Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Jersey and our low calibre parliamentarians

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the JEP article unedited -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the context in which I'm speaking -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you imagine Ian Gorst doing this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it's not enough.

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

Monday, 17 November 2014

Press Release - Save the Co-op warehouses!

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

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

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The future of the Constables in the States - is it too much to ask for an honest debate?

On the 15th October, as well as electing Senators and Deputies (and Constable if you're lucky enough to live in St Mary) we are apparently having a referendum!

I voted against holding this referendum and have played no part whatsoever in the 'No' campaign as I've been far too busy with helping to co-ordinate Reform Jersey's election campaign.

Some of us have to go through elections whilst others have been returned unopposed so they can dedicate their time to preserving this privilege for themselves.

So I wanted to take a look at the propaganda that has been issued by the 'Yes' campaign and try to dissect it.

I had always anticipated that the 'Yes' campaign would be entirely based on misinformation, scaremongering and, to put it bluntly, lies. Having read their leaflet they have been distributing at Senatorial hustings, it seems I wasn't wrong!

So here we go. I'll do it paragraph by paragraph -

The loss of the Constables will weaken opposition to the current proposals for a centralised property tax. This proposal will cost islanders more than the current rates system, and be set by the Treasury Minister, not Parishioners.

There is no evidence whatsoever to say that the opposition to the proposed property tax will be weakened if the Constables aren't in the States. This is just pure scaremongering - "Vote Yes, or your taxes will rise".

I am not a Constable and I oppose the property tax.

What will strengthen the opposition to the property tax is for the public to elect candidates who pledge to oppose it.

Fixing an electoral system based on what tax policies you want to see engineered out of the democratic process is just gerrymandering, pure and simple. 

Parish rates have remained steady for 10 years. Without an effective Parish Administration the size of bureaucracy will increase, stifling business in Jersey, and increasing the burden on the individual ratepayer.

Completely agree. We all want an effective Parish administration. But only those who support the Constables being in the States seem to think it is logical that an effective Parish system necessitates having their head being locked up in the States Assembly for several days every fornight dealing with matters that are mostly nothing to do with the Parish.

If you want an effective Parish administration, surely it is logical to want the Parish head to exercise exclusive duties in their Parish and not be tied up with a second job?

If the Constables are removed from the States they will either have to be paid by their Parishes, or not at all. This creates imbalance and without pay, the only people who will stand will be those with time and money to afford it. It also risks destabilising the whole honorary system, should one office holder receive remuneration and the others not.

The first point here is complete rubbish. They have no basis at all for assuming that the States wouldn't volunteer to contribute remuneration to the heads of the Parishes if it is deemed important enough.

But the last part is just pure hypocrisy. How can they possibly claim that it will destabilise the honorary system by giving remuneration to one office holder and not the rest when that is what happens right now! You couldn't make it up.

It's also entirely illogical to say that it will only attract people with money to the job, when the same could now equally apply to the Procureurs, Chef de Police and Roads Committee members. 

Ask yourself how effective is the administration of your Parish compared with the States of Jersey, and would you want to remove this efficiency from your Government?

This sentence doesn't even make sense.

Through their political role, the Constables can interact with parishioners and work as part of a support network. The loss of the Constables in the States will undoubtedly lead to a dramatic weakening of the Parish System – as has been the case in Guernsey for many years.

The Constables interaction with parishioners normally takes place in the Parish Halls and at Parish events and is therefore in their Parish role that that interaction takes place, not their States role.

As for Guernsey, they never had a Parish system like we do. Their honorary police system was abolished almost a hundred years ago despite having Parish representation in their States.

To say the removal of the Constables from the States will "undoubtedly" lead to the Parish system being weakened is entirely disingenuous. Of course there is doubt that that would be the case. There is even an argument to say it could improve the Parish system by allowing the Constables to focus on their Parishes.

Constables have been identified as the future for 'e-government' interaction as well as care and the community. This cannot happen if they are not in the States Assembly.

The idea that the Constables are beacons for e-government is just laughable when you consider that almost all of the Parishes don't even have their own websites.

The presence of the Constables in the States so they can vote on things like GST etc is entirely irrelevant for them carrying out their part of the implementation of e-government across Jersey administration.

Through the Parish Assembly, and being available at the Parish Hall, the Constable is uniquely placed in being able to understand the concerns of their parishioners. These concerns are taken into the States Assembly directly, through the political role of the Constable. This cannot be replaced.

Parishes are all filled with thousands of people who are all individuals with their own views and experiences. It is ludicrous to suggest that one individual can compound all of their views and represent them. Every vote a Constable casts will please some Parishioners and disappoint others. Let's not pretend that anything else is the case.

The Constables are continually accountable to the parishioners through the Parish Assembly as well as the ballot box. No other type of States Member is. Parishioners, by the ancient law of Requête can force a Parish Assembly to be called.

When 11 out of 12 Constables have just been elected unopposed, it is quite ridiculous to claim that they are accountable at the ballot box.

Constables may well be technically accountable at Parish Assemblies, but the turn out at them is normally pretty abysmal and unrepresentative of the Parish. The apathy we see in island-wide politics is definitely replicated in Parish politics too.

Requêtes do still exist (and I personally think they're a potentially really nifty tool) but how often do they happen? Virtually never. I only know of a couple of occasions recently where they have been initiated by Parishioners and the Constable has then gone on to completely ignore the verdict of the requête!

Most Deputies do not represent the Parishes in the States. They are elected in their own districts, on the basis of their political views. Each Parish, as a corporate body, is represented in the States by its Constable similar to the way each Department is represented by its Minister.

So one minute the Constable is there to represent the Parishioners, the next moment they are there to represent the corporate entity of the Parish. Inconsistency or what?

Democracy is about people being represented, not corporate entities.

If there is a need for the Parishes to have a direct line of communication to States bodies, it is entirely possible to do that without the Constables being members of the States.

The removal of the Constables has the potential to de-stabilise Jersey's Government. Offshore business requires confidence in government. Radical changes in the structure of government could damage this at a time of economic uncertainty. 

This is what it is really all about.

It isn't about protecting our honorary system or promoting government efficiency, it is about making sure that every States Assembly is stacked to make sure that the ruling block in Jersey always has an inbuilt majority, no matter what the people of Jersey want.
Keeping the Constables in the States means the conservative rural Parishes are over-represented at the expense of the more liberal urban Parishes. That is anti-democratic and there is no escaping that point.

There is a suggestion that Constables have a "block vote". While they may vote the same way, they do so as individuals bringing Parish concerns to the assembly. Statistics show that Senators vote the same way as often as Constables do, but this goes unremarked. It is worth noting that a Party System would be one in which Party members had to vote the same way and take the agreed Party line. That would be a real "block vote".

I've already addressed the illogical assertion that a Constable can bring Parish concerns to the States, but at least they have admitted the Constables have a block vote.

But it's funny to see them criticise an alleged party block vote as somehow being bad, whilst justifying the Constable block vote. At least a party has the good decency to actually be honest about it's aims and intentions and put it to the voters before an election, rather than the Constables who pretend they aren't and have no democratic legitimacy to act like a party.

Constables have proven they are reforming States Members. They led the way towards a single election day, a four year term and spring elections. They also removed their own policing powers. Without them reform becomes more difficult to achieve.

I wonder if anyone will believe this claim that Constables are reforming States Members. Their record shows that they are the complete opposite. They are the biggest stumbling block to any meaningful reform in the States.

A vote to keep them in the States is a vote for no immediate change, and therefore it takes us back to the drawing board again to determine any future reform.

But isn't it ironic for them to claim that removing the Constables from the States will weaken the Parish system, yet for them to stay in the States they have had to give up powers it's considered in appropriate for a parliamentarian to have?

But now here is the real whopper -

The retention of the Constables IS compliant with the Venice Commission, which makes allowances for different jurisdictions: "The geographical criterion and administrative, or possibly even historical, boundaries may be taken into consideration." Our Parish boundaries are both administrative and historical and thus meet these requirements.

This is a lie.

Every expert opinion that has been given on Jersey's electoral system has confirmed that this is not true.

Our system does not comply with the Venice Commission and the proposed Option B last year (which kept the Constables) was still deemed by the Electoral Commission's advisers to be non-compliant, despite the exemptions that the Yes campaign have cited.

The purpose of the Venice Commission is to try to keep a degree of proportionality in electoral systems, whilst still respecting local custom. The Constable of St Helier has an electorate that is 20 times as great as the electorate for the Constable of St Mary. That is unjustifiable.

So there we have it. I've written this in a bit of a rush, so it's not as in depth as it could be, but you should get the idea.

The 'Yes' campaign has been incapable of producing an honest argument as to why the Constables should remain automatically in the States. That unwillingness to engage properly on the future of our municipal government system is to blame for why so many islanders feel so distant from these institutions and have no interest in taking part in them.

If you agree - vote Non Mercie in the referendum on the 15th October.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Candidates for Change - Reform Jersey announces three new candidates

Today Reform Jersey officially revealed three of our new candidates who will be standing in the general election on the 15th October.

We still have more candidates to announce but we wanted to get the ball rolling with these three.

I'm very excited about taking part in their personal election campaigns, as well as helping to co-ordinate our island-wide party campaign.

Something feels different this time. There is momentum. Whenever we meet ordinary voters on the doorstep, our message seems to be connecting better than ever.

We have three excellent, intelligent and articulate women candidates who have come forward. I have always believed that one of the benefits of party politics is that a party will be able to encourage people with talent to come forward, who otherwise might not be as interested in doing so as an independent. Jersey democracy will be far better when that is the norm.

It is clear that people in Jersey want change. This time the vote for change will be placed inside the box on the ballot paper next to the words 'Reform Jersey'.

More to be announced in the coming weeks...

Laura Millen - St Helier No. 3/4

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Laura is 34 years old and was born and educated in Jersey.

She studied Journalism at John Moores University before returning to the island to work in banking and insurance. She has been a recruitment manager for the past 4 years and so have a very in depth understanding of unemployment, how it affects people and how those people can be assisted back into work.

I think that Laura represents something we need more of in Jersey politics. She's young, she's educated, she's very professional but, most importantly, she has the right values to stand up for ordinary Jersey residents.

She took part in the Equal Marriage Rally earlier this year and was inspired by the collective action she witnessed and will be a welcome addition to the Reform Jersey team in the States.

She says -

"I am concerned how often I hear of salaries that barely cover rental and food costs and particularly concern about the rise in the use of zero-hours contracts where individuals are put under serious stress, not knowing whether they can pay their rent at the end of the week. I listen to mothers desperate to return to work and get off income support but who are unable to secure employment due to the lack of part-time roles coupled with extremely high childcare costs. Having heard these stories on a weekly basis over the past four years, I realise that there insufficient support and protection in place to help those that want to work and support themselves and their families and make a positive contribution to society.

I believe that standing as a Reform Jersey party candidate will enable me to work as part of a team to bring about positive change. We are united in agreement that Jersey can no longer continue to ignore increasing numbers of our fellow islanders who are barely surviving. We cannot ignore that we are failing victims of sexual assault, failing with our mental health provision, failing to provide adequate housing, and failing prospective mothers. These matters need to be addressed by coherent social and economic policies on a wide front, including promotion of a living wage for Jersey and the introduction of 26 weeks statutory maternity leave as soon as possible.

If the government is to be more representative of the population then we need more young people and women in the States."

Debbie Hardisty - St Peter

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Debbie is a 55 year old mother of three who has lived in St Peter for 14 years.

She has worked primarily in the finance and care sectors, including at Les Quennevais School. She now works for the Channel Islands Cooperative Society where she is an active member of the society's Focus Group.

Debbie has already been knocking on doors in St Peter to begin to canvass for votes and has been getting a really good response.

At the last election in St Peter, just over half of those eligible to vote chose not to. I believe Debbie will have the ability to reverse that because she is providing voters in St Peter with a real choice for the first time. She does not represent the Business As Usual Party, she represents something different. The message of Reform Jersey will hopefully resonate most with those who have never voted before in St Peter because they have never seen a candidate they feel would represent them properly.

She says -

"As your Deputy, if elected, I will seek to fully understand your needs in order to best represent your interests in the States Assembly and elsewhere. My door will always be open. I am particularly keen to assist those on low and fixed incomes, both young and old. I will promote the provision of stable, sustainable job opportunities vital for our young people, without which we cannot support our elderly residents.

I will work to establish a kerbside recycling scheme, preserve our green/agricultural areas and maintain the community spirit we rightly enjoy within our parish.

For the island as a whole, I will support any proposition to:

  • End zero-hour contracts except where they are essential.
  • Stop any rise in GST. I will actively campaign and vote for the removal of GST on essential foods and domestic fuels.
  • Radically improve the advance to work scheme so that there are more people being taken on for long term, sustainable employment instead of being used as cheap, temporary labour.
  • Re-introduce free milk for pre-school and primary school pupils.
  • Improve the prompt assessment and provision of help for those with mental health issues.
  • Ensure that all islanders are treated with respect, equal rights, opportunities and fair justice.

Anne Southern - Senator

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Anne will already be a familiar face to many islanders having been a teacher in Jersey for 36 years. In fact she taught me English Language when I was a student at Hautlieu!

She was the head of the English Department at Hautlieu School for 10 years and was President of the Jersey Teacher's Association for 7 years, meaning she has a lot of experience at dealing with States departments/ officers on behalf of the people she represented to fight for the best deal for them.

Anne is well placed to stand for Senator because of her background and experience, and she is well placed to be a candidate for Reform Jersey because of her commitment to social and economic justice.

She'll be a strong advocate for our policies at the senatorial hustings across the island and I hope that she'll be seen as the candidates that stands out, not just by virtue of her being a party candidate, but by the coherent and articulate way she will be able to get her message across.

She says -

"I have been encouraged to enter politics following the formation of Reform Jersey, where I can enjoy the support of a group of people who have a coherent economic policy that will promote greater levels of fairness in our society. Taxpayers’ money can be saved if employers are encouraged to give their employees a living wage, and avoid the abuse of zero-hours contracts. This will mean that working families will not have to claim income support. Similarly, taxpayers’ money can be saved on rent rebates if rent controls are introduced. It is vital to maintain public services on which we all depend, and in a fair and decent society all should benefit from a good education and health service. In a society that depends on women as a significant proportion of the workforce, there must be an entitlement to at least 6 months paid maternity leave. If taxes need to be raised to balance the books, these should be progressive and fall on those who are most able to pay. I would work tirelessly to reduce poverty, finding it unacceptable that in a society with so many wealthy residents there are those who rely on food banks.

As a founder member of the Board of Visitors for looked after children, I applaud the measures that have been taken to improve children’s services, which has led to a reduction in youth crime, and would work to support these and further initiatives."

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Press Release - UK Justice Minister Visit to Jersey

Note - Since the time of writing, States Members have been offered a group meeting with the Justice Minister. Such a meeting falls well short of what is desirable and is essentially just a token gesture. It is formatted in such a way so no concerns can be brought up in a constructive way in confidence.

Press Release – For Immediate Release

Deputy Criticises Exclusion of States Members from UK Justice Minister Visit

Deputy Sam Mézec has raised concerns about the accessibility of UK government ministers to ordinary States Members when they visit the Island on official business.

On 4th August, the United Kingdom Minister for Justice, Lord Faulks, will be visiting Jersey to discuss, amongst other things, the progress made following a UK Justice Select Committee report into the relationship between the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Dependencies.

Deputy Mézec said “there are 51 States Members, not all of whom are members of the Council of Ministers, who have a variety of views on issues of good governance in Jersey and we are side-lined from meeting UK government representatives when they visit Jersey.”

States Members were only informed of Lord Faulks visit to Jersey a matter of days before it is due to take place and Deputy Mézec said that they were not offered the opportunity to discuss matters that might concern them to do with the issues the Minister is here to investigate.

It is standard practice in most jurisdictions that when a foreign government representative makes an official visit, he or she will also make an effort to meet representatives of opposition parties, so as to not just hear a one-sided story. The Lieutenant-Governor, Bailiff and Chief Minister all have a self-interest in leaving the Justice Minister with the impression that they are doing a fantastic job, despite that not being the view of many Jersey residents and politicians.

One issue that some States Members have concerns with is the dual role of the Bailiff, which some members believe is not compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights. Lord Faulks will be meeting with the Bailiff when he visits, who has a self-interest in arguing that his role is human rights compliant, but the Minister will not be offered a chance to meet elected members of the States who will offer an alternative view on something that the UK government is legally obliged to consider.”

Deputy Mike Higgins, who is not a member of the Council of Ministers, made an important written submission to the Justice Select Committee which made a number of criticisms of the Jersey government, but has not been invited to meet the Justice Minister when he visits.

This is just another occasion of the government of Jersey subverting democratic good practice to side-line those who have alternative points of view to them. It is not good for democracy and it is not good for Jersey” said Deputy Mézec.

This will be Lord Faulks first visit to Jersey since becoming Justice Minister. It follows a visit last year by the Justice Select Committee, who were met with an expensive reception at the Atlantic Hotel by the Bailiff and senior ministers which caused a minor controversy at the time.

Deputy Mézec has written and asked that some members (including Reform Jersey member Deputy Montfort Tadier and Deputy Mike Higgins who is not a member of Reform Jersey) are invited to meet the Minister, to offer their concerns. No meeting has yet been offered at the time of writing.

For further comment or to arrange an interview, please contact Deputy Mézec on 07797 811130 or s.mezec@gov.je

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Business As Usual v Reform Jersey. The real choice in October.

As the October general election looms, States Members appear to be in a state of frenzy.

The media has reported anouncements of candidates (some sitting members) intention to stand for (re)election, with many of them announcing not a single policy of theirs, but simply who they are. Personality politics is obviously far more important than the vacuous inanity of policy debates.

Some States Members who are frustrated with how things have gone over the past electoral term have formed a political alliance (definitely not a party). They're meeting regularly, discussing policy positions, potential ministerial posts to aspire to and scope for collaboration. But, as I've said, it's definitely not a party, that would be ridiculous. Such an alliance sees members on the left of Jersey politics siding with others on the libertarian far-right in a very confused conglomeration. Oh, by the way, it's definitely not a party! (Get the point yet?)

Most curiously, the Treasury Minister, Senator Philip Ozouf, has been out of the island since the Budget revealed a potential deficit of £95m over 3 years, and barely a peep has been heard from him since. He's gone to France, presumably to get some economics lessons from the Francois Hollande government.

They're even turning on each other in St Mary, where Deputy Le Bailly (who can't seem to workout whether he is a parliamentarian or a glorified councillor) has announced he is to challenge Constable Juliette Gallichan for her job.

Rumours are being shared every day in the States building and there is certainly a tension in the air.

Throughout all of this, Reform Jersey are ploughing along and things couldn't be better for us.

Our Equality Parade was a humongous success. At it's peak around 500 people coming together, in one of the largest demonstrations in years, to support a cause that is at the heart of what most decent ordinary Jersey men and women want for their island.

By running stalls in town and knocking on doors in our constituencies we've signed up hundreds of people to the electoral register. St Helier, I am told, has never had more people registered to vote.

We are currently organising our candidates for an announcement in the next few weeks. We have a really interesting and diverse bunch with a variety of backgrounds, but all of whom are committed to making Jersey politics work better for the people of Jersey and with the passion for principles of social and economic justice that has been sorely missing from government policy for too long.

As a result of being the most overtly organised force in Jersey politics (there are more organised groupings, but they do so covertly, and therefore undemocratically) Reform Jersey is now facing further scrutiny. Some of which is justified, some of which is motivated by fear and some is just to antagonise us.

We have not produced a manifesto yet, as we haven't hit the election yet, but our first leaflet has announced some of our key policies -

  • Ending abuse of zero-hours contracts
  • Introduction of a 'living wage'
  • Free GP visits
  • Updating out employment protection law to a 21st Century standard
  • Ending rampant population growth
  • Fairer Income Tax system where high earners contribute more
  • Lifting the Social Security cap on high earners so they pay the same rate as everyone else
  • Opposing increases in GST
  • Reforming the States electoral system to have one type of elected member in equal sized constituencies.
  • Reforming the justice system to improve access to legal aid and introduce an independent prosecution service.

Is this as comprehensive as it needs to be? Absolutely not. But it's not a manifesto. More detail will be published closer to the election.

A criticism we have gotten by the usual right-wing detractors is that we're typical barking mad Trotskyites who promise outragous things (like saying sick people shouldn't have to pay to see a doctor like 65m people get in the UK) without a word on how to pay for it. I've even been accused of being a Communist by Grouville's John Dix twice, which I take as a sign we are doing something right.

This, of course, disregards two of our bullet points that very clearly show that we have targeted areas to raise revenue.

The meat is not on the bones yet, but it will be.

Our members have demonstrated that they have the initiative to put together packages to achieve this end. An example of a previous attempt by Deputy Southern can be read here - http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyPropositions/2011/28055-14746-1422011.pdf#search=p.23/2011

(Note - this is simply what has been suggested before as a way forward and will not necessarily be exactly the figures that Reform Jersey suggests)

The exact figures aren't on the table right now, but when have voters ever been given a fully costed and comprehensive policy guide at all, let alone over two months before the election?

As a geeky politico, I read every election manifesto in 2011 and our leaflet (which isn't a manifesto remember) contains more substance than probably 70% of those and certainly far more substance than anything put out by declared candidates in the upcoming election so far, who are simply hoping to bank on their name counting for something. So of all declared candidates so far, Reform Jersey has clearly demonstrated itself to be the most credible and it is the other candidates that should be interrogated hardest.

It has never been clearer that something in Jersey politics needs to change and a different approach to government is needed.

Despite the current state of our finances, Senator Ozouf was able to magic up £3.5m to buy Plémont. This proves something I have said in the States several times now that many of the things we do not get in Jersey, that citizens of other civilised countries are given as of right, is not out of finantial necessity but out of political choice.

We have a government that does not have as it's top priority to provide services to islanders to make their quality of life better.

Whilst the Chamber of Commerce and some business commentators want the government to slash public spending (despite the fact that this wil do nothing to help the economy grow and may actually cause greater unemployment) and offer fewer services to Islanders, there is another way.

In today's JEP, Peter Body made the point very well -

Well said Peter!

A fews day ago myself and Deputy Tadier wondered into the Farmers Inn in St Ouen for a couple of drinks (as one must do from time to time to discover the new and innovative ways the St Ouennais are driving the island forward).

After we'd managed to convince one local there that we aren't gay (apparently if you stand up for gay rights, that must make you gay), we had a really good conversation with the other locals there who were actualy quite excited about Reform Jersey and the different ideas we are putting forward.

I felt quite bad for them that they won't have a choice for a local Reform Jersey candidate in St Ouen because we aren't targetting that constituency, but they will still have their Senatorial candidates.

Jersey is not the conservative society that some suggest. We are broadly a progressive and social democratic comunity, but without a government that reflects it.

In October the people of this island have a choice - it's Reform Jersey or the Business As Usual Party.

The choice could not be more obvious.


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

March for Equality!

The 8th of July 2014 could be remembered in Jersey political history as the day the States of Jersey disgraced itself by failing to stand up for equality for all islanders because they didn't have the courage to oppose those motivated by homophobic tendencies, or it could go down as the day that islanders realised that nothing will change here unless they mobilise and organise.

The lesson that must be learnt from yesterday's shameful events in the States is that we have a collection of politicians who are completely out of touch with reality, but that situation is completely down to the fact that too many good Jersey men and women just don't go out to vote.

In October we have an opportunity to completely overhaul the membership of the States and replace those that were too cowardly to back equality with members with more integrity.

Not voting is not an act of protest, it is an act of surrender.

Reform Jersey has pledged to hold a rally and march this Saturday for those that believe in equality for the LGBT community. We'll be gathering at the Royal Square at 12pm before marching to Liberation Square at 12.20pm to hear from guest speakers and campaigners on what Jersey people can do to make sure from October we have a States that will have the courage to drag Jersey into the 21st century.

We hope you will join us.

In the meantime, here is a list of all the States Members (plus email addresses) who were too scared to do what was right, and instead kicked this into the long grass.

There are names on this list that I am incredibly disappointed to see there. They are not homophobes, but they naively backed an amendment that was fuelled by homophobia, having been duped by the more reasonable (although totally phony) elements of their argument.

But most disappointing of all is our so-called Chief Minister Senator Ian Gorst who has demonstrated that he is not the Chief Minister of the islands LGBT community. He could have followed the admirable example of the Prime Minister David Cameron who (in my opinion with complete sincerity) pushed for equal marriage, even though it would be difficult to reconcile with large parts of his political and electoral support basis.

Instead, he put it off to another day and refused to stand up and tell gay and lesbian islanders that he is a Chief Minister who will represent them and stand up for their rights.

For this alone, he does not deserve a second term as Chief Minister and I will not be voting for him.

Votes for delaying an in principle decision on equal marriage -

Senator Sarah Ferguson - s.ferguson@gov.je
Senator Ian Le Marquand - i.lemarquand@gov.je
Senator Francis Le Gresley - f.legresley@gov.je
Senator Ian Gorst - i.gorst@gov.je


Constable John Gallichan - j.lesueurgallichan@gov.je
Deputy Anne Pryke - a.pryke@gov.je

St Clement

Constable Len Norman - l.norman@gov.je
Deputy Gerard Baudains - g.baudains@gov.je
Deputy Susie Pinel - s.pinel@gov.je

St Peter

Constable John Refault - j.refault@gov.je

St Lawrence

Constable Deidre Mezbourian - d.mezbourian@gov.je
Deputy John Le Fondré - j.lef@gov.je

St John

Constable Phill Rondel - p.rondel@gov.je

St Ouen

Constable Michael Paddock - m.paddock@gov.je
Deputy James Reed - j.reed@gov.je

St Saviour 

Constable Sadie Rennard - s.rennard@gov.je
Deputy Rob Duhamel - r.duhamel@gov.je


Constable John Le Maistre - j.lemaistre@gov.je

St Helier

Deputy Jackie Hilton - j.hilton@gov.je
Deputy Richard Rondel - r.rondel@gov.je
Deputy Mike Higgins - mr.higgins@gov.je

St Brelade

Deputy Sean Power - sp.power@gov.je
Deputy John Young - j.young@gov.je

St Mary

Deputy John Le Bailly - j.lebailly@gov.je