Tuesday, 3 December 2013
This week is probably not the best of weeks to talk about electoral reform, given that the 2014 Budget is due to be debated, along with amendments. But it will be inescapable that once that is concluded, the States are set to move straight on to debating Senator Ozouf's reform option, and there has also been the interesting development of the Bailiff announcing his retirement.
Time for Carswell
The announcement that the Bailiff will retire on the 24th January 2015 presents the States with an opportunity.
So far there have been two independent reports done into Jersey's government, the Clothier and Carswell Reports, both headed by experienced judges. They both came to the conclusion that the Bailiff should not continue as President of the States of Jersey, but solely remain the head of the judiciary.
But as happens so often in Jersey, their recommendations have been kicked into the long grass, with many hoping they will simply be forgotten about. This won't happen. The principles in both reports are right and the shadow that is hanging over the States will not disappear until their reforms are enacted.
You can understand the difficulty to a degree. It is inevitable that if the Bailiff is to lose his role in the States, it will be seen as a judgement on how he, as an individual, was performing, and will inevitably be able to be argued against if the Bailiff at the time happens to be a good Speaker. Rightly or wrongly, the Bailiff is a position that is respected and revered in Jersey and so to seemingly want to tear the job apart isn't a politically easy point of view to have.
But the writing is on the wall, and most States Members know this. I even hear whispers that at the top levels of government there are people who accept it as inevitable but simply want to wait for the right time.
And what better time is there than at the end of a Bailiffs tenure?
For as little fuss as possible to be caused and to provide for a seamless transition, the most appropriate time to change the role of the Bailiff is going to be in January 2015. If Sir Michael can retire on the 24th January, then a new elected President of the States of Jersey can be sworn in on the 25th, and the new Bailiff can assume to responsibilities of head of the judiciary.
Sir Michael Birt will have only been Bailiff for 5 and a half years when he retires, which is actually a relatively short time compared to his predecessors. For all we know, his successor could be in office for well over a decade.
So now is an opportunity that must be grasped. I and Reform Jersey will be lobbying to encourage the States to set a timetable for this transition to having an elected President of the States of Jersey.
The Great Gerrymander
This is the last chance if there is to be any reform before the next election. By next year it will be too late to get all the changes implemented and the legislation amended. So it will be interesting to see if Philip Ozouf's reform proposal benefits from it being the last opportunity.
His reform proposal can be read here - http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyPropositions/2013/P.093-2013.pdf
It is essentially Option B, with the minor change of one extra Deputy for each St Helier district.
I've already dismantled Senator Ozouf's argument in this blog post - http://sammezec.blogspot.com/2013/07/senator-ozoufs-reform-proposal.html
It is clear that this reform proposal is an insult to the people of St Helier. Senator Ozouf has vaguely accepted that Option B was unfair to St Helier, so his attempt to address that is to give each district just one extra Deputy, which doesn't even come close to giving the Parish equality.
Anything less than equality is unacceptable.
His solution to a system that is very unfair to St Helier is offer a system that is just quite unfair, and it should be rejected as the pathetic gerrymander that it is.
It is strange that Senator Ozouf delayed his proposition until today when he acknowledged that it stood no chance of winning when the rest of the reform proposals were debated last month. But it has ended up being debated literally straight after the 2014 Budget, which presumably (and rightly) will have preoccupied Senator Ozouf's time over the past few weeks. It will be interesting to see how much preparation he has done for this proposal.
It would be absurd for the States to adopt this reform when they have already agreed to hold a referendum on the Clothier reforms next year. Hopefully a majority of States Members will see through this proposal for what it is - an attempt to consolidate power and keep St Helier on it's knees.
He will need 26 States Members to vote this through. I can't see it happening. Good riddance.
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
He said -
"Even more importantly for the long term, there needs also to be grassroots action to develop a Jersey version of party politics which, by imposing quality control and clear mandates on candidates, can start to close the widening gap between the governing and the governed."
This is definitely a welcome shift in the JEP editorial line, which has normally been hostile to the idea of party politics.
In the past they have trotted out the line that you hear from time to time about how Jersey isn't suitable for parties. They often say how Jersey is too small for parties, despite how many smaller jurisdictions have healthy party systems, like Gibraltar or even Monaco which has a tiny population. They talk about how parties have failed in the past, despite the fact that in the last election contested by a party, they had a success rate of 80%. They also ignore the fact that Jersey has had a party system several times (though not since our current electoral system was devised).
So I thought now would be a good time to publish some more historical manifestos and get them on record.
I've also included a poll at the bottom, so readers can indicate how they would have voted back then. A pretty useless exercise, but why not?
The J.D.M Election Manfiesto
THE JERSEY DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT is a polical organisation whose determination it is to establish speedily in this Island a more progressive, democratic mode of life and administration.
Its adherents are not confined to any one class of society, yet, without doubt, it is pre-eminently working-class in sympathy and outlook. This is naturally the case, because it is among the lower wage-earners that progress to-day is most necessary and desirable.
Human Society is like an organism, where, if normal progress be stopped at any point, either cancer or decay begins its ravage. Hence, if progress, whether industrial, social or political, comes to a standstill at the bottom, the higher ranks are more and more isolated, democracy becomes a mockery, and the class struggle is likely to be intensified.
The Workers before the War.
Here in Jersey, from the worker's point of view, we think of life as it was before the war; of those low wages and long working hours; of the high proportion of Rents to Wages; of the large number of working-class wives who were forced to work to augment the family income; of the almost complete lack of aids to technical and cultural development - in short, we think in terms of squalor and lack of opportunity.
We remember, moreover, that the workers had no true representation in the control of Island affairs, no voice in Parochial management, no freedom from fear in ill-health and old age, no compulsory compensation in case of accident - in short, we remember that life for many of us was lacking both in security and in the sense of responsibility.
Turning to the present, we note that the States have recently been compelled to extend the Franchise so as to bring within its scope all British subjects over the age of 21, and we are not unmindful that large numbers of workers are now being granted considerable increases in wages.
But concessions along these two lines are not sufficient. The deplorable conditions which existed in pre-war days still remain substantially the same.
In these circumstances we therefore propose the immediate supersession of the present States Assembly and its replacement by a House which shall more fully represent the communal will and shall be more amenable to public control.
More particularly, we are in favour of an Assembly from which Jurats, Rectors and Constables shall have been removed and which shall consist solely of 34 paid Deputies, viz., one for each 1,500 of the population in every Parish. Jurats shall remain as Magistrates only, in accorance with their Oath of Office.
In Parochial affairs also we stand for a more democratic system of administration. It is surely intolerable that the Honourary Officials elected by the people should immediately pass out of the control of these people into that of the Principaux. The general public thus has no further voice in the management of its own financial interests. We submit that control should remain either in the hands of the people as a whole or of their own elected representatives.
Social and Industrial Reforms.
Following the establishment in these ways of a more democratic form of government in Island and Parochial affairs, we place next in order of urgency that of lifting from the backs of the ages poor those burdens and anxieties which the community alone has the power and the duty to relieve, and relieve, moreover, in a sympathetic yet sensible manner. We stand for a Contributory Scheme of Old Age Pensions.
We declare that the care of home and children is work done for the community and is deserving of communal recompense. We therefore believe in, and will strive to introduce, Housing and Rent Controls, Family Allowances, a full Health Insurance Scheme (including Maternity Benefits), Compensation for industrial injury, and improves Educational facilities.
In the industrial field, we submit that the successes already achieved by the local Trades Unions must be consolidated and extended. We shall not be satisfied until every employer has accepted the principle of "a wage which shall always afford a decent and progressive standard of life" for all employees.
With respect to agriculture, we maintain that the only proper use of land is to assist in raising the standard of life of the whole community, and not merely to enlarge the banking accounts of a privileged few. As between farmer and consumer a reciprocal duty should exist. By and large, the only lasting security for the farmer lies in a guaranteed price. The community must help the farmer to achieve this. But then the farmer must acknowledge his duty to the people, including his own employees. The satisfaction of Island requirements, with, if necessary, control of production by a combined Farmer-States Committee, should precede any concern for his own interests.
In the realm of finance, we are wholeheartedly in favour of a Graduated Income Tax and Death, or Estate, Duties, together with an Equitable Rating Scheme.
A New Standard of Life.
These are our proposals in brief. They represent our first contribution towards a new standard of life in Jersey. We regard them as necessary, not only because of their own inherent rightness, but also to lift us nearer to the level of our fellows in other lands.
The Island has often been called "a Paradise." Is it not strange, then, that there should be lacking in our lives so many of those things which elsewhere are regarded as the very minimum essentials of the democratic way of life?
We demand to-day, therefore, the recognition of the rights of the common people. We demand the removal of everything that debars us from a free, healthy, and worthwhile existence. We demand vigour, intelligence, vision, and sound planning in the direction of our common affairs.
In the past, progressive thought and action in Jersey have been denied their rightful outlet. That is no longer the case. The J.D.M exists to secure the greatest possible unity among the progressive forces in the Island in the support of the aims set out above. It accordingly urges all those of progressive views to join its ranks in the realisation of these aims.
Finally, to the so-called Common people we would say: You whose lives have been so long restricted, whose development has been so much frustrated, now is your first big chance to choose your own representatives and to ensure for the first time that your wishes shall be voiced. Stand by the Movement which has already dome something for you, which has even stirred the States into a strange new semblance of life.
You know well that the renewed activities of the States are not based upon any real concern for you. Were this the case, your present representatives would have acted many years ago. You know rather that it is fear that is driving them into a struggle for self-preservation.
What You Must Do.
Let your reply therefore be determined and to the point. Make it clear to the existing Members of the States that you are tired of their dilatory methods, that you are ashamed of those who are too timid or too fearful to express their views in the public sessions of the Assembly, and decide to give your votes to the J.D.M Candidates, the men who bring you a new hope and the promise of a future which shall be free both from insecurity and from fear.
The JDM manifesto ends with a brief statement about the JEP and their refusal to publish their manifesto. I may post that at a later date, along with the correspondence between the JDM and the JEP's editor.
Jersey Progressive Party
1. To reconstitute the States in such a way as will provide that those members who are elected directly by the people to act for them, namely Deputies, shall hold a fair majority of all the seats in the Assembly and this so as to make it reasonably probable that the will of the people shall at all times prevails.
We should seek a newly constituted Assembly made up of:-
Jurats - Twelve elected for a period of six years, subject to re-election. We regard it as a matter of principle that to the extent to which the Office of Jurat remains as an elective office for legislative purposes, the holders of that office should at intervals seek a renewal of public confidence by public re-election. A period of office of six years is considered to be the best maximum. The ultimate aim being a separation of the Judicial from the Legislative functions of the office of Jurat, this separation should be considered and decided upon prior to the end of a period of three years dating from the first assembly of the States after the 1945 election.
Constables - Twelve as now.
Deputies - Eleven to represent the eleven country Parishes, making no Change. Eighteen elected by the whole town to represent St. Helier, being an increase of twelve.
Assembly - An Assembly of fifty-three members so allocated should provide a more workmanlike machine and be adequate to the needs of good Government.
Administration - In view of the problems facing the Island some alteration in the Committee system will be inevitable. increasing the Deputies will involved that Deputies undertake a greater share of the work of administering Departments. This in turn places on the Electors the clear responsibility of scrutinising with greater care the qualifications of all who offer themselves as candidates and to elect only those of wide experience and proved ability.
2. To devote all efforts to restoring a prosperous Island. In particular:-
(i) To have all possible scientific and other assistance given to Agriculture, so that it may surmount its present serious difficulties and become again adequately profitable for Farmers.
(ii) To encourage Residents who have always been a great, steady, and necessary asset; and
(iii) To overhaul the existing machinery which seeks to develop the Island as a Tourist Resort and to have in mind that from that industry town and country alike may progressively benefit.
3. In recognising how much the future prosperity of all depends upon the Island's possession of an adequate labour force, to devote ourselves to the provision of steadily expanding schemes which aim at Social Security and betterment, and in particular to support at all times to provide Old Age Pensions and Health Insurance with Maternity Benefits on sound lines, and to continue to help, by giving special Family Allowances, those who earn wages which are not sufficient to enable themselves to provide for all the needs of growing children. A clinic for expectant mothers is another aim. Rent control is another.
4. To keep up to the highest possible levels our standards of Education and Training, so that our young people shall always have good chances in the world.
5. As regards the men and women returning to the Island after serving in H.M. Forces and the Merchant Navy, to make provision so that, for the first ten years at least, 75% of all future appointments in uniformed services, such as Paid Police and Prison Staff are filled by such men, and that in all institutional and Departmental non-technical jobs, controlled for the States by Departments, to see a preference is given to such men and women who deserve so well of their country.
Another piece of history.
Andy Sibcy is right in that the (re)introduction of party politics in Jersey will inevitably lead to better candidates being put forward and better and more comprehensive manifestos that contain realistic aspirations in them.
This is the way forward for Jersey politics and I hope people can look back at these manifestos and see that it is something that is more than capable of fitting in with Jersey culture.
Wednesday, 20 November 2013
I've recently been very kindly gifted by some friends a big file of paraphernalia from the Jersey Democratic Movement from the 1940s until shortly after Norman Le Brocq was first elected as Deputy for St Helier No. 2 in the late 1960s. This includes manifestos, newsletters and (most interestingly) correspondence between the party and the editor of the Jersey Evening Post.
My three passions are; history, politics and Jersey. So going through this file has had me excited as anything.
For those that aren't aware of the history here, the Jersey Democratic Movement was a sort of party/ coalition of politically progressive islanders that first got together during the Occupation to discus how Jersey should progress into a proper democratic state after the war and spread anti-German/ pro-democracy propaganda round the island. To form a political party during the war was a very serious crime. They had to work covertly and were officially banned by the Germans (though they continued to operate regardless).
After the war the JDM became one of the two main groupings vying for power in Jersey. The other group was the Jersey Progressive Party, which many regard to be the precursor to the current group that are in power in Jersey. It was a broadly conservative coalition that argued for very modest change in post-war Jersey, in contrast the JDM's "radical" (more on that later!) change was broadly leftist, ranging from the Jersey Communist Party to more moderate figures in the Jersey Labour Party.
Both parties campaigned in the 1945 elections after the war (the last held under the previous electoral system) and the JPP trounced the JDM. I don't want to surmise exactly why this happened, but it is important for readers to know that the JPP were far smarter than the JDM in deciding what seats they contested (they didn't bother putting candidates up in constituencies that already had a member seeking re-election who they knew were potential allies for the parties cause) meaning they were better able to focus their resources on the winnable areas, and they had the full support of the Jersey Evening Post.
The JEP overtly supported the JPP and encouraged their readers to vote for a particular set of candidates. The JDM asked for their manifesto to be published in the JEP, but were refused to even be allowed a paid advert. Not only that, but the JEP also ran several articles that misrepresented JDM policy, with the aim of portraying them as traitors (how ironic given that they were the most patriotic of islanders who actively resisted the Nazis) who sought to have Jersey incorporated into the UK as an English county.
What strikes me when I read the manifesto that the JDM illegally published and distributed in 1943 is that by today's standards virtually everything in it is totally uncontroversial and most of what they proposed has happened anyway.
To me I look back at the JDM as a group that were arguing for many things that were fundamentally morally right, yet were castigated, slandered and marginalised by those in power. The question you have to ask yourself when looking back at this is how has Jersey politics progressed since then?
My view is the same as it was when I first became politically aware at 16 years old - Jersey needs political parties that represent the various different political traditions. Only that will improve the standard of Jersey politics. It will take it away from being based on personalities rather than policies. It will improve the quality of policies because manifestos won't simply be written on the back of a fag packet by one person, but subject to consultation and discussion with industry and economic experts. It will improve the quality of candidate too because there will be a selection process and candidates will be briefed and have to get to grips with comprehensive manifestos and reports.
The choice for Jersey people at the ballot box will then be about what values do they want to vote for and what vision for the future of Jersey most resonates with them. Jersey politics at the moment is culturally backwards. When a majority of States Members can't even agree on the principle that voters in Jersey should have a vote that is broadly worth an equal amount, you know something is very very wrong indeed.
So I am publishing here the Jersey Democratic Movement manifesto of 1943 and want to ask readers to have a think about how this compares to modern progressive politics in the island.
I'm only 22 years old and so I never had the privilege of meeting Norman Le Brocq and talking with him about Jersey politics, but there may be readers here who have memories of him and his other fellow party members and want to share those thoughts. I would definitely be interested to hear them.
The Programme of the Jersey Democratic Movement in 1943
1. A plebiscite will be held to decide for or against incorporation as an English County.
Should this result in a decision against incorporation, then we advocate the following:
2. Reconstruction of States Assembly
(a) Sole members to be deputies, each elected for three years, in the proportion of one for each 1,500 inhabitants. Property qualifications abolished for both candidates and electors.
(b) A Council or Cabinet will be appointed, each member of which shall be in charge of a States Department.
(c) Deputies to receive adequate remuneration.
(d) Electorate shall have power of recall over deputies when two-thirds of the voting register shall demand their resignation.
(e) Electorate to include all males and females over the age of 21, with the exception of (1) Foreigners; and (2) Citizens of the British Commonwealth with a local residence of less than one year.
(f) Voting to be by the preferential method.
(g)The Assembly shall be the only legislative body in the Island. Judicial power shall be vested in the Royal Court which shall be independent of the Assembly. The title of Bailiff shall be reserved for the Chief Magistrate.
(h) A Permanent Committee of Constables shall be formed to watch over parochial affairs.
3. Political Measures
(a) Nationalisation of gas, water and electric services and passenger transport. Compensation to shareholders to take the form of interest bearing State Bonds, redeemable within a stated period.
(b) One uniform tax system to be introduced, to include a graduated income tax and death or estate duties.
4. Legal Measures
(a) A modern, equitable Divorce Law shall be introduced.
(b) All seigneural and rectoral rights, dues, tithes, and other feudal privileges shall be abolished.
(c) All Rentes shall be commuted.
(d) All obsolete laws, as also all anomalies of legal procedure shall be overhauled, remodelled, etc., in accordance with progressive, democratic though and practice.
(e) An augmented paid Police Force shall act over the whole island.
5. Social Measures
(a) The economic rights or orphans, invalids, widows and the aged will be fully provided for.
(b) Health Insurance to be on a compulsory, contributory basis between States, employer and employee, and to include Maternity Benefits.
(c) Slum Clearance and extension of State Building Schemes to be continued until the whole population is adequately housed, coupled with a more rigorous State supervision of building.
(d) Compulsory free education to the age of 16, with family allowances to obviate any consequent economic distress.
(e) Technical Schools and Adult Education Schemes to be created with facilities for all to enter who wish to participate.
6. Industrial and Economic Measures
(a) A maximum working week of 44 hours (48 hours for agricultural workers) with a fortnight's paid holiday each year, will be established, together with payment for all recognised public and bank holidays.
(b) Recognition of the principle of "Equal pay for equal work" will be enforced.
(c) A minimum wage based on a health and cost-of-living table will be fixed for all types of work.
(d) Adequate unemployment allowances will be made.
(e) Abolition of child labour will be enforced.
(f) A genuine Workers' Compensation Bill will be introduced and the installation of efficient safety devices will be insisted upon.
(g) A Rent Restriction Bill will be proposed.
7. Farming and Rural Measures
(a) Rentals shall be based on assessed land values, viz., on the average annual return for the last five years.
(b) There shall be security of tenure, and compensation for improvement made to land.
(c) We advocate the extension of the principle of Co-operation throughout every phase of agriculture. Farmers should cut out middlemen by acting as own merchants and agents, through Co-operative Diaries, etc., or similar organisations.
(d) Cold Storage facilities would be expanded.
(e) Producers' and Consumer's Councils would arrange equitable prices and act as general advisory boards on all marketing problems.
Full encouragement will be afforded all those concerned in the island's welfare as a holiday resort.
9. Financial Policy
In addition to those sources of revenue mentioned above, viz., graduated Income Tax and Death Dutues, we propose increased taxation in certain other cases, e.g., wines, spirits, beers, tobacco, petrol, etc.
There we have it. Too radical in 1945, and apparently some of it is even too radical for 2013!
Not quite as concise and catchy as the Bolshevik Parties manifesto of "Bread, Peace and Land", but pretty good none the less.
I have their 1945 manifesto too and can get access to all of the election results which I am tempted to do and publish also, as it's important that there is a historical record for these sorts of things that can be easily accessed by curious islanders.
What I am interested now is to see what "programmes" emerge for the elections next year and how they compare in quality to this one. I won't hold my breath!
Saturday, 16 November 2013
Shortly after I posted my previous blog about the BBC and Matthew Price (which you can read HERE) I attempted to confront the editor Jon Gripton via their Facebook page to see if he was willing to publicly acknowledge that he messed up by promoting a hate-site.
Jon Gripton, for some reason, refuses to deal with members of the public that have a problem with the local BBC and he even goes as far as to block some that occasionally make complaints (despite the fact we are never abusive). So Gripton sent an employee to talk to me instead.
That person was Ryan Morrison. I have mentioned him on this blog before and I have a huge amount of respect for Ryan. I once had to complain to him about a programme that I felt wasn't be done properly, and he handled my complaint excellently. He was completely professional and made me feel as if I had genuinely been listened to and taken into consideration.
I was told that by attempting to challenge Gripton, I was being disruptive. That may well be true, though I can't be as disruptive as the fake accounts whose purpose is to attack victims of child abuse and their advocates, and the only reason I have to be disruptive is because Gripton refuses to allow himself to be accountable. If he would just answer the bloody questions, then we would avoid all of this.
I was told that he has now apologised to Deputy Shona Pitman for endorsing the hate-site. I am very pleased to hear that and she absolutely deserved that apology. But what about the members of the public who have been fobbed off by him? I complained about his actions and received a reply that said he had denied ever doing it! If he denies it, then surely he had nothing to apologise to Shona? His position is irreconcilable and he is making a mockery of the complaints procedure.
Which is why I have a problem when BBC employees ask me to go through the appropriate BBC complaints procedure. What is the point? Both Jon Gripton and now Matthew Price tell the complaints board something totally contradictory to what the truth actually is, the board just take the word for it and try and draw a line under it.
I lodged a complaint with them on the 7th of November about Matthew Price claiming to know "nothing" about the complaints that had been made about Jon Gripton and the hate-site.
Their response was this -
"Thank you for contacting us regarding BBC Radio Jersey.
We appreciate your comments.
Matthew Price wasn’t and isn’t aware of the specifics of the complaints Mr Pitman or you cite. During the programme he accordingly moved the discussion on to the point at hand, the threats of arson made against Sean Power.
We have nothing further to add to our previous responses on Jon Gripton’s activity on Twitter.
Thanks again for contacting us."
Of course, I never suggested that Matthew Price knew anything about the "specifics" of the complaint. I said that he claimed to know "nothing" about the complaint, when I have evidence that he did know "something".
He has obviously made sure to choose his words carefully so that he isn't actually lying to the complaints board, but also isn't answering their question.
But the complaints board don't press him on the issue, they just accept his word for it, and that's that.
How can anyone have any faith in a complaints procedure when it clearly has no teeth and those being investigated are able to twist their words in such a way to get out of almost anything.
The reason I have posted this, is because I want my experience to be on the public record. The BBC complaints procedure is not fit for purpose and is being treated with contempt by our local BBC editors.
Saturday, 9 November 2013
My interview on the BBC on Thursday, with Russell Labey as the BBC guest in-studio -
An Account of Reform Tuesday in the States of Jersey
I sat in the public gallery of the States Chamber on Tuesday to watch the reform debate in its entirety. I could have listened to it on the radio, but actually being there in the room you are able to pick up on things that aren't immediately obvious over the airwaves.
I sat through reform proposition after reform proposition being rejected by members in overwhelming numbers (the Constable of St Mary's proposition got only 3 votes, still more than it deserved). I sat through the Machiavellian antics of Senator Ozouf, who purposely deferred his proposition to make sure it would be the last one to be debated, at a date when hopefully more of his political allies would be present.
I was certainly impressed when Deputy Southern's proposition to adopt the Clothier reforms managed to get quite an impressive 16 votes. Albeit 10 short of the 26 it needed, I was certainly chuffed to be able to identify which States Members were the ones that actually want Clothier. There were certainly some surprises there, with Senator Paul Routier and Constable Mezbourian voting in favour, but they are most welcome comrades for this cause.
I had, perhaps naively, hoped that PPC's interim reform proposals may have been able to just secure enough votes, being as their proposition was the most modest, yet (according to the two professors) the 2nd most significant in making the system fairer. But that proposition too only gathered 16 votes.
At this point I was feeling rather glum that there wasn't going to be even the tiniest silver lining the massive grey cloud of reform.
As the States voted on part 2 of PPC's proposition, to hold a referendum on the Clothier reforms, I literally stopped concentrating. I could predict the result before it was read out. As the Bailiff began to say "the proposition is..." I muttered "rejected" under my breath as he said "adopted!". I couldn't believe my ears and, by the sounds of it, neither could the States Members.
Finally, 13 years after the report was first published, the States of Jersey had finally agreed to hold the referendum we should have been given in the first place.
One of those that voted for the referendum was the newly elected Constable of Grouville John Le Maistre. I had backed John Le Maistre in the last days of his by-election campaign on the basis that he had said at the hustings that he believed "fairness" was one of the criterion for any reform. After the States was over for the day, I had to approach him to shake his hand and thank him for how he voted. I was glad that he had stuck to the principle he had espoused in his election campaign.
But whilst still recovering from the shock of the States agreeing to hold a referendum on the Clothier recommendations, I lowered my guard and so when shortly afterwards the States then voted to hold a referendum on the position of the Constables, my heart sunk.
The Great Contradiction
Why, after just voting to hold a referendum on Clothier (which said "the Constables should not be automatically in the States") would you then need to ask a separate question on the Constables? Surely it is superfluous?
Imagine the ballot papers -
- Should the composition of the States of Jersey be reformed according to the recommendations found in the Clothier Report? Yes/ No.
- Should the Constables continue to remain as members of the States of Jersey? Yes/ No.
Spot the problem?
What if the answer to both questions results in a "yes" vote?
The questions are contradictory.
Not only does it pose that very difficult problem, but it also makes it impossible to run a proper referendum campaign if there is more than one question.
When there was Options A, B and C, we could easily form defined campaigning groups and adopt logos and posters that were easily identifiable with our causes.
With two referendum questions, both with yes/ no answers, we can't form a "yes" campaign, because it won't be distinguishable from the "yes" campaign for the other question.
The situation is a bit of a mess.
The Path Forward
The States has agreed in principle that these referendums must take place and they have both been stipulated to occur on the day of the general election next year (15th October).
It is now PPC's job to bring forward the draft legislation to actually officially put it into law that the referendum should happen.
They will be put in an awkward position having to reconcile the contradictory decision of the States on Tuesday. It is their duty to come forward with what the States have told them too, but the States have done a silly.
I would argue that the most sensible and logical thing for the States to do would be to just bring forward the question on Clothier, as it is by it's nature, also a referendum on the Constables.
But this will of course leave them wide open to criticism for ignoring the States decision (stupid though it was), and even open the doors to a motion of no confidence.
Then, the States will have to vote for the legislation, and it is entirely possible that even though they have agreed to hold a referendum, they could still vote against the enacting legislation. There were notable States Members who weren't in the States on Tuesday (Senator's Bailhache and Maclean, Deputies Baker and Power, all of whom show no particular regard for fairness in electoral reform). So the referendum is still not guaranteed to happen yet.
The Chairman of PPC, Deputy Jeremy Maçon, has said that he will be looking to stipulate that the referendum must have a 40% turnout for it to be considered by the States. Given that the referendum will be on the same day as the general election (and therefore 40% is reasonably likely). I have no problem with this, despite it being a bit unnecessary given that Jersey law doesn't recognise the principle of a "binding" referendum.
The Case for Clothier
Assuming, best case scenario, that the referendum goes ahead next year on election day, and it is a single question on the Clothier reforms, why should we vote for it?
I wholeheartedly backed Option A in the referendum in April, and I continue to believe in the principles behind it. I believe that everyone should have an equal vote, no matter what. I also believe that multi-member constituencies are good for both voters and candidates to make sure we get a parliament that is genuinely representative of the people, both politically and demographically.
But Clothier falls short of Option A in several regards, some of which are outlined in this blog - http://jdacmb.blogspot.com/2013/11/clothier-think-twice.html
Clothier will make all constituencies have at least two members (except St Mary which will just have one), which isn't exactly ideal. Where before if you lived in a rural Parish, you could vote for 14 States Members (1 Deputy, 1 Constable and 12 Senators), you will now only be able to vote in two members.
But the principle of equal votes comes before the preference of voting for a large number of the States Members. If in future some of the smaller Parishes grew aggrieved by the fact some in a St Helier district would be able to vote for up to 5 or 6 States Members when they could only vote for 2, they might eventually decide that for elections to the States, it could be worth joining some Parishes together to even out the numbers a bit. After a few elections of only being able to vote for one member, St Mary might propose joining up with St John and Trinity so that they could share 5 States Members and therefore get more votes. There could even be a referendum to do so, held just in those Parishes. After all, why not? It would be their right.
Until recently the Isle of Man had a Clothier-esque system, with all their MPs elected in small constituencies, with 1, 2 or 3 members. But they had a boundaries commission to decide how to alter the system so that all voters could have the same number of votes. That could be an example to follow.
Clothier is certainly a step in the right direction. Once the principle of equal votes is won, it will be unstoppable and will never be able to be taken away.
I also think it is worth saying now, that with the end of the island-wide mandate, I think there is no longer any excuse for the Chief Minister not to be elected by the public.
There should be a Parish election period, 6 weeks before the general election, in which all Constable elections are contested at the same time and the media will be able to give it a bit of hype and the island can focus on Parish issues (something which doesn't at all happen now). Then the general election begins. As soon as those elected take their seats, their first job should be to nominate candidates for Chief Minister. Candidates should require a decent amount of nominations (say maybe 20), but States Members should be allowed to nominate more than once. So there could be 2 or 3 candidates, who must then go round the 12 Parishes and face a public election one month after the general election. It would be presidential in it's style, but the public would be able to have a direct say in who leads the government and give a mandate to the vision and direction that they propose.
That's the vision for the future and we should be optimistic about it.
But of course, the most important part of having a referendum on the same day as the election is that it will force candidates to work with each other for the referendum campaign. Much like the previous referendum in which campaign groups worked very effectively.
A stepping stone to parties, one can only hope!
P.s. I have no idea whether to use "referendums" or "referenda". Google tells me that the former is for multiple ballots on the same issue, with the latter on different issues. It isn't clear whether reform is one issue, so you can call them "referendums" or if each individual aspect of reform counts as a separate issue, so "referenda" is the right one.
Thursday, 7 November 2013
You cannot understand how irritating I find it that blog posts like this are even necessary, but here we go....
Another update on my complaints saga with the local BBC.
My last post on the subject can be found HERE. I have not edited this page since I published it, and regular readers will recognise the issues I bring up. It's probably best to read the previous post first before going through this one.
I was actually interviewed by the BBC live on air early this afternoon to talk about reform. The programme was, in my opinion, very good, very enjoyable to listen to and had a wide variety of points of view that were put across in an easily accessible way. The host, Sara Palmer, was also very good. So it is a shame that on the same day I have to post this blog.
Here is what has provoked me to write this new post -
(Thanks goes to http://thejerseyway.blogspot.com/ for recording this).
In this clip, Deputy Trevor Pitman at 01:38 brings up complaints that have been made to the national BBC about the editor of the local BBC, Jon Gripton, promoting a hate-site aimed at Deputy Shona Pitman. Matthew Price then alleges that he knew "absolutely nothing" about these complaints.
This is utterly false, and I have the evidence here to prove it.
But first, a brief summary of the complaint -
On the 5th of March, Jon Gripton posted a Tweet in which he endorsed and called the hate-site "amusing".
Several of us complained and Jon Gripton disappeared off Twitter for a few months. When he returned, there was no mention of why he had left, and those that had complained about him had been pre-emptively blocked so we couldn't complain again.
When the BBC investigated, Gripton denied having ever promoted the hate-site. As I proved on my last blog, this was utterly false.
In August the BBC ran a programme about cyber-bullying. On their Facebook page, I and several others pointed out their hypocrisy when their own editor promoted a cyber-bully and then refused to allow himself to be held accountable for it.
This was the comment I posted on it -
Matthew Price saw and read this comment, as can be verified by the fact he then left this comment in response to me -
Of course I refused to remove my comment because I knew full well that everything I was saying was true and that I had the evidence to prove it.
I then received this private message from Matthew Price, followed by my reply -
So here we have it. Evidence that Matthew Price knew full well exactly what Deputy Trevor Pitman was talking about.
A momentary memory meltdown, or mischievous misleading manoeuvring? You decide.
P.s. Tonight at 7.30pm, upstairs at the Post Horn, Reform Jersey are meeting to talk about the campaign for democracy moving forward. Feel free to join us. Always happy for new faces to show up.
Sunday, 3 November 2013
Also, anyone who is free (which probably won't be many because of the timing), come join us in the Royal Square at 9am on Tuesday to lobby States Members as they go into the chamber that it's about time they put aside their self-interest and gave Jersey a proper democracy.
Obviously if the weather is as bad as it is now, the lobbying might have to take another form!
Dear States Members,
They say that hindsight is always 20/20, and after the past year and a half of attempting to reform the composition of the States of Jersey, there are few that would say that big mistakes have not been made along the way.
After the hijacking of the Electoral Commission followed by the referendum debacle, the electorate’s view on politics and politicians in general has probably never been lower. Jersey already suffers from terrible political apathy and the States now runs the serious risk of losing all credibility and legitimacy if nothing is done to restore confidence before the next elections.
Reform Jersey wishes to canvass members to vote in favour of introducing a fairer electoral system in time for the next elections, so that the next assembly will be more likely to reflect the views and values of the public and can hold their confidence.
Namely, this means voting for -
- P.98 to implement the Clothier reforms, or if you could not do that in all good conscience without holding a referendum first, you could alternatively vote for PPC’s P.116.
- P.86 to change the voting system to STV and AV.
- P.110 to improve the actual election process and make it easier for islanders to vote.
The report commissioned by PPC and written by two professors as a comparison of all of the reform proposals is dynamite. The conclusion it draws is very clear and that is that the best of all of the propositions, on all criteria, is Deputy Southern’s proposition to adopt the Clothier recommendations.
As well as being the fairest and most democratic in the judgement of those two professors, it also has the benefit of having been created by an independent panel of eminent locals plus an experienced judge, who dedicated much time and resources to it. This contrasts with the rest of the proposals (with the slight exception of PPC’s interim reforms) that have been created by a single States Member with no public consultation or resources.
It is the fairest, most democratic and only credible alternative to the current system that has been proposed and we urge States Members to adopt it. Had the States adopted it 10 years ago, then we would never have been in this position and the States could have spent all of that time tackling the issues that really matter to ordinary islanders.
If you cannot find it in you to adopt such a significant change without first asking the public, then we consider it a reasonable compromise for the States instead to adopt PPC’s proposal to pass some modest changes for the next election and hold a referendum on adopting the Clothier reforms.
The public are sick and tired of so much time and money being wasted on something that is not rocket science. This week you have an opportunity to end this sad chapter in Jersey's political history and turn the page to a States of Jersey that is fit for purpose in the 21st Century.
A vote for anything that perpetuates the inequalities that are found in the rest of the reform propositions is simply delaying the inevitable and will make the calls for reform louder, not quieter.
We hope you make the right decision next week.
Sam Mézec - Reform Jersey
“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.” Article 21(3), Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Note - Reform Jersey is a non-politically affiliated group of islanders, dedicated to campaigning for more democracy in Jersey.