18th September 2020

Lord Keen of Elie has gone from our lives. Like so many UK Ministry of Justice (MOJ) officials that have tried to interfere in the internal affairs of Sark over the past twelve years. One day he was there, the next he was gone. The people of Sark have seen them come and seen them go, but each of the officials despatched by the MOJ to Sark in recent years have one thing in common, not one has amounted to a row of beans.

If justice was truly to be served Richard Keen QC, the UK Minister for the Crown Dependencies, would have been shown the door years ago. His constant attempts at bullying the people of Sark into doing his bidding appeared to have no bounds. No one took a blind bit of notice of him and he was exposed, like other MOJ officials before him, as being powerless when it comes to intervening in Sark’s affairs. His regular blustering and idle threats certainly helped create a few headlines. He may even have given a few impressionable Islanders, and for that matter a few members of Chief Pleas, the belief that he could force the ‘old guard’ into mending their ways and embracing open, transparent and accountable governance in Sark. Time has shown that he couldn’t, and he didn't.

The people of Sark eventually became bored with Lord Keen’s numerous hollow threats and edicts. They understand that, like his predecessors before him and for that matter his successors after, the only people with the legitimate authority to effect change on Sark are the people themselves and they will do so via the ballot box. On 16th December 2020 they will once again go to the polls and in doing so reaffirm their right to self-determination.

Meanwhile, we will leave it to Lord Falconer, Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, to spell out why, in the opinion of his fellow Lords, Richard Keen had to go:

“He cannot with any degree of personal honour or professional duty continue to advise the government on law. Lord Keen has misled the House of Lords in two respects. Firstly, saying Brandon Lewis answered the wrong question when Brandon Lewis himself said he hasn’t. Secondly giving his views as if they represented the legal position of government when he knew that was not the case.”

It was not only the House of Lords that he stood accused of misleading. Earlier this year Lord Keen tried to give the impression that he would knock the ‘old guard’ into shape by making them accept a non-partisan fully qualified and experienced Chief Executive Officer. The agenda for the upcoming Chief Pleas meeting shows that they have merely laughed in his face and that his clumsy attempt at 21st century gunboat diplomacy has failed miserably. On 21st February 2020 The Sark Newspaper reported that members of Sark’s Policy & Finance Committee had, two days earlier, been in Guernsey holding talks with Lord Keen. On 10th July 2020 this publication published the minutes of the meeting that had been leaked to the editor. They show that Lord Keen was throwing his weight around, threatening to instigate a Privy Council Examination of Sark. Presumably any such threat has now gone the same way of the noble lord.

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