Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The State of Democracy in Jersey




Yesterday the States Assembly voted 17 to 26 (with 2 abstentions) to reject the proposition lodged by Reform Jersey's Deputy Montfort Tadier to hold off on beginning to construct the first building for the International Finance Centre (IFC) on the Esplanade car park until the scrutiny review being conducted into the schemes viability had concluded so the States could make a final decision based on the facts.

Regardless of anyone's views on whether we need to build these offices or not, it is completely reasonable to say that when it would only take a few weeks to finish that review, things could stand to be put on hold so we know all questions are answered before the public takes on potentially tens of millions of pounds of risk.

It was a terrible day for environmental campaigners as well as those who care about fiscal prudence and good government.

I won't rehearse the arguments which were made, but instead will commend the excellent work done by various campaigners and Save Our Shoreline Jersey who did an absolutely sterling job.


What I want to talk about is the state of democracy in Jersey today.

The 2013 Annual Social Survey showed that 75% of the public did not have faith in the States of Jersey. At the last election 70% of eligible voters did not vote. We have a gerrymandered electoral system which gives voters in the countryside more power than voters in urban areas. Anyone who tells you that none of this is a problem is either a liar or a fool. Jersey has a perpetual crisis of democracy.

It is that crisis which inspired me to get into politics so that I could play my part in working towards a system which gives all voters equality and provides accountability to those in government.

Yesterday has demonstrated exactly why democratic reform is desperately needed and why the current system is intellectually and morally bankrupt.

It was claimed by Constable Crowcroft in the run up to the debate that going ahead with the IFC was the result of democracy because the ministers who supported it all won re-election in October.

The Chief Minister was re-elected last year with the support of 18% of eligible voters. That's 82% of the public who did not back him. He receives staunch political support from the 12 Constables, 11 of whom were elected uncontested.

But here are the clinchers -

Check the election manifestos of our most senior ministers at www.gorst.je, www.alanmaclean.je and www.ozouf.je and you will find not one single word about the IFC. Not one.

How anyone can patronise the public by calling this process democratic is beyond me.

But it gets worse.

Here is the list of which members voted against Deputy Tadier's proposition -


Of these, many are not particularly surprising.

But two will be a surprise if you are one of those who voted for them based on what they told SOS Jersey before they were elected.

Both Deputy Murray Norton and Deputy Peter McLinton when asked if they supported offices being built on the Esplanade said "no". 

And here it is -



They couldn't have been more unambiguous and, it transpires, they couldn't have been more insincere.

Not only did Deputy Norton vote against the proposal, but he actually gave a very passionate speech about how we absolutely MUST build the IFC and even slagged off the protesters (never a smart move).

When I go round knocking on doors at election time I am confronted by so many people who say "what's the point? Politicians say anything to get elected then just do what they want anyway." I try and explain that we aren't all the same and that I will vote exactly how I say I will in my manifesto (and my record shows that I have done exactly that).

I now have this to contend with. Two Deputies who portrayed themselves as not being part of the club and as being people who would be a breath of fresh air, then at the first sniff of power they vote exactly how the Chief Minister tells them to. How can I claim any member of the public is wrong to be cynical when I'm on the doorstep trying to tell them voting is worth it?

All of the assistant ministers where whipped into force (although Deputy Vallois abstained, but that's even worse frankly...). These so-called "independents" vote how the Chief Minister tells them to.

Never has it been more clear that we have a party political system in Jersey. The only difference is that Reform Jersey does what it says it will do at election time, the Jersey Tories lie their way into power and betray the public at every chance they can get.


Only slightly less annoying than the ministers/ assistant ministers abusing democratic process like this is the non-executive States Members who don't seem to even realise what their job is.

Deputy Richard Renouf of St Ouen, who is an Advocate by trade, said of the States of Jersey "we are the government of this Island". He is wrong. The States of Jersey is NOT the government of this Island, it is the parliament of this Island. It is the Council of Ministers which is the government, where the parliament appoints them and then holds them to account.

The fact a lawyer doesn't understand what his job is is utterly damning on the caliber of our parliamentarians.

If the purpose of the States Assembly is to simply rubber stamp whatever the Council of Ministers decides and to ignore any Scrutiny, then frankly it may as well be disbanded. It serves no purpose if it isn't capable of holding the government to account.


The next three years are going to be hell for ordinary Islanders.

Despite lying to the public during the election, Ian Gorst and his cohorts are hell bent on raising taxes on all of us at the same time as cutting back public services to the bare bones.

There is little to be done because our so-called politicians are probably the least capable we have ever had.

The challenge now is to build up a true democratic movement which can attempt to challenge their hegemony in 2018.


Reform Jersey are having our AGM on the 25th June. Sign up for free as a member and join the only political party in the Island which gives a damn what the public think.

www.reformjersey.je

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Reform Jersey Press Release - the 'Living Wage'

Living Wage – what we were not told.


Reform Jersey member, Deputy Geoff Southern today accuses the chief minister of misleading States members, the media and members of the public over the presentation of the report into the viability of adopting a living wage for Jersey.

Although on the surface the report appears to be a neutral and technical document” says Deputy Southern, “it is in fact a highly political and skewed view, designed to put as many blocks as possible on the path to the adoption of a Jersey living wage.


The research conducted ignores the two central aims of the minimum wage:
  • to reduce in-work poverty and dependence on benefits, and
  • to lift working families out of relative low income (poverty)

The report avoids dealing with the former by ignoring completely the evidence from the 2014 London living wage report which shows an hourly rate to meet basic living costs excluding benefits of between £11 and £15.84 for families with children and between £6.50 and £13.45 for those without.

Similarly, the London report suggests that to lift families above the poverty line would require hourly wage rates, excluding benefits, of between £11.60 and £15.84.

In suggesting that Jersey already has a living wage and need do little more, the Chief Minister reneges on his promise to protect the poor and vulnerable. He governs by spin,” says Deputy Southern.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Reform Jersey response to Zero-Hours contract report



In June 2013, JACS expressed the following concerns about zero-hours
contracts –

“We are concerned that some employers are using zero-hour contracts in circumstances that may not be appropriate.”

As a result, the then Social Security minister agreed a proposition to investigate the use of zero-hours contracts which included the following terms:

csubject to the outcome of consultation with stakeholders, to bring forward for approval suchdraft legislation as is deemed necessary to restrict any proven misuse of zero-hours contracts.

“In a skimpy 12-side report, the current Minister, Deputy Susie Pinel, has failed to address any of the serious issues raised by the use/abuse of zero hours in Jersey” says Deputy Geoff Southern. The report fails to assess, or even address, these vital questions:

  • Why 1 in 10 workers has a zero-hours job in Jersey, (UK 1 in 50)?
  • What the extent of inappropriate use of zero hours is?
  • How do variable incomes interact with the income support system?
  • What do low incomes mean for Sickness benefit thresholds?

The department fails to ask the right questions and therefore comes up with no proposals for regulation, merely a code of practice, which in the absence of any policing can safely be ignored by a rogue employer.Stakeholders, whether employers or employee representatives, have not been consulted, apparently.

No attempt has been made to investigate the impact of zero hours on the 25% of employees reported in the Social Survey as expressing dissatisfaction, or the 50% of workers who complain about the reduction in benefits such as pension or sick pay attached to zero-hours jobs.

“After 18 months of waiting, workers have been let down by this shoddy and superficial report. We shall have to start from scratch to do some proper research and ask the right questions, if we are to make any progress in controlling this controversial element of employment law, says Deputy Southern.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

The young putting the old to shame - The Jersey Youth Parliament




Yesterday myself and Deputy Tadier attended the inaugural meeting of the Jersey Youth Parliament.

Jersey already has a Youth Assembly, which takes place once a year in the States Chamber and is organised by the Jersey branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association which includes amongst it's alumni such fine politicians as myself and Deputy Jeremy Macon.

However thanks to the hard work of a few teenagers with a passion for politics and bucket loads of initiative (led by Amy Vatcher), a more permanent organisation has been formed to host regular debates amongst young people, encourage students to get politically active and provide a forum for the views of young people to be filtered through directly to the States.

Aside from this obviously being great for all the young people who get a chance to be involved, I am really optimistic that this will be good for the whole Island, for two main reasons -


Firstly, the actual model of parliament that these young people have opted to create is a pristine democratic model that puts the actual States format to shame.

They have accepted the principle that everyone deserves to have a vote worth exactly the same as anybody else, and so their voting system will be a proportional representation system.

The States of Jersey has so far sanctioned two referendums to hoodwink the public into voting to preserve our gerrymandered system where those in the conservative rural Parishes can arbitrarily outvote the more progressive urban Parishes no matter the overall democratic will of the Island is.

The purpose of elections are to produce a parliament which represents the democratic will of the public. The States of Jersey fails horrendously at this, where the Jersey Youth Parliament has committed to it on it's very first day.

But as well as accepting the principle of equal suffrage, they have also opted for party politics!

So far four parties have been formed -

The Rose Party - a liberal party named after the reformist party in Jersey during the 1800s, let by Constable Pierre Le Sueur.
The Socialist League - a coalition of democratic socialists from across the broad left.
The Green Party - an environmentalist party.
The Progressive Party - a conservative party, named after the right-wing party formed in 1945 by Cyril Le Marquand.



When I put it to the members of the Youth Parliament that it was a sensible decision to go for a party system, they responded by saying that it made so much more sense to group together on joint manifestos rather than every candidate (potentially more than 50) putting together their own manifesto that would make it a challenge for young voters to go through and decide which to vote for.

And therein lies the problem with the States system and, in my view, why we have landed ourselves in the mother of all disasters with an upcoming £125m financial black hole!

Our political system is designed to put off as many people so it remains as easy as possible for those in power to remain in place, no matter how badly out of touch with the public they become or how badly they mismanage our public finances.

Yet, on day one of it's existence, the Youth Parliament has adopted a model that has already shown itself to be far more captivating for those who take part and makes the job of the youth parliamentarians much easier.

I think that this this Youth Parliament is going to make our Council of Ministers look absolutely ridiculous.

When a group of teenagers are able to put the actual government to shame by so easily accepting basic principles of democracy so uncontroversially, then those who continue to bury their head in the sand will look more and more out of touch.


But the second thing that really impressed me about yesterday was the actual quality of the debate.

Each party (including the Progressive Party who I am most ideologically unaligned with) put forward their cases eloquently and in good spirit. With more and more practice the leading lights of each party will become public speakers with the skills to surpass many of our actual politicians (they'll certainly get more practice in their role than some of our States Members choose to get by their inactivity in their role...).

Ben Jehan of the Rose Party was able to explain his liberal ideology with such clarity and with an ability to portray himself as utterly genuine in every word he said, even when he was put under pressure from members of the audience who didn't agree with him.

Daniel Tremoceiro of the Progressive Party gave an explanation of his conservative values that showed his genuine commitment to real economic success and fiscal competence, without ever allowing himself to be diverted towards socially conservative values which are deeply unpopular amongst most young people.

Ella Blampied from the Green Party won the audience over so quickly with her charm by describing herself as an "environment nerd" and making it abundantly clear that she was not a political person, but rather someone who was motivated by a genuine passion to save the world from climate change.

Freddie Morley-Kirk from the Socialist League made an excellent case for democratic socialism, making clear his disdain for those historically who have dragged the good name of socialism through the mud, and showed his party to be a coalition of those who want to fight for a more equal society but without losing sight of the importance of pragmatism.

From the audience came some wonderful contributions from people who needed little prompting to put all of the parties (in equal measure) on the spot to justify what they had said and to challenge them when they believed what they had said didn't add up.

When I heard the group of girls from Hautlieu giving even the Socialists a hard time over their commitment to true equality, I knew that I was in a room full of people with genuine progressive views, something which is sorely lacking in the actual States Assembly which is conservative and reactionary in all the wrong ways. It is too enamoured by tradition that it shows contempt for positive change.

The more refined these people become with more political experience, the better our chances are of having a next generation that will save this Island from the incompetence of previous generations.


Some in politics believe that more political education is the panacea to all of our previous problems with trying to get young people engaged with politics. I have always believed this is utter nonsense and will actually put young people off politics.

Politics is the battle of values and fighting for a better world. A bunch of old fogies trying to be as balanced and uncontroversial in front of a whiteboard will not inspire young people.

Some young people believe the planet is being destroyed by multi-national companies who are usurping our natural resources to make a quick buck with no regard for future generations. Some young people believe inequality is keeping billions of people in poverty across the world. Some young people believe governments have attacked our hard-won civil liberties in the name of "security". Some young people believe that their economic prospects are harmed by governments who take an anti-enterprise stance and hold back aspiration.

The way you will inspire young people to get politically active is by encouraging them to take part in passionate debates on these subjects which leave them wanting to walk straight out of the room and do something to help their community.

The Youth Parliament has already shown what huge potential it has and I'm thoroughly glad it's happening!

Well done to everyone involved.


Check them out on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jersey-Youth-Parliament/1534433766803871?fref=ts

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Register to vote in the UK election!

Press Release - For immediate release

Deputy Calls on Islanders to Register to Vote in Upcoming UK General Election




Deputy Sam Mézec of Reform Jersey is urging the hundreds of Islanders who are eligible to make sure they are registered to vote in the upcoming UK general election.

The election rules in the UK state that British citizens are still eligible to vote in the general election, despite no longer living in the UK, so long as they were registered to vote at some point in the past 15 years - http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/register-to-vote/british-citizens-living-abroad

They will vote as if they still lived in the last constituency in which they were registered in.

There are likely to be hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people in Jersey who have no idea that they are actually still eligible to vote in the general election. These may be British citizens who moved to Jersey in the last 15 years, or even the hundreds of students who studied at university on the mainland” said Deputy Mézec.

This election is impossible to call, with the two main parties neck and neck in the polls and former fringe parties drawing more mainstream support. Every vote counts and any Islander who cares about the policies that will affect tens of millions of people across the UK, or may even affect Jersey and our relationship with the UK, should make sure they vote because it has never been more important.”

Deputy Mézec (who is still a member of the Labour Party) hopes Islanders will vote bearing in mind the important services Jersey residents get from the UK, particularly in health and education, where the NHS provides specialist services to Islanders when they are ill and the national curriculum that Jersey subscribes to. “Making sure we have a UK government that will protect those services will benefit Jersey. We also need to remember that jeopardising the UK’s position in the European Union, as some parties are intent on doing, will have serious implications for our finance industry.

Voters must have registered to vote by the 20th April, and must have applied for a postal vote by the 21st April. This can be done online at - https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote


Thursday, 2 April 2015

Reform Jersey - Free GPs press release


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Press Release - For immediate release
Reform Jersey maintains free GP visit policy despite Jersey Consumer Council findings
Jersey’s only political party has rejected claims recently made by the Jersey Consumer Council that the public do not want to see free access to GPs for all Islanders due to potential “abuse” of the system.
Reform Jersey party leader Deputy Sam Mézec said “I don't think that anyone can seriously claim that a forum where only 54 people took part can possibly give us any indication of what Island-wide opinion from all social groups is. The numbers alone give me cause to believe the findings are unrepresentative. We also were not given the questions those people were asked to examine if they were leading questions or if the full picture was given.
The council was right to identify that we would not want to promote people abusing the system, however we have to remember that the current system ends up forcing people to put off addressing their illnesses at an early stage, when it is cheaper to treat, because of worrying about paying to see a doctor. These people often end up using A&E instead, where it ultimately costs the taxpayer much more to see them than if they had been to see a GP in the first place.
“One's health is of paramount importance and whilst some sectors of society may be willing and able to pay, it is also true any charge to see a GP can act as a disincentive, especially for the increasing number of people who do not have the luxury of disposable income. And for them, seeing a doctor should not be a luxury, but a right” added fellow Reform Jersey member Deputy Montfort Tadier.
We welcome the progress that has been made with some surgeries now voluntarily offering free visits to certain age groups, but ultimately we want to see appointments free for all Islanders, funded by raising the social security cap on high earners.”
In the United Kingdom people have the ability to see a GP for free. It is often claimed that this leads to longer waiting lists, however this varies across the country, where the determining factor is actually how well funded the local scheme is and how many GPs they actually employ, rather than the principle of free GP appointments itself.


Notes to the editor

  • Reform Jersey party policy is to move towards scrapping fees for GP visits altogether, with immediate steps made towards abolishing fees for those on low incomes, pensioners, children and those with chronic illnesses.
  • Reform Jersey would pay for this by raising the social security cap on high earners, asking the well off to share the burden instead of forcing hardship on those who are struggling to get by.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Reform Jersey calls for more power for St Helier


Press Release - For immediate release

Party calls for more power for St Helier Town Hall



Reform Jersey leader Deputy Sam Mézec has lodged an amendment to the Council of Ministers Strategic Plan calling for reform of how the Parish administration system works in St Helier.

St Helier features as one of the four strategic priorities proposed by the Council of Ministers for this term of office. Their stated aim is to “Agree a new partnership between the States and the Parish of St. Helier to deliver services and best value for tax and ratepayers” however Deputy Mézec and other campaigns are worried that unless the democratic structure of St Helier is reformed to meet 21st century standards, that the “new deal” for St Helier could simply lead to a brief burst of building and social dumping, leaving a ramshackle structure unable to meet people's needs when future ministers' attentions have moved on.

The current system we have in St Helier of a Roads Committee and Procureurs des Bien Public is hundreds of years old and was built as a ‘one model fits all’ system for all Parishes before St Helier became the economic powerhouse it is today” said Deputy Mézec

It's clear to me that things have moved on and if our town is to be made a better place for people to live, visit and work, we need a local administration structure that is able to meet the needs of residents and businesses and has the power to deliver services more efficiently and with more democratic participation from the public”.

Deputy Mézec’s amendment does not specifically state what reforms should be made, but he has made reference to models proposed in the past by the Chamber of Commerce for a ‘Conseil Municipal de St Helier’ where Parishioners would elect councillors (or ‘conseillers’) in a public election who would form the necessary committees to head up more locally provided services and have the power to make byelaws.

St Helier currently leads the way by holding our Roads Committee meetings in public and by holding regular open meetings of a ‘conseil municipal’ between the elected Parish officials and Parish Deputies, however it is clear that looking to the future our administration will need a legislative backing that will see us through the next 50 years”.



For further comment or to arrange an interview, please contact Deputy Mézec at chairman@reformjersey.je.

Please find attached the amendment and appendices.