Home > Great Britain, POLITICS, UK, UK Politics > Sark – Europe’s Newest Democracy!

Sark – Europe’s Newest Democracy!


The channel island of Sark has joined the community of democratic nations in ditching the feudal regime for democratic elections to the local assembly – the Chief Pleas. It seems the billionaire Barclay brothers: Sir David & Sir  Frederick who own the nearby island of  Breqhou have an interest in this election and their favoured  reform candidates failed to gain the majority.   474 had the right to vote and 412 did for 28 conseillors.  

The anti reformers have won and the result the Barclay brothers are alledged to have decided to close their businesses: hotels, restaurants etc on Sark throwing over 100 people into unemployment.    The Barclay brothers want further reform they want to end the hereditary post of Seigneur (head of government) and Seneschal (chief judge & president of the Chief Pleas).

Citizens of Sark do not enjoy the benefits of a welfare state and many people rent their homes; so clearly life for many of the 100+ people who now find themselves unemployed is going to be harsh.

So not much of a future for the island.

Should we order a rerun of the election  as seems to be popular with EU bosses or dispatch a frigate to  reinforce the reform party?

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  1. sol
    December 12, 2008 at 21:53

    The Barclay brothers didn’t just have an interest in the election – they forced democracy on the island. They were hoping a Chief Pleas stacked in their favour might abolish the Seigneur and Seneschal because the High Court refused to do so.

    They tried to force a change in the constitution with lawyers saying it violated human rights to have these two unelected non-voting members in the legislative body. The judge reminded them that the unelected House of Lords doesn’t violate human rights legislation, so it’s hardly going to be a problem to have the Seigneur and Seneschal sitting in on meetings.

    The Barclays didn’t want democracy. They wanted Sark less democratic than it already was with the chief tenants having seats in the Chief Pleas. They wanted a Chief Pleas that was a rubber stamp for their commercial interests and when they didn’t get it, they took their business and went home.

  2. zebrambizi
    December 13, 2008 at 01:31

    The Sark Chief Pleas under the previous feudal regime was a rubber stamp.

    If the Barclay twins were acting to modernize Sark and extend human rights on the island fine most people would have no difficulty with that. The twins did indeed challenge the absence of human rights legislation on the island and strangely for once the judges ruled in favour of the feudal regime due to the island’s status. To find justification in the role of the house of lords which is bizarre it is but an unelected chamber based on patronage and which needs to be replaced by an elected assembly or senate.

    The twins are 73+ years of age and frankly we don’t fall for the cynicism surrounding their project; they had after all invested in the island and supported local development. We don’t know if they have deeper motives maybe they do; maybe they want a Las Vegas casino island – we just don’t know. Sark after all is just three miles of grass with 600+ people clearly it needs modernizing. The worse thing they have done is close down their businesses on Sark which seems rather extreme and hardly helps their case.

    All the crown dependencies on our coastal waters really ought to be part of the UK and all UK laws should apply to all.

  3. sol
    December 13, 2008 at 02:37

    Of course the judge had to find justification in the House of Lords. You might disagree with its composition, but it is what it is and a judge could hardly say that the HoL is not in violation of human rights legislation but a non-voting Seigneur and Seneschal are. Your (or even a judge’s) view of the political propriety of an unelected chamber is irrelevant.

    I would actually argue the opposite concerning Sark. Since it is just three miles of grass an 600 people, why does it need modernising? If the Sarkians don’t want to modernise, why should they have to?

    There is no indication that the island needed the Barclay twins in the first place. As is the practice of a lot of very rich people who find something they want, they simply made businesses offers they couldn’t refuse, then once they’ve made a significant part of the island dependent upon them, they insisted on leveraging their economic power politically.

    You don’t offer any justification for your last statement. Why should the people of the Crown Dependencies lose their historic right of self-determination? Or put another way, what right does the UK have to absorb countries that are not a part of the UK?

    The Channel Islands are actually closer to the coastal waters of France and not the UK, so does France have an obligation to claim sovereignty over them instead? Jersey is after all 100 from Great Britain and 14 miles from France. Guernsey is 30 miles from France and 80 miles from GB. Sark is roughly the same distance. Territorial waters extend 12 miles. The UK does not make Contiguous Zone claims to 24 miles, but this would still not reach the Channel Isles. France however does make Contiguous Zone claims, so perhaps it should absorb Jersey, even if Guernsey and Sark are out of its reach.

  4. zebrambizi
    December 13, 2008 at 08:23

    We did not write that the Channel Islands should lose their independent self government only that UK laws should be applied and that we should not tolerate any governments that do not comply with basic human rights. Therefore the Barclay twins had as much right as anyone else to campaign for human rights and democracy on Sark an island to which they had already contributed money for development.

    We are sure there are people on Sark who have aspirations and hopes of improving their lifestyles and look to benefit from UK legislation; right now 140 people will have no social security; unemployment benefit nor housing assistance – this is a very strong argument for the application of UK law.

    As the Barclay twins are 73+ I see little point in the conspiracy ideas floating around they are entitled to have plans for Sark if they wish as long as there is some process by which the people could be consulted in regard to planning and development which is why they backed democracy for the island.

    Further, we accept the right to independent local government on our offshore islands; as we have power over foreign policy and defence then we should apply UK citizenship and UK laws so that they can additionally have the right to elect MPs both to the House of Commons and MEPs to the European Parliament. Then the average person living on the Channel Islands will be able to have some say on foreign affairs and defence.

    It matters little how far from France these territories are they are crown protected, therefore, all we are suggesting is the people on the islands are given the same rights as UK citizens.

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