Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Last night at the Town Hall I proposed Geraint Jennings for election to the office of Procureur du Bien Public of St Helier.
The job of a Procureur is to look after ratepayers money better than they would their own. They are also able to deputise for the Constable in his or her absence. The role is honorary and they receive no payment for their services, merely the gratitude of a grateful public for their service.
Geraint is the author of a paper (see Appendix 1 here) written on the history and potential future of municipal reform in St Helier, to enable the capital of this Island to take on more powers and responsibility in affairs which concern residents and businesses and to provide a better democratic framework to allow this to happen.
He envisages a 'Conseil Municipal de Saint Helier' to replace the currents odd and incoherent system of Roads Committee and Procureurs. In other words, he will be the turkey who votes for Christmas, as he believes in a new system which is fit to meet the needs of St Helier for decades to come.
I stress that he is not a Reform Jersey candidate, however I am supporting him in this election as I believe his manifesto is the one which, if implemented, would best secure the ability of St Helier to provide for our residents and businesses what they need.
The election is on the 9th September at the Town Hall. I hope those who support positive change will vote for him!
Whilst this was going on, in another Parish they were holding elections for Centeniers (the senior honorary police of the Parish).
In St Helier our three incumbents were re-elected and those who were there were very grateful for their voluntary service over the past three years and for their commitment for another three ahead of them.
However, in St Saviour they once again failed to find a single candidate for the vacant post, having missed their previous deadline and having to be fined £5,000 by the Royal Court.
This follows a huge amount of work done by Constable Sadie Le Sueur-Rennard and the Parish to engage with the public and attempt to find a candidate who was willing to offer their service.
Previous to that St John had also come very close to being fined, having only found a candidate just before the deadline.
So naturally there has been a whole lot of talk about the future of the honorary system.
Various commentators have come forward with various suggestions. Hugh Raymond (President of the Honorary Police Association) has said that the age limit for Centeniers could be lifted and perhaps restrictions on which Parish you can service in may be lifted.
I think there may be some merit in those suggestions, on the basis of practicality, however I have yet to see any commentator get to what I believe is the real issue here.
Jersey has a long history of honorary service. Most of it I believe is something to be proud of, with only a few elements having an overall negative impact.
The fact we have so many people who are willing to give up their time to take up a community policing role is good, not just for that community, but also saves a huge amount of money that would have to be spent on extra professional police.
In our municipal administrations we have many people who have given up time to serve on the Parish Roads Committees or as Procureurs. The equivalent positions in the UK also do not accord salaries.
Historically being a States Member was also an honorary role. This, in my view, was always wrong and Jersey paid the price for it. We did not have a working class member of the States until 1966. Right up until the early 2000s when salaries were introduced, the public of Jersey were denied a proper democratic choice by the fact that an office carrying such a workload was not remunerated and therefore something that only those of an independent means could do so effectively.
I recently heard a Constable say that he considered his role to be honorary. I had to bite my tongue to avoid pointing out to him that that was nonsense, but those who believe things like that aren't often open to allowing facts to change their mind.
You would think that because Jersey's population is the highest it has ever been, and that these offices have existed for hundreds of years when our population was minuscule, that the greater pool of people to ask to volunteer, there would be a greater number of candidates, yet the opposite is the case.
Here is the elephant in the room that no one has thought important to mention yet -
People are more stressed out about their jobs, pay is worse and poverty is up.
Years ago most families could get by with one breadwinner, unemployment was lower than it is now and finding a new job if you lost yours wasn't so difficult.
We had the news today that unemployment has risen once again. This follows further news that of the jobs which have been created over the past year, 50% of them have been zero-hours contracts.
Is it any wonder why somebody who is struggling to pay their extortionate rent, is stressed out by their job and is facing even further tax rises might not have the inclination to want to take on the burden of giving up lots of hours of volunteering?
What will revitilise our honorary system is to accept that Jersey has been letting down our working and middle class residents and been decreasing their standard of living for years. It isn't a uniquely Jersey problem as many other places have seen that cultural shift too, but we have the ability to turn our economy round by pursuing policies which will actually improve ordinary people's lives, not make them harder.
If the government makes people's lives easier they'll be more likely to want and be able to volunteer to do something good for their community.
It's not rocket science.
Friday, 24 July 2015
On the 15th July the JEP published the latest in a series of letters in which John Boothman attempts to demonstrate why Reform Jersey's figures on how much a tax rate of 25% on earnings above £100k are wrong.
One of the things I find most frustrating in politics is when people attempt to discredit your position by saying things which are not true, in the hope that because they've said it some people will believe them.
John Boothman's letters have been a prime example of this. Nothing he has said in any of them has been true and had he done any research he would have quickly found that out, yet he persisted with not just one letter but three.
So on the 16th July I wrote a letter to the JEP for publication to clarify these figures and explain how they are arrived at and why Boothman's attempt to come up with figures was completely flawed.
Since it's been a week and the JEP have not published that letter, I produce it here, along with a link to the Freedom of Information request that I reference.
Since it's been a week and the JEP have not published that letter, I produce it here, along with a link to the Freedom of Information request that I reference.
I did not originally intend on wading in on John Boothman’s ongoing debate with my Reform Jersey colleague Deputy Geoff Southern over how much a 25% rate of tax on earnings above £100,000 would bring in, however his latest attempt to rubbish our figures was so far off the mark that I feel it necessary to intervene.
Mr Boothman began his latest set of estimates by saying “If we assume” before attempting to draw out the figures of what earnings in those bands actually were.
Unfortunately for Mr Boothman, there is no need to make any assumptions because we have access to all the relevant figures thanks to a recent Freedom of Information request.
That request shows us that the number of people with a Jersey taxable income in 2012 of over £100,000 is 4,535 and that their income is a total of £935m. If you deduct the first £100,000 for each person that gives a total income in the ‘over £100,000 bracket’ of £481m. An additional 5% income tax on earnings over £100,000 would therefore have raised £24m in 2012. This corresponds with Deputy Geoff Southern’s revised figure and is approximately 60% higher than Mr Boothman's estimate of £15m.
This week’s revelations about the Council of Minister’s financial plans for the next 4 years should shock and offend any Islander with a social conscience.
They are targeting pensioners, young people and the vulnerable, incidentally none of whom are to blame for the fact we now find ourselves with a £145m looming blackhole. No Islander will go untouched as they introduce new taxes which none of them had the good grace to warn the public about before the election last year.
The government’s fiscal incompetence has been laid bare for all to see and they are desperately trying to rectify it by pursuing a brand of austerity more economically bankrupt and mean-spirited than even their counterpart in the UK is.
Reform Jersey believe that if we want to continue to live in an Island which looks out for the vulnerable, with well-funded public services which we can all rely on, it’s time to look at our tax model.
If Mr Boothman has a change of heart, he will be more than welcome to come join us and our friends in advocating an alternative which benefits the many, not just the few.
Deputy Sam Mézec
Chairman of Reform Jersey
Freedom of Information request - http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1391
Monday, 6 July 2015
On the 6th July the JEP published not just one, but three letters criticising me for having the temerity to set up a group whose purpose is to suggest that the government might want to cool it down when engaging with a country in the Middle East which regularly invades its neighbours and massacres large numbers of civilians. You'd have thought that might be considered a noble enterprise, but apparently not to some people (one a former States deputy would you believe?).
Needless to say, not a single argument employed in those letters stands up to any scrutiny (most can be disproved in 30 seconds on Google) and they have actually done the opposite of their purpose which is to have disenthused those of us who care about the Palestinian tragedy.
I have sent the JEP a response to the first of the three letters in which the writer says that I would fail to rise to the challenge of criticising the Arab dictatorships too. I've simply drawn his attention to three occasions where I have not only rose to the challenge, but probably surpassed it too.
But the most serious of the letters was from Stephen Regal. His lengthy letter was possibly the poorest argument I have ever read on the Middle Eastern conflict and I cannot let the outrageous things he said go unchallenged, though it is impossible to do so in a letter short enough to be published in the JEP, so I have produced it here instead -
Mr Regal wrote his letter without making the slightest attempt to get in contact with me to investigate what the purpose of the new group was going to be, what my views on other conflicts in the region were or what experience I have. This makes his claims that I am somehow ignorant to be almost comically ironic.
He begins his letter by stating that he wished to take issue with my statement “last year as Israel was launching another of its regular bombardments of the Gaza Strip killing hundreds of innocent children…” Well the first thing to point out there is that, as a matter of objective fact, there is nothing to take issue with there as it is all completely true and verified by both Amnesty International and the United Nations (not organisations I’d recommend taking umbrage with).
Last year Israel launched the paradoxically named “Operation Protective Edge” in which 2,251 Gazans were killed, with 65% of them civilians (United Nations figures). Conversely, 74 Israelis were killed, 6 of them civilians. To put it another way - for every one Israeli civilian killed there were 244 Palestinian civilians killed.
At the end of 2008 Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in which around 1,400 Gazans were killed, 926 of them civilians. Conversely, 13 Israelis were killed, 3 of them civilians and 4 soldiers killed by other Israeli soldiers. To put it another way – for everyone one Israeli civilian killed there were 309 Palestinian civilians killed.
Israel’s incursions into Gaza are both regular and deadly. Therefore my statement was completely factually accurate and left nothing whatsoever to take issue with, unless you seek to deny (or in this case cast doubt on) that fact.
So let’s move on –
The next paragraph begins with “Sadly Deputy Mézec fails to mention the fact that-”. Let me get this out of the way first – there are trillions of facts I failed to mention. Why? Because I had to condense my statement to the media onto one side of A4. They then further condensed it down into a quarter of a page in the JEP.
Just because I failed to mention a particular fact does not mean that I automatically reject that fact.
“Prior to Israel’s engagement [sic] in Gaza last year more than 2,500 rockets had been fired at Israeli civilian targets in the period immediately prior to Israel’s operation and more than 10,000 rockets in total”.
I’ll be clear – I utterly condemn every single rocket that is fired by a militant group in Palestine. They are wrong to do so and they should stop immediately. I could not be more unambiguous.
What betrays any hope of intellectual calibre from his argument is the inference written across every word of his letter that because I did not fit anything about the crimes of Hamas in my one side of A4 that I am somehow an apologist for them.
Hamas are a deeply nasty organisation who I have no truck with. Were I a Palestinian I would be a supporter of a secular and non-militant Socialist political party instead. What I am intending to form in Jersey is a Palestinian Solidarity Group, not a Hamas Solidarity Group. The fact he equates the two as being the same shows how ignorant he actually is and displays the same mentality that is actually causing such strife on the road to peace.
“As an elected politician here in Jersey how would he wish our elected government to respond if our nearest neighbour behaved in such a manner?”
There is no need to try to ask us to imagine this hypothetical scenario because what he is describing has actually happened!
For decades the United Kingdom was subjected to terrorist attack after terrorist attack committed by the Irish Republican Army. They murdered a member of the Royal Family and came close to murdering the Prime Minister, all in the name of the political cause of ending the British state in the north of Ireland.
What did Britain do in response? Did we bomb Dundalk? Did we send the SAS into Dublin? Did we enforce a blockade on the Republic of Ireland, stopping basic necessities from getting in?
No, because Britain is a civilised country. Instead, we learnt that the only way that you make peace with your enemies is by talking to them and recognising when their demands are legitimate.
The demands of the Palestinian people are legitimate. Their country was stolen from them. Their people were cast asunder to the four corners of the Earth. Millions of their compatriots live in refugee camps where they are subjected to inhumane conditions (and sometimes even massacre at the behest of the Israeli Defence Force, as with Sabra and Chatila).
But if we really do want to talk about hypotheticals, let’s have a go -
Imagine tomorrow the Breton diaspora from around the world decide that they are going to invade the Channel Islands on the tenuous basis that our Islands were once part of Brittany over a thousand years ago.
After a brief bit of fighting most of us Jersey folk end up retreating to Alderney.
Those of us left in Jersey are banned from forming political groups which advocate allowing their families displaced in the war to come back home. Meanwhile, anyone who claims Breton heritage is allowed to come to Jersey to occupy a home once lived in by a Jersey family, regardless of whether they have ever even set foot in this hemisphere.
Once in a while the Breton air force sends it’s bombers (paid for from billions of dollars of American aid) to bomb our already densely populated area, killing huge numbers of civilians in the process. They do drop leaflets beforehand to let us know they are going to bomb, but then they shoot at any of us who dare attempt to leave the Island by boat to seek safety.
The Breton regime in Jersey openly admits that the purpose of the blockade of Alderney is designed to keep the population as malnourished as possible to ensure that they are not capable of effectively fighting back.
When Jersey people in Alderney dare have the temerity to say they’d like their Island back, the world lambasts them as terrorists, whereas the Bretons who occupy their Island are called the victims.
There is the Palestinian nakba for you.
“Bearing in mind Israel does not occupy one centimetre of Gaza, having unilaterally withdrawn in 2005.”
Unilaterally withdrawing after how many decades of occupation and stealing of land to place Israeli settlers there? The incredulity of that whitewash there was pretty lame.
But this as a statement is further evidence of the intellectual bankruptcy of his argument.
It may well be the case that Israel does not currently physically occupy the Gaza Strip (let’s conveniently ignore the occupation of the West Bank for now) but in case you hadn’t noticed, they run the strictest embargo on the planet.
Gaza’s airport was destroyed by Israel, so nothing gets in or out by air. Israel tightly guards its sea ports, so nothing gets in or out without Israel’s permission (in fact just a few days ago they refused to allow a charity convoy in, though they managed to stop them without killing anyone, unlike last time).
After Operation Cast Lead Israel told the United Nations it would allow materials in to rebuild the homes they destroyed, yet years later the UN confirmed that 75% of what they had pledged to do had not happened.
The electricity supply to Gaza is turned off if they are struggling to power the air conditioning in Tel Aviv.
And I know what some will be itching to say. “Aha, he hasn’t criticised the Egyptians who also share a border with Gaza which they refuse to allow goods through either!” Wrong. I deplore the Egyptian dictatorship as I deplore all of the Arab governments whose human rights records are appalling.
To say Gaza is not occupied is clearly a matter of semantics. Israel still more or less controls what can and cannot happen there. It may as well be occupied.
Here is my favourite bit though – “He also fails to mention that BDS targets only Israel in spite of the horrors perpetrated by the so-called Isis against all and sundry”.
Really, Mr Regal? REALLY?
If anyone can point out to me any shop on the high street that is selling goods provided to them by ISIS I give you my cast iron guarantee that I will never shop there again in my life.
How are we meant to boycott ISIS when there is nothing to boycott in the first place? They don’t sell us goods, they don’t provide us with software and the British government has already banned us from heading to their controlled territories on holiday.
“He fails to mention the excesses of the Syrian regime in its ongoing civil war”.
Yes, it wasn’t on my one side of A4.
In other forums I have regularly criticised the conduct of Bashar al Assad who I believe to be a class A maniac and whose demise cannot come soon enough (on the condition that he isn't just replaced by ISIS or another religious fundamentalist ruler).
“Not one word does Deputy Mézec utter regarding the activities of Iran and its nuclear aspirations”
Well partly because it doesn’t have any but he hasn’t let facts get in the way so far so why start now?
Benjamin Netanyahu is about the only person on the planet who still believes that Iran is after nuclear weapons. Even Mossad have told him that it isn't true. He simply pedals the lie and drums up fear because it's about the only thing he can make political capital out of given how extremist far-right his political views are.
But it’s incredibly ironic for someone to lament the right of Iran (a country which has not invaded another country in over 200 years and is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) to obtain nuclear weapons whilst defending a country which has hundreds of illegally obtained nuclear weapons and last invaded another country just over 200 days ago. The hypocrisy is excruciating.
Oh and by the way, I’m a unilateralist. I oppose all countries possessing nuclear weapons. But I wasn’t sure where to fit that fact on my one side of A4.
“or Russia’s takeover of large parts of Ukraine”
Again, not much room for it on my one side of A4. But it’s quite rich for someone to be indignant about one country occupying another country’s territory in a letter in which you are defending Israel.
“Sadly one can only put one construction upon BDS singling out the only democratic [sic] country in the Middle East, that is resurgence of the centuries old basic anti-Semitism”
Oh dear, here we go…
I believe that when it comes to BDS there are few greater advocates than the British Labour Party MP Sir Gerald Kaufman who has in recent years spoken out about the war crimes committed by Israel and in support of boycotting Israel until the electorate there feel their standard of living going down as a clear consequence of their refusal to elect governments who are genuinely interested in peace.
Can somebody please explain to me how Kaufman, whose family was murdered in the Holocaust and who grew up an ardent Zionist, is anti-Semitic? I’m fascinated to see a justification of how such an accusation can claim to have a place in what should be a civilised political debate.
“I’m not saying that Deputy Mézec is anti-semitic”
Quite right he is not. If he had I would not be writing a blog, but would be on the telephone to a lawyer.
I have no doubt whatsoever that there are people whose support for Palestine is motivated by their hatred of Jews. If one of these people ever attempts to infiltrate the Palestinian Solidarity Association, once I’ve calmed down my initial urge to punch them, I will throw them out and they will never be allowed back in again.
Anti-Semitism is a vile form of racism. But it is not the same thing as wanting to see an end to the crimes being perpetrated against the Palestinian people.
In fact some of the most important contributors to the Palestinian struggle have been Jews.
Sir Gerald Kaufman as I mentioned before, Miko Peled, Norman Finkelstein, the list goes on.
Do not fall into the trap of assuming that opposition to the crimes committed by the State of Israel is the same thing as hating Jews. It is not, and it could prove to be a very costly supposition to make.
I can’t particularly be bothered to explain in detail why the list of products Mr Regal has claimed we should be boycotting is nonsense given the headache I already have, but I will point out the hilarity of his claim that we’ll have to boycott phones because Motorola has Israeli connections (I use a Samsung by the way…), that is about as intellectually robust as the rest of his argument.
“Above all perhaps Deputy Mézec’s time would be better spent exercising his mind dealing with issues we Islanders face here at home”
I wonder how often Mr Regal reads the JEP. I’m in it virtually every other day for this reason or for that reason. Whether it is about the political party which I have formed to campaign on a platform of social justice, or the propositions we bring to the States with the explicit intention of benefiting lower and middle income earners in Jersey, or the huge amount of constituent casework that we are known for, often taking up cases for people who don’t even live in our constituencies.
If he is genuinely concerned about issues of social justice and would like States Members to do more to help Islanders here, why doesn’t he direct some of his indignation at the low calibre of States Member that is mostly elected here (with very few exceptions) or to our actual democratic system which perpetuates ineffective and inefficient government which has gotten us to the point of building up a £125m deficit and upcoming tax rises for ordinary working Islanders plus £60m of cuts to public sector jobs. Might that not actually be a better cause to use a platform for speaking out on?
As it happens, I had guessed that this Palestinian group project would probably take up around 2 hours of my time this whole month. Thanks to these objectors, it’s now 3 and a half hours as I had to spend time correcting the record.
“Rather than blindly and awkwardly entering an arena of which he has little knowledge and even less experience”
Once again he shows that he has no intention of pursing a line of argument fit for anyone who considers themselves to be an adult.
Mr Regal and I have never met. He knows virtually nothing about me. He has no idea at all how many times I may or may not have visited the region. He has no idea who I have or have not met who has been involved in the conflict. He has no idea what books I have or haven’t read. He has no idea what I have or have not witnessed.
All he knows is that I have reached a conclusion which is different to his, so he has assumed that the only reason I could possibly disagree with him is because I’m some sort of ignoramus who shoots from the hip without doing any research.
That is the very definition of ignorance.
As for my experience, I am going to outright refuse to enlighten him. I’d prefer to leave him in the dark because it shows how robust his argument is that he has to resort to playing the man not the ball.
“Deputy Mézec should be aware that disengagement is not the ultimate way to solve a problem”
I have two words to disprove that – South Africa.
The boycott South Africa movement played a huge part in ending Apartheid.
The regime there realised that there was no future for Apartheid so long as it became an excuse for the international community to stop dealing with their country and to cause economic hardship for the white community whose dominance they wanted to preserve.
Boycotts can and do work (and they're a lot less violent than some of the alternatives). I believe that it is the best option for securing peace because all other options have had almost 70 years of failure.
Anyone is entitled to disagree with that. But what Mr Regal has attempted to pass off as an argument against it has fallen short in every conceivable way.
Finally I want to offer any of my objectors a challenge –
The first meeting of the Palestinian Solidarity Association was hijacked by a group of well organised Christian fundamentalists who came to deliberately obstruct us. We were shouted down and some attendees were accused of anti-Semitism. But we have not been set back and we never will be no matter what mob we run into because we have the facts on our side.
Given that they chose to write letters to the JEP for publication to slander myself and spread more misinformation into the public domain without first attempting to contact me and offer a chance of reconciliation in a sensible and constructive way, then let’s have a public debate.
One hour, live on BBC Radio Jersey (I’m sure they’d be happy to facilitate it). Let’s do it, if you think you can handle it.
I know that I am right and I know that I am speaking on behalf of countless Islanders who are fed up of seeing their government strive for their 20 pieces of silver as they act with no regard to the suffering of millions of people around the world.
I have the privilege of working with a group of people whose message is simple – not in our name.
History will judge us and my conscience is crystal clear.
Wednesday, 17 June 2015
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 -
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.
Wednesday, 13 May 2015
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
In June 2013, JACS expressed the following concerns about zero-hours
“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:
c) subject 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
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!
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