Sunday, 25 January 2015

Letter to the JEP on opposition politics in Jersey

Dear Editor,

I write in response to the excellent letter from the former Deputy of St Clement Gerard Baudains (22nd January). I was disappointed that Mr Baudains was not re-elected in October, not because I share his politics (because I certainly do not) but because I always admired the fact he would never let the government say anything without it being challenged and because he was clearly an independent thinker who would never allow himself to be spoon-fed by the Council of Ministers.

His observation about the lack of effective challenge in the current States Assembly is absolutely right. We are facing 3 years ahead of us of a government which will attempt to force through unpopular measures to hide the dire financial state in public funds they have created, whilst most States Members will simply nod them through unquestioningly. At the same time our Chief Minister is trying to create a public image that he is a caring leader by proclaiming that he will prioritise reducing poverty, yet has refused calls to raise the minimum wage, thus proving that his claims were completely insincere. Also the Chief Minister has not lifted a finger to help the workers at JT who are being exploited, as he has been preoccupied with trying to create insecurity in work by increasing the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims.

But what I cannot agree with Mr Baudains on is when he says there is no opposition in the States anymore. He is wrong. There is an opposition and it’s called Reform Jersey.

Any casual reader of the JEP will have noticed that it is Reform Jersey’s States Members which have been dominating States question time and have been putting forward proposals to try to undo some of the damage being caused by the Council of Ministers. Despite only having 3 States Members we are able to punch well above our weight because we are well organised and because we work together towards a common vision. That is why Jersey needs party politics.

Reform Jersey does not claim to have all the answers, which is why we would urge any Islander who feels disaffected with the current government to join us. This next year will see us formulate a proper policy statement for how Jersey can have a future with a democratic government based on principles of social and economic justice. Anyone who wishes to contribute ideas to that statement would be more than welcome!

Deputy Sam Mézec – Chairman of Reform Jersey

And in the interests of balance, here is a centre-right take on the previous week from Lord Reginald Hamilton Tooting Rawley Jones III of the Jersey Conservative Party

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Speech on Unfair Dismissal Debate

Today the States voted against the proposition of Deputy Southern to annul an order made last year (with no consultation and without any supplementary evidence to back it up) by the Social Security Minister to extend the period which a worker has to have been in a job before they qualify for protection from unfair dismissal.

A resounding victory for the Jersey Tory Party, and so I want on record the comments I made against it and to put in the public domain some of my views on how you can help both businesses and workers, rather than slavishly following the outdated conservative doctrine that our current Council of Ministers subscribes to.


This measure which has already been taken by the Social Security Minister, with the support of the Council of Ministers, without any meaningful consultation either with the wider public or States Members is nothing short of a scandalous and unjustifiable attack on workers rights.

It seems to me to just be postulating by a government which is more interested in appearing ‘pro-business’ for the sake of it rather than actually doing what matters, which is creating an economic environment that works for both employers and employees, to create jobs and opportunities, without predicating that on decimating the conditions of ordinary people and creating insecurity in work.

I think this is exemplified by the fact that the Social Security minister by her own admission, before taking this move, has, aside from the Employment Forum, only spoken to stake holders from the employers’ side and not spoken at all with workers representatives such as Trade Unions, who are resolutely opposed to this change and who the Minister has made no effort at all to reassure.

If you ask employers if they'd like the qualification period increased, who is going to say no? It’s the wrong question. Question should be, what would help businesses, and when that question is asked in a non-leading way like that, I highly doubt many businesses would say that this is the most important factor holding their business back.

In every answer to a question or a document issued by the Minister on this, there has not been a single credible justification for this change. She simply repeats the mantra “this will help create jobs” over and over again, as if inanely repeating it will somehow make it true.

As the Employment Forum’s report on this shows, there is not a single piece of evidence to show that there is a tangible link between rates of employment and the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims. It just doesn’t exist and this “ah but you can’t prove it doesn’t have an effect” is, quite frankly, one of the poorest arguments I’ve ever heard in the States.

The report states that changes to the qualifying period in other jurisdictions are generally politically motivated and not evidence based. I would say that that is exactly what this is too.

So I listened intently to the Ministers speech yesterday afternoon to see if she could provide any extra evidence to say that something had changed since the Employment Forum’s report in 2013, and the answer to that was a very clear no.

But she offered three reasons why this move is no big deal, so let’s take them in turn.

She said the first was that 1 year was, I think she said “common sense”.

And maybe she’s right. If you’re plucking a number about of thin air, 1 year may seem sound. But no more or less sound than 6 months which we already have, and since there is no evidence to support changing it, it doesn’t sound like common sense to change it without justification.

The second was that this only affects the rights of a minority of workers as the changes just come in for those who take jobs on after the 1st January. I have to say I think that point is pretty pedantic and misleading when the change theoretically affects any workers rights if they take on a new job.

The third, and this was the main one, was that the change is just a small change.

Well sir, I fail to see how a change from 6 months to 12 months, a change of 100%, could possibly be described as small.

She specifically said that it was raised to 1 year, rather than the 2 years it is in the UK, because she wanted to balance it with the needs of those people who may be already in work but wanting to seek a higher role somewhere else or a promotion, but were put off by the potential insecurity for them.

And that is a legitimate concern. I have a friend in the UK who had a decent job, but wanted to move somewhere else to pursue a new opportunity and could stand to lose everything if her new employer ends up not being all they seemed and decides to just sack her off the cuff for no good reason.

But I can’t see how raising it from 6 months to 1 year doesn’t result in the same thing here either. It’s no different. I spoke to someone just yesterday who has been offered a job somewhere else, wants to take it, but is worried about the off chance it doesn’t work out and they end up without a job, not able to claim unfair dismissal and can’t pay the mortgage.

Why is the government seeming so indignant over the idea of businesses taking risks when taking new people on and wanting to help them, but disregards the risks which ordinary workers take when they take on a new job, have to arrange their life affairs around it and the affairs of their families, when they could be sacked unfairly with no recourse to compensation whatsoever.

It is that injustice which shows where this government’s priorities are.

But now moving in a constructive direction -

We’ve heard yesterday from Deputy Norton who I think made some good points even if he did arrive at the wrong conclusion. He spoke of how difficult it is and how no decent employer wants to just sack their workers left, right and centre unless there is nothing else that can be done, no other option. I don’t have any doubt that for the vast majority of employers that is the case. Having good employer-employee relationships is fundamental to the success of any business, and you don’t get that by treating your workers as disposable.

But those businesses are, if they are run by decent people who care about their employees, are the least likely to benefit from this change in the law. They are the ones who, if they’re going to sack someone, are going to have a legitimate reason, which will be covered by the law already. The problem here is that this change is a greenlight for the bad employers there are out there.

This is sending out a message to those business people, if you want to sack people with no real reason, go right ahead, in fact we’ll make it easier for you. How can that possibly be right?

He spoke of how Deputy Southern wasn’t a businessman and therefore didn’t know what it was like, which I thought was a personalisation which wasn’t particularly necessary. The Constable of St John made the same point about the inexperience of Deputy Macon in business matters, which I thought was highly patronising and a demonstration of why young people are so put off by politics.

I’m not going to stand here and claim to have a huge amount of business experience like some States Members, but I have been in a position before where I, alongside a close friend of mine, have taken up projects which, if they had failed, would have seen us a few thousand pounds short. And I even know what it’s like to hit crunch time in that situation and have the phone call from someone you were counting on to let you down. It’s a horrible feeling and I normally don’t sleep for a week when we take up this project. It’s not on the same scale as putting my entire livelihood on the line like others do, but it is still something anyway.

And it is from that that I do actually have sympathy with the people who want more to be done to help businesses, and what annoys me the most about this unfair dismissal change is that I don’t think it genuinely helps these businesses who have legitimate concerns.

It just, as the Employment Forum report says, addresses what is a perception of a problem, and not an actual problem.

The biggest fear is surely that a business may have to sack someone who then ends up pursuing all sorts of legal claims against them that the business really struggles to keep on top of, with legal bills and time in court etc.

So what the government should be focusing on is putting things in place to mitigate those problems.

One that hasn’t been mentioned in this debate yet has been about the JACS outreach service. I’ve spoken to some businesses who when they have sought advice on employment matters, they’ve just been told “errrr, sounds like you need to see a lawyer”, which isn’t particularly much help to them seeing as they want to do the right thing without having to fork out for expensive legal advice. So improving that service is one important thing to do.

Another idea I have had is maybe introduce a temporary state backed insurance scheme specifically for small businesses and start-ups to cover any potential pay outs at the employment tribunal. I think that sort of idea would be worth looking into

And a final suggestion, making it easier for the self-employed to get on their feet and take risks by introducing more classes of social security contribution rates. It’s absurd that a self-employed person who doesn’t actually earn much (and may even have taken a pay cut when initially starting their business) can find themselves paying twice the rate they would otherwise be paying, regardless of their income. We should introduce progressive bands there.

But that is actually already Council of Ministers policy. It’s actually quite worryingly also Reform Jersey policy. But why isn’t that higher up the agenda? That move would quite blatantly help these people far more than this vacuous gesture.

So often we get from this government platitudes and empty gestures. But here, their actions are at the expense of ordinary working people in the Island.

I hope members will support Deputy Southern and consign this to the scrapheap and send a message to the government to actually get on with the things that genuinely matter to get our economy back on track instead of this PR rubbish.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Challenge to the Chief Minister - Raise the Minimum Wage!

Following my blog post a few days ago on the Chief Minister's announcement that he intends to focus on reducing poverty in Jersey over this next year, Reform Jersey is calling on him to prove his commitment to this aim by backing our proposition to raise the minimum wage.

Here is our press release - 

Press Release - For immediate release

Political Party Calls on Chief Minister to Raise the Minimum Wage to Help Tackle Poverty

Following the Chief Minister’s announcement that he intends to make reducing poverty a key focus of the Council of Ministers this year, Jersey’s only political party, Reform Jersey, is calling on him to prove this commitment by backing their proposition to raise the minimum wage by a further 10p an hour.

Reform Jersey’s Deputy Geoff Southern has lodged a proposition (P.175/2014) which can be viewed here -

Part (a) of the proposition calls for a 10p raise in the minimum wage (further to the 15p rise the States has already agreed) from April, with part (b) asking for a review to be held to assess the potential impact of a significant raise in the minimum wage with the aim of bringing people out of Income Support.

Party Leader Deputy Sam Mézec said “Given the shocking reports we have seen in the media recently about the rise in the number of working families having to turn to food banks, it was very pleasing to see the Chief Minister commit to trying to reduce poverty this year, however, he gave no indications or commitments as to how he intends to achieve this.

Often in politics we see States Members with plenty to say but who never follow it through with action. So thankfully there is now a perfect opportunity for the Chief Minister to demonstrate that he is serious about reducing poverty by backing our proposition to raise the minimum wage and investigate a further raise with the specific aim of reducing poverty.”

It should always pay to be in work, and a situation where a couple can’t afford to make ends meet without resorting to Income Support and charity, despite both being in full time work, should be considered intolerable to any politician with a social conscience.”

The proposition is due to be debated at the States sitting beginning on the 20th January.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

2015 - a question of poverty in Jersey

Let's put this into context in as simple terms as possible - the fact that poverty is as wide-spread as it is in one of the richest places in the world should make us utterly ashamed.

It should be the top priority of every government in every country to eradicate poverty.

Never has so much wealth and knowledge existed on this planet, so it is simply inexcusable that poverty can still exist when we as a human race have all we need to make sure that everyone has what they need to survive and for society to run itself in a sustainable way without destroying the planet.

The reason why such a society does not exist can be summed up with one word - Politics.

Or, more specifically (and the subject of this blog post), conservative politics.

My main motivation for being a political person is my incapability of containing my indignation when I see injustice not just in Jersey but across the world. Having been brought up in a family with very working class roots but which had made it's way up to the middle class, I could see very clearly the "two-nation Jersey" we live in, where there are people who face daily struggles that many in Jersey couldn't even begin to understand, and which the government has no comprehension of how to deal with, because of how out of touch it is.

In the two elections I have stood in, I have been out meeting hundreds of people in St Helier and I have come across things that most people just wouldn't believe exist in Jersey. I've been in social housing where families are living with mushrooms growing out of the ceiling. I've met more people than I can count who have been drunk before midday when I've knocked on their door because it is literally the only thing they can do with their lives that brings them any sort of satisfaction. I've met people who have their disability benefits cut despite every recommendation from their doctors being that they need it, so they are literally too ill and too poor to afford to see a doctor.

But the most important thing you see from these people is their resilience. The vast majority that I meet are decent people, non-judgmental and not bitter at the wrong people for the conditions they have to endure. But for them, without any shadow of a doubt, they are completely disillusioned with Jersey politics because there is a clear perception that those who feature in our government do not have the solutions to make their lives better. 

So I read today's JEP with great interest to see the Chief Minister's comments on poverty in Jersey and I just can't help but be cynical.

The recognition by someone at the top that poverty in Jersey is a real problem is important. Many will bury their heads in the sand and say that because we aren't a third world country that even those worst off in Jersey have it better than most around the world, so they should shut up and be grateful for what they have.

But where this acknowledgement leaves me pessimistic, is that alongside it came not even the slightest hint that there will be any change in direction on policy from the government.

The Jersey Annual Social Surveys of the past few years have all shown that people are struggling to make ends meet, people are not getting the hours at work that they need and that things for those people are actually getting worse, not better.

This has happened during the tenure of a government which has introduced and then raised GST, a regressive tax which hurts those on lowest incomes the most.

The defenders of GST will say that it isn't so bad because the worst off get given a rebate to help cope with it, as if it is a good thing for more people to be more dependent on on the state rather than being able to survive comfortably with their wage alone.

We have had '20 means 20' which has hurt those on middle incomes. Those being the people who give the most to government, but get the least back in terms of benefits and state support for things like university tuition fees etc.

We find out soon (officially anyway) whether or not Jersey has a deficit, and what sort of deficit it is. All the indications so far are that we do have a deficit and that spending plans up until now have been based on an unjustifiably optimistic prediction for income tax receipts.

Now, ideologically I have no problem with running a budget deficit if it is done for the right reasons, to stimulate growth or as part of a wider long-term aim for public finances. But when you have a deficit creep up on you by accident, having ignored the warnings, and to simply pay your day to day bills, that can only be described as fiscal recklessness.

If it turns out we do have a deficit, there are only two things a government can do to try and eliminate it; 1) cut spending, or 2) raise more revenues. Or aspects of both can be used in different areas of an overall plan.

During the election and at every moment before and since, when Senators Gorst, Maclean, Ozouf, Bailhache etc have been asked how they will plug the financial black hole, they will unequivocally reject tax rises. But then when challenged to show how they are going to find savings of tens of millions of pounds a year from States budgets, they have no answer whatsoever.

Now, there is plenty of room for cutting spending by internal departmental efficiency savings and (aspects of) the wider programme of public sector reform and eGovernment which will reduce bureaucracy and end duplication. But will that save us the £95m we need to find? Anyone who thinks it will is living in cloud cuckoo land.

If there are no tax rises, there will have to be cuts to public services and we are already close to breaking point.

It's nearly impossible to recruit nurses in Jersey because of how poorly their pay and working conditions compare to their counterparts in the private sector and in the UK public sector. The same goes for teachers. If we want decent public services that the poorest in our society can rely on, those areas need more investment, not less. How is that reconcilable with the government position of cutting costs without raising taxes?

The Chief Minister speaks of implementing family-friendly policies, yet it was under his tenure that we saw the changes to university grants which would see the brunt of costs saved from broken families where kids have divorced parents.

How can a government preach, without any hint of irony, that they wish to help reduce poverty in Jersey, yet they refuse to fund social projects by raising taxes on the highest earners in Jersey? It is staunch conservative dogma gone mad. It is the same principle adopted by the coalition government in the UK (thankfully soon be replaced by a Labour government) that has seen the conditions of the worst off in society plummet, with specific focus on the disabled, students, pensioners and women, and they haven't even succeeded in denting the deficit to any notable degree, as was it's alleged purpose.

Even the United Nations has acknowledged that the economies that perform the worst are actually the ones where the gap between the richest and poorest is greatest. In his recent speeches in the States, Senator Maclean has been quoting economic textbooks that Deputy Southern has joked that he hasn't heard anyone use with a degree of seriousness since the 1960s. That is the position we are in.

For poverty to end in Jersey, we need better public services and it is simply impossible to do that whilst cutting costs and keeping taxes low. The low tax low spend model is broken. If we are serious about ending poverty, we have to accept that we need a new model built around values of social inclusion, mixed with economic realism and responsibility.

There is only one conclusion I can come up with from this focus on poverty - it is insincere.

So Senator Gorst, put your money where your mouth is. If you are genuinely committed to reducing poverty in Jersey, then join me and Reform Jersey in promising these things -

  1. Focus all government contracts with private sector firms to businesses which pay their workers a living wage. Make it profitable for businesses to pay their workers a decent salary.
  2. Raise the cap on social security contributions for high earners to fund a programme for free access to GPs for Islanders with chronic illnesses, pensioners and children.
  3. Use your influence as shareholder of utilities to stop price hikes in bills for heating and electricity, which is crippling poor families and pensioners.
  4. Legislate against abusive zero-hours contracts. We could ban 'exclusivity clauses' tomorrow, so let's do it.
  5. Initiate a root and branch review of the income support system to identify the changes we desperately need to make sure benefits are reaching those who genuinely need help.

These are just the first 5 ideas that came to my head. Much more is to be done. But we're in for a bumpy ride in 2015.

Happy new year to all my friends and supporters!

Monday, 22 December 2014

The 'New Deal' for St Helier

Last Wednesday I attended my first ever Parish Assembly election for the St Helier Roads Committee.

I had never been to a Roads Committee election before (last time round I was at university when it was going on) so I had no idea what to expect in terms of the process of the nominations and election.

For those that don't know, the Roads Committee is the closest thing we have to a "local council" in Jersey. It's a committee of elected members who serve in an honorary capacity (they don't get paid) for the Parish to consider things like licensing, al fresco applications, maintaining the roads and commenting on planning applications.

I was there to support my friend Malcolm Motie in his candidacy. He was not elected, but came within just a few votes.

Given how important Parish administration is (especially in St Helier), I found the whole process of this election to be completely inadequate and it has left me feeling that more than ever there needs to be reform.

In the week leading up to the election I had thought that perhaps some members of Reform Jersey or future prospective candidates for the States might want to consider standing to get some experience.

In looking for information about what being on the Roads Committee involves and how the nomination process works, I was able to find virtually no information about it at all. There was not a single document that described the nomination process, who is eligible to stand, what it involves doing, how much time it takes up etc. I also saw no media coverage at all to advertise this election.

In a Parish with around 20,000 voters, the number of voters in this election was 69. That's a turn out of 0.3%.

Now, this wouldn't necessarily be that much of a problem, but we have to understand that over the next year or two, things are going to change drastically for St Helier.

Shortly before the general election, Senator Philip Ozouf sent a letter to St Helier voters talking about a 'New Deal' for St Helier. Senator Ian Gorst also spoke of this 'New Deal' in his statement for election as Chief Minister.

The idea of this 'New Deal' is one that is built on the premise that St Helier currently gets a raw deal. The Parish is providing services that all Islanders benefit from, yet States buildings are exempt from paying Parish Rates, leaving it up to Parishioners and locally based businesses to foot the bill. This leaves St Helier short of £800,000 a year.

The aim of the 'New Deal' will be to make sure the Parish gets the extra funding it deserves, as well as actually giving more power to the Town Hall over planning, regeneration and amenities. This decentralisation would mean that services can be delivered at a level that is closer to the people and therefore (theoretically at least) more accountable and in touch so it can be better tailored to the desires of the local community.

I am personally very excited about this and am looking forward to doing what I (and Reform Jersey) can do to play a constructive role with the Council of Ministers and Parish of St Helier to end up with a settlement that that works for all parties.

However, having witnessed the Roads Committee election, I have become convinced that actually a simple transfer of powers and finance is not the only change we need to see. I think we need a radical solution that includes an overhaul of local Parish democracy in St Helier.

If the Parish is to get more powers and deal with greater amounts of money, those who serve in 'elected' positions must be able to be held to account by the public. This situation now where you can get elected onto the Roads Committee by simply turning up with a handful of mates to vote without any of the ordinary Parishioners even having the vaguest clue that the election is going on has got to be abolished.

If we are serious about local government working for the people, then the democratic system that governs it must be modernised.

I would propose that the Roads Committee and positions of Procureur du Bien Publique actually be abolished and replaced with a 'Parish Council'.

That council would be made up of elected Conseillers (got to keep it French!) which, depending on the number we decided to have, could either be elected by the whole Parish or in Parish wards (based on the Vingtaines). Those elections should be conducted in the same way our general elections are, with a set date on which a poll is held, several weeks after nominations are taken, instead of the ridiculous situation now where nominations are made and then the vote happens right away.

If those elections are taken seriously, we will get higher calibre people in those positions, who will have had to make an effort to become known by the community and be able to demonstrate to them what they are actually aiming to achieve if elected, and the public can either give them a mandate or show their disagreement with their policies by voting for someone else.

Those elected as Conseillers (who would serve in an honorary capacity) would then be able to form sub-committees, depending on what services the Parish would now be providing. The work currently done by the procureurs could be done by a Finance Committee, there could be a committee for the management of the parks, for the management of the retirement homes or nurseries or whatever.

On much of this we could take example from Douglas in the Isle of Man which appears to have a much wider remit than our Parish administration currently does and is able to be a voice for their capital in a way that currently St Helier lacks.

Any way, that's just my idea at the moment and I'm open to any discussions on it as a concept. It's a bold change I'm suggesting, and there will be many who will, as per usual in Jersey, sit back and claim everything is fine as it is and nothing needs to change. Those people need to wake up. Things aren't fine. My politics is about changing things to make them work better for the people.

But, in the meantime, Christmas beckons!

Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all my readers and supporters. What a year it has been! Here's to 2015 - the year everything starts to get better! (we can hope anyway...)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Jersey and our low calibre parliamentarians

Today the Jersey Evening Post ran with a front page story concerning me and comments I have made about the quality of Jersey's parliamentarians.

I have copied the entire article here for those who weren't able to catch the full thing.

My comments were triggered by my experience over the weekend when I attended a protest in Guernsey (called 'Enough is Enough') and witnessed some of their politicians in action, as well as a 2,000 strong crowd out in force to demonstrate and have their voice heard.

Naturally I stand by every word I said and believe that my comments represent what the majority of Islanders really think. But those comments will no doubt have offended some and intrigued others, so I want to expand upon them very slightly and dig down a bit deeper to analyse Jersey politics and why it is so uninspiring.

The article states Reform Jersey supported the protest, which it should clarify is not strictly true. I attended as I happened to be in the island at the time and was impressed by the turn out and organisation. That doesn't necessarily mean I supported the cause, when I should actually probably remain neutral on it.

I'll also take questions on specific points and elaborate if asked.

Here is the JEP article unedited -

Jersey politicians are 'bland, low calibre and have no backbone'

The leader of Jersey's only political party has launched a scathing attack on the Island's politicians, accusing some of 'lacking a backbone'.

St Helier Deputy Sam Mézec, who is the chairman of Reform Jersey, said the calibre of politicians serving the Island was very low compared to the likes of Guernsey and Gibraltar.

It comes as Deputy Mézec's party voiced their support for the Enough is Enough Rally at North Beach in Guernsey over the weekend that attracted over 2,000 islanders who turned out to voice their opposition to the idea of GST and incoming car taxes.

Reform Jersey posted praise on its Facebook page for Guernsey's politicians - including two ministers - for standing up and confronting the crowd, saying: 'Could you imagine our politicians having the guts to face the people like that?'
Deputy Mézec added: 'I think if we compare Jersey to Guernsey and even Gibraltar the calibre of politicans here is very low.
'There is no better example than the Chief Minister [Ian Gorst]. In Gibraltar their Cheif Minister is one of the best - he is up there with some of the best UK MPs. If Ian Gorst turns up to give a speech, people do not [care]. He is good at speaking to managers, that is it.

'In Jersey our politicians are not very charismatic. Most of their faces blend into one, they are so bland and dull. Even in Guernsey they have a man called [Deputy] John Gollop and everyone knows who he is. I travel there quite regularly for heavy metal gigs and when people find out what I do they ask: "Do you know John Gollop?" People know him even at heavy metal gigs.'

Asked if he felt it was right to make such sweeping comments about the Island's politicians, considering they were elected by the public, Deputy Mézec replied: 'But they did not vote for them, our election turnout was appalling. Gibraltar has one of the best turn-outs in the world. Our democratic system in Jersey is broken. None of our politicans have mandates, myself included. The Chief Minister can say he topped the poll but it means very little.'

Following the Enough is Enough rally, Reform Jersey said they 'hoped it inspired something here in Jersey too' but Deputy Mézec said his party had nothing in the pipeline.

'I do not think we would be able to do something like that here in Jersey - they were addressing multiple issues in Guernsey and the feelings were a lot stronger. But I think something will happen in the future and it is likely to be about GST,' he said.

'What we can say is that next year when the legislation eventually comes in for gay marriage Reform Jersey want to do another rally and we are hoping a large number of people will attend.'

My favourite comment that I've seen online about this article has got to be - "Does anyone else think Sam Mézec looks like a young Meatloaf?"

Well, since I'm all revved up with no place to go, I'll explain why I've made the comments I have -

This is the context in which I'm speaking -

  • The last Annual Social Survey showed that 70% of Islanders were not satisfied with the States of Jersey.
  • We have just had an election where only 32% of people eligible to vote did so.
  • The majority of our politicians seem to believe there is nothing concerning about the above two facts.

When 68% of the public do not vote, you have a crisis of democracy. The government that has emerged from this election has no mandate at all to govern. It does not have popular support and the mechanism which should be used to convey popular support (elections) is completely broken.

On Sunday I witnessed 2,000 ordinary Guernsey residents gather in a carpark to protest against various tax measures being proposed in Guernsey and to hear from some of their Deputies.

This included Deputy Yvonne Burford (whom I respect and admire) who is the person who has proposed some of the most unpopular measures. She got up in front of all these people to boos and heckles, yet ploughed on with her speech and even took questions from the organisers of the protest.

I don't care what anyone says, it takes guts to do that.

And I couldn't help but think - which Jersey politicians would have the guts to face 2,000 hostile people to try and justify unpopular tax measures like Deputy Burford did? I can't think of any who would.

She wasn't the only one. Deputy Stewart and Deputy Fallaize went up there too and got given a pretty uncomfortable time by the host who really did press them and try to take apart what they had said in their speeches.

I looked around and saw probably over half of the members of the Guernsey States of Diliberation there, including the Chief Minister Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq. They were there to witness the public anger and try and learn from it.

Jersey's last public protest was the Equal Rights Parade that Reform Jersey organised in protest at the States decision to kick equal marriage into the long grass. No politician who had supported that move turned up to try to justify it and there were only two non-Reform Jersey States Members there at all (Senator Ozouf and Deputy Macon).

But since we're on the topic of gay marraige, let's compare the attitudes of Jersey and Guernsey's Chief Ministers on this.

Both are religious and both are conservative. Senator Gorst refused to answer the questions I asked him in the States on what his personal belief on equal marriage was (no matter how bluntly I phrased the question) and then voted for a wrecking motion to my equal marriage proposition because he did not want to upset his religious support base before an election. Deputy Le Tocq effectively said that his religious views should have no impact on who should be entitled to get married and he is now proposing that there be a complete separation of Church and state for marriage so that gay and lesbian couples would be treated equally.

See how Deputy Le Tocq showed courage and leadership when gay marriage was brought up, whereas Senator Gorst completely fluffed it.

Deputy Le Tocq has now also recently come out in support of party politics, on the basis that you can't really claim to be a proper democracy if the public don't have the ability to choose their government. Our Chief Minister remains completely dishonest about the effective Conservative Party that he leads and refuses to publicly accept that our system is broken and in need of reform. Instead we just get the usual platitudes.

It is clear to me that some of Guernsey's leading politicians have courage and backbones to stand up and say what they believe in and are setting a far better example than our politicians in Jersey.

So let's now compare our Chief Minister with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar.

Here is a speech he gave on Gibraltars 'National Day' -

Now, the speech is a bit too Rev. Ian Paisley for my liking, but just watch how he has the whole audience in the palm of his hand, screaming in support for what he is saying.

Can you imagine Ian Gorst doing this?

Gorst can do a speech that will go down well for the Institute of Directors, but nobody else really cares or would be captivated if he tried giving a rallying speech like this

Don't get me wrong, being a good politician is about a lot more than public speaking, but inspiring confidence in your leadership is fundamentally important to carrying the public along with you and Gorst is totally incapable of that.

It's no wonder that Gibraltar can get an 81% turn out in their elections when our abstention rates almost match that!

Almost none of our MPs compare to UK MPs in terms of charisma, vision or principle.

Look at Douglas Carswell MP. He is UKIPs first elected MP. I despise UKIP and everything it stands for, but Carswell resigned his safe Tory seat to take a stand on principle and risked his career to fight for it because it was what he believed in. He did so, I think, with dignity and his approach was exemplary.

Which of our politicians would do that? None I think.

But to be fair, we do have a small handful of politicians who deserve a shout out.

Love him or hate him, there is no doubt that Senator Philip Ozouf is incredibly effective, a good public speaker and has a very important set of skills that make him good at his job. He also very admirably spoke out in the gay marriage debate and rally, which was probably his finest moment in his previous term.

I believe that Deputy Russell Labey could well be a politician to look out for, in terms of his charisma and ability to hopefully get people interested in politics by making it more accessible.

Others like Deputy Jacky Hilton, Constable Simon Crowcroft, Deputy Mike Higgins etc are all parliamentarians that play an important part in Jersey politics and are very capable at what they do.

And in defence of myself (because no one else will!) nobody can claim that I just blend into the crowd. I've rejected a million calls for me to get my hair cut because it would make me an unprincipled hypocrite if I did it. I also forced the debate on gay marriage, despite knowing how controversial it would be, because I believed in it. That is what politics should be about.

But it's not enough.

When so many of our politicians don't even face a contest to get to their positions and when so many don't have the guts to actually produce manifestos that go beyond "I'm a good bloke, I'll be good to have in there eh" we can never hope to have a political system that even comes close to engaging with people and instigating public discussions and debates about how we move our island forward.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Press Release - Save the Co-op warehouses!

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Press Release - For immediate release
Political Party Backs “Keep It Locale” Campaign to Save Co-op Warehouses

Jersey’s only political party, Reform Jersey, is backing the campaign to prevent the closure of the Channel Islands’ Co-operative Society’s local warehouse.
On Tuesday 18th November at 7:30pm at the Radisson Hotel, Co-op shareholders will be meeting to discuss and vote on the proposal by the board of directors to close the Channel Islands’ warehouse operations and relocate them to the UK.
The meeting has been initiated by Jasen Cronin and Philip Johnson who collected 50 signatures from local shareholders to force the Co-op to hold the meeting.
Reform Jersey Chairman Sam Mézec said - “It is really positive to see this grassroots action to protect local jobs and food security for islanders. Reform Jersey shares the concerns that have been raised by Mr Cronin and Mr Johnson about potential job losses and the impact losing a locally based warehouse will have during bad weather conditions when it is difficult to import produce into the island.
In these tough economic times we should be doing everything we can to keep people in work. The Co-op is meant to be a mutual society that is not just about maximising profits but is concerned about the public good. Every vote counts and the fate of these jobs and warehouses lies with the Co-op’s ordinary membership.”
Reform Jersey members have been volunteering over the past week handing out leaflets to raise awareness about the issues and to encourage Co-op members to attend the meeting and speak out against this proposed move.