Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Reviewing the reformation of our Henry


Mark Fraser

 My gratitude is extended to Nigel Henry for his attention (Express, August 29), lately noted online, to my feeble attempt, on the previous day, to assess his arguments of August 9, supporting the run-off mechanism (ROFF) Unfortunately, he does not appear to have read my contribution as carefully as I laboured over his and focuses, not on its substance, but the implications he infers from it, not unlike Henry the Eighth...

For starters, he accuses me—and others of whom I remain unaware—of deducing his endorsement of the Government’s bill from his presentation, including at The University of the West Indies, presumably. I never mentioned any bill in my piece, did I?

I simply exposed the evidence he sought to adduce for his propositions. These were that the first-past-the-post process (FPTP) entrenches a two-party system, while ROFF gives significant third parties a chance to win. And my conclusions were that it suggests otherwise.

To be fair, he accepts it is only if his accusation is correct would he be disappointed by our unpreparedness for his “level of nuanced discourse”. No such dismay is reasonable in my case, as my efforts piggy-backed his, in pursuing a higher level of nuanced discourse.

I am unfazed by his special pleading that, as a data scientist, he was seeking “to add a dispassionate explanation of the mathematics of the system on the table”. I am no data scientist, whatever that means, nor a mathematician, but my mother, older brother and his dogs imparted enough common sense for me to recog­nise when an argument out on a limb does not add up.

He presses on by regretting “we cannot fathom such an explanation without ascribing political allegiance to the party that proposed the system”. It’s not my fault, of course, if the cap fits, but again I am unable to trace any such ascription by me. 

A data scientist I may not be, but I am, for my sins, a poor lawyer, unable or disinclined to ever award myself an “SC” or whatever, even if I could. My mortality in mind, I prefer the public good to prostitution by the liberal issue of writs. 

Though I find blowing my own trumpet distasteful, I feel obliged to disclose here my promotion to the status of pupil supervisor in foreign (pupil master formerly) was unusually rapid reputedly. This equipped me to train newly qualified barristers and to comment on the legal analogy on which he relies in his defence.

Whosoever advised him “a respected lawyer who argues an accused’s case does not pronounce on whether the defendant is innocent or guilty” is uninformed, unbelievable or unhinged. Words matter! No lawyer can give “a verdict”, but s/he will lose all respect if it is unclear what this should be from her or his advocacy.

Furthermore, dispassionate and measured pleas have their place. But so too do passionate cries for help from those being force-fed by any ill-advised and ill-intentioned excuse for a carer.

I hasten, nonetheless, to welcome his declaration of support, seemingly, for the widespread anxieties about the dangerous cat released from the Government’s bag, which those “born on” were then properly entitled to chase. I hope I can take some credit for providing the opportunity for him to express this.

It is reassuring to learn he shares the view of countless, save for the disingenuous, dishonest or distracted, that there are a host of arguments against the Government’s bill, some of which he helpfully rehearses. Better late than never, I suppose, even though the cat gone, because it will be caught, the better to be belled and bagged in time.

He admits to being unable to meet all my concerns about him, but that would be too much and misses the point of my observations, which were essentially about his arguments, not him. And I cannot but accept his claim to have written in favour of ROFF some time ago, but, in the context since, it would have been helpful if he had been as candid about its drawbacks in his challenged submission, as he now is. 

Finally, I cannot speak for those he also accuses of presuming his support for the Government’s bill, which, to repeat, I neither stated nor needed, in fact, to state. But having expressed my own thanks at the outset for his courtesies, I hope he welcomes my best wishes for his future endeavours, generally, and, especially, as a pundit.