidates. During the most recent Senatorial elections last autumn he signed for 4 candidates including (Senator) Mike Vibert – and they were all unsuccessful. Yet, whilst it is evident that he would have shared some environmental concerns with some of the candidates his signature alongside that of Freddie Cohen – the Minister of Planning – on Mike Vibert’s nomination was puzzling at least, in view of the recent “Line in the Sand” manifestation.
Presumably, even in Jersey there is some expectation of political consistency and shared beliefs when it comes to nominating electoral candidates?
It would no doubt prove very interesting to undertake a fuller analysis of election nominations to reveal the sub-power groups from among the NTfJ, or farmers or lawyers etc who support the men and women who eventually form our government and to compare their political policies.
We all know that landowners and farmers are never shy of building in the countryside for their own purposes or that there is virtually no end to the hideous green sheds, glasshouses or other developments that are permitted in the name of “farming”. And we also know that the countryside is littered with massive ex agricultural buildings that are now storing finance business archives or have been changed to many other uses. And, we are the usually silent witnesses to the glasshouses that have been re-zoned for housing development - making instant multi-millionaires of their blessed owners.
Shall the “birdman” and his allies be demonstrating against the latest farmland rezoning plans in the current Draft Island Plan produced under Freddie Cohen’s careful eye? Shall the faming lobby be demanding that the glasshouse sites be returned to grazing for Jersey cows or even that Freddie’s own fields be returned to a proper agricultural use in leafy St John? Shall any of these groups be proposing a plan to house everybody in Jersey?
Of course, the hidden agenda is that the homes that are desperately needed to properly house the entire population of Jersey will never be built. The 15,000 people who live in lodgings and farmyard portakabins are just simply not on the radar of the NTfJ and its membership and unless they grow feathers and learn to whistle a pretty tune – Mike Stentiford will not focus on them through his binoculars. At best, some of these thousands will be stuffed into shoeboxes within the town limits and if houses are built in the countryside the Constables will hoist the “parishioners first” signs.
The elimination of discrimination in Jersey is not a priority because it simply does not affect adversely those who govern or make the critical policy decisions. Birds and squirrels must have their nest boxes and those so pretty cows must have their 4 acres, milking parlours and sheds but the second class thousands of workers who do the work and pay the taxes that keep the whole show on the road – are forever to be ignored. They are not included in the Plan.
It is undoubtedly a perverse society that allows such policies to be promoted year after year. Even Norman Le Brocq’s Island Plan of 1983 (when he was President of Planning) perpetuated the same prejudiced aims in the name of protecting the countryside and he offered no solutions to the housing dilemma. It is just the same with Freddie Cohen, 25 years later.
Mike “Birdman” Stentiford might look superficially like one of our “Team Voice” on this cartoon image but we shall be pleased to receive his contrary reply and to post his side of the conservation, environmentalist argument.
Submitted by Thomas Wellard.