Thursday, 23 April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So far four parties have been formed -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well done to everyone involved.

Check them out on Facebook -

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Register to vote in the UK election!

Press Release - For immediate release

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

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

The election rules in the UK state that British citizens are still eligible to vote in the general election, despite no longer living in the UK, so long as they were registered to vote at some point in the past 15 years -

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

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

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

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

Voters must have registered to vote by the 20th April, and must have applied for a postal vote by the 21st April. This can be done online at -

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Reform Jersey - Free GPs press release

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

Notes to the editor

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

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Reform Jersey calls for more power for St Helier

Press Release - For immediate release

Party calls for more power for St Helier Town Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further comment or to arrange an interview, please contact Deputy Mézec at

Please find attached the amendment and appendices.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Be afraid, be very afraid... - Deputy Geoff Southern Guest Posting

The Chief Minister has a problem with his fiscal policy. The problem is an £80m shortfall in the 2015 budget. The Chief Minister would have us believe that the problem is one of excessive spending by a bloated, inefficient public sector. On the contrary, the evidence shows we have a highly efficient public sector workforce. The public sector workforce as a proportion of private sector numbers is as follows: Scotland 20%, Isle of Man 18%, Guernsey 17%, Jersey 13%.

The real problem for the Chief Minister and the island is that after 8 years of recession, both profits and wages have shrunk year on year, and with them, tax revenues. This has been made worse by the increasing use of insecure zero-hours contracts. Unfortunately, the Chief Minister and his colleagues, in order to get themselves elected, have promised not to raise taxes. This they cannot do without a further swathe of savage cuts to public spending and ultimately to public services.

The “guru” chosen to deliver these cuts, Mr Keen, has a track record in the private sector which needs scrutiny:

As CEO of Jersey Dairy, our guru’s response to cash-flow problems was to scrap home deliveries, (and school milk) and to make redundant over a dozen milkmen.

Then he moved on to Jersey Water where he saved costs through sacking the drain-digging team, and replacing their long serving workers with cheaper ones on much reduced terms and conditions.

At Jersey Post, far from taking the workforce with him, he bullied workers into accepting massively reduced pay and conditions by sacking them and making them all re-apply for their jobs. The result was a reduced workforce on reduced pay; butalso, critically, a reduced service (no Saturday delivery; reduced collections)

Most recently, we have seen Mr Keen use his methods on the Tourism department and yet again we see some 18 States employees laid off. Not one has been re-engaged with reduced terms and conditions on the new “Visit Jersey” team.

Here we can see the method. It is not rocket science. Sack staff; reduce wages; privatise or outsource to reduce conditions. The end result has always been reductions in the level of service, both in quantity and quality.

Of course it will not be the likes of Mr Keen, on £650 per day, who will suffer from this new round of cuts; it will be the most vulnerable in our society. We have already seen the start of this process with the introduction of sanctions against those with a disability and the scrapping of widows’ pensions. To the poor, to the sick and to the elderly in Jersey, I say “Be afraid; be very afraid.”

Friday, 20 February 2015

The Ugly Side of the Jersey Conservative Party

This past week has been by far the most difficult I have faced since being elected as a States Member almost a year ago. Not because I have faced any particularly difficult circumstances personally, but because the sheer gall of the Jersey Tories has disgusted me more than it ever has.

If a government wants to screw up it's tax priorities, that is irritating and an injustice, but we'll find a way of dealing with it and keep up the fight.

If a government wants to mess up a development project, it'll be an eyesore for years to come, but at least no one will be hurt by it.

If a government wants to damage a relationship with an important partner, we can rebuild it over time.

But what I absolutely cannot stomach is a government which has no regard at all for the needs of vulnerable ill people and is quite happy to propose and consider measures which will directly cause them unbearable hardship.

What we have seen virtually non-stop from the government over the past few weeks has been an unapologetic attack at some of our Island's most vulnerable.

It started when our Social Security Minister made the news (11th February) claiming that there would be no money to fund any potential surge in GP visits, after another GP's surgery had announced it would allow free appointments for children.

This came after the Health Minister Senator Andrew Green had said that he wanted to see an increase in the subsidy to GPs so that they could lower their prices to the public to make it more affordable, but had backed down after discussing it with the Social Security Minister.

Reform Jersey's Deputy Geoff Southern had to publicly intervene to point out that actually the Health Insurance Fund has reserves of around £86m, and could easily fund any potential surge, and that the Minister's comments were scaremongering and irresponsible.

We had the front page headline on 17th telling us that Islanders may face extra charges for health care. Finally an admission from the Treasury that we are scheduled for a £50m budget deficit by 2019 if action isn't taken now, but instead of a progressive solution, the targets are the sick, who may have to face user-pays services. The Health Minister said that all options would be on the table, when any Health Minister worthy of the title should have the guts to say that no option which includes charging vulnerable people for services should be on the table.

Finally we had the news yesterday that, from Monday, the Social Security Minister has decided that more people on Long Term Incapacity Allowance will be required to look for work, or face their Income Support being cut, and on top of that, we might reintroduce prescription charges too!

This truly is the ugly side of the Jersey Conservative Party.

If you didn't believe it before, it is now surely undeniable that austerity has hit our shores.

When discussing the prospect of raising social security contributions to fund the projected benefits/ pension shortfall in the future, not a single word was said about targeting those rises on those who are most able to pay.

You know, in Jersey social security contributions are capped on incomes up to £150,000. That means somebody earning above that amount will personally be paying a lower rate of contributions than their cleaner will (as well as paying about half the amount of income tax they would be in the UK, but that's another matter).

Rather than indicate that the government will raise necessary funds by raising that cap, instead their first option is to target people with physical and mental illnesses.

When I received the email to inform me of this (which I received just two hours after the deadline for me to lodge a question in the States on it, obviously just a coincidence...) my stomach turned and I could not believe what I had read. I passed it to a colleague who exclaimed "oh my God" as she read it.

If the first port of call to make savings is for the social security department to target sick people, then there is no greater evidence of the moral repugnance of this government. I utterly condemn anyone who, when asked where they would make savings, their first answer is "let's cut benefits for sick people".

Whilst there are indeed many people who suffer from illnesses who could work, the arbitrary answer that has seen the minister randomly choose 350 people to be targeted, seems to me to be destined to cause trouble and hardship for people who don't deserve it.

The minister says this is about encouraging people into work. But it is actually about threatening people into work, at a time when there is no anti-discrimination law for disabled people, and when it is difficult enough for people to get into work even if they aren't sick.

Deputy Tadier makes this point well here -

There are many vulnerable and disabled people in the Island who are being let down.

Myself and my Reform Jersey colleagues regularly meet people who suffer from disabilities, cannot work and are not getting better, but because of the illogical tick-box nature of impairment assessments, they can lose their benefits and there is nothing they can do about it, except just descend into greater poverty.

I know of one woman who was downgraded every year running for several years, until the department realised they had got it wrong, just 5 days before she died of her illness, having spent the last years of her life going through unimaginable stress as a result.

I know of another person who has ended up in hospital as a result of the stress that she could not handle with her mental illness when the department told her she would lose her Income Support if she didn't start looking for work.

In the UK we have heard all sorts of horror stories of people who have been forced into work after medical reassessments were made by a private (profit-making) firm seeking to meet targets, who have died from their illnesses, or even committed suicide because of the stress.

This is not the road to follow.

I say to the government, have some compassion for goodness sake.

Illness affects everybody in different ways. There is no possible arbitrary form that can decide whether someone is fit for work or if they aren't. And if they are fit for work, how do you know that the stress of being forced to look for work and failing time after time because of the state of our economy isn't actually going to affect their mental health and make them worse?

By all means encourage people into work, but you have to create the jobs first, otherwise you're simply setting up vulnerable people to face failure after failure whilst the shadow of destitution and poverty looms over them.

This is not the moral way to act.

Jersey is in difficult financial times, and there must be a serious discussion about how we get out of the situation which has been caused by successive Jersey Tory Party governments. Those discussions have to include the option of raising taxes on those who are most able to pay, otherwise it is the poorest in our society who will be hit the hardest, like they always are.

Austerity causes misery for the most vulnerable in our society, and I and my party colleagues will fight to oppose it with every last breath we have.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The lie at the heart of politics - JEP Editorial

There is a lie at the heart of our political system. That deceit concerns party politics. 
Today, the Council of Ministers lodged a proposition entitled Code of Conduct for Ministers and Assistant Ministers. It might well have been called the Ministerial Rubber Stamp (Jersey) Law. 
This draft piece of legislation starts well, setting out the seven principles of public life; selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. 
As maligned as they are, those rise to the top of the greasy pole of Island politics - and indeed those who sit on the backbenches - generally do so because they want to make a positive difference to Jersey. 
Some, however, seem to struggle with the fifth virtue, openness. 
As ministers become caught up in the civil service machine, a bureaucracy prone to secrecy, they run the risk of forgetting that they serve the public and that they are custodians of information owned by all of us. 
But that is not why the proposition sounds alarm bells. 
It spells out how collective responsibility should work. Ministers will speak publicly with one voice and assistant ministers will not against their minister when that minister tables a proposition. 
The reality is likely to be that assistant ministers will support the Council on the majority of issues, giving Senator Gorst a potential block vote of 21. Add the usually compliant Constables to the mix and the Chief Minister, who now has the authority to sack his ministers, sits at the head of a very powerful political party. 
It has never been more important that Scrutiny, the media and, increasingly, Islanders on social media to hold ministerial government to account. 
There is no doubt that we have a party of ministers, a corporation on whose board senior civil servants sit as non-executive directors. Reform Jersey, the three-man left-of-centre group, is not the only party in the States. 
For years, candidates, including many ministers, have argued at the hustings for our system of independent Members who have the freedom to say what they think and truly represent their electors. 
There are many women an men of great integrity and duty who serve Jersey as ministers and assistant ministers. Voters elected them and others to speak their minds on a whole host of matters, not simply those which are deemed 'issues of conscience' by the Chief Minister and his whips.


Not my words, but the words of the editor of the Jersey Evening Post Andy Sibcy (who kindly gave his permission for me to display it on my website).

There is virtually not a single word of this that I don't agree with, and I think it adumbrates the situation in Jersey politics very accurately.

When "independent" politicians are constitutionally bound to align themselves in the way that our new collective responsibility doctrine enforces them to, then we no longer have independent politicians.

They become, if only for the duration of the term, members of the Chief Minister's party. This despite many of them being elected on manifestos which will have had differences of policy.

There was one candidate at the previous election who was standing with the overt intention to then stand for Social Security Minister, yet his manifesto included pledges to support taking GST off of food. Had he been elected and become a minister, he would have been banned from supporting any proposition (no matter how well argued) to do so, because the Chief Minister would not have wanted it to happen in line with his policy vision.

So we end up with candidates standing making disingenuous promises.

When we have a voter turnout of just 32%, the last thing we need is a system which actually encourages more broken promises like this.

To that end, we have a party system in Jersey already (even more blatant than was the case before collective responsibility was introduced) where Senator Gorst leads a Jersey Conservative Party with a very strong whip system and loyal backbenches to secure his parliamentary majority.

But the problem is, because the lie that they are 'independents' is insincerely persisted, we have actually ended up with a very inefficient party system which leads to us ending up with the worst of both worlds.

The obvious example there is that we vote for candidates in an election without a definitive declaration of what party or grouping they would tend to align themselves with once elected. So voters can inadvertently vote for somebody, thinking they would side with those with social democratic views, but once elected realise that they were actually a staunch Jersey Tory (or vice versa) who just knew how to use their words smoothly. This ultimately puts voters off politics, makes our system over-complicated and is, in my view, responsible for our embarrassingly low voter turnouts.

But an example on a more practical level -

A few weeks ago we saw the Council of Minister unveil their Strategic Priorities Document, outlining what they want to focus on in this term and what they want to achieve.

There was absolutely no detail at all on how they would achieve what they wanted to achieve.

We saw this tax-payer funded nauseating party political broadcast -

Our election was on the 15th of October, yet we don't actually get to see any definitive statement on what the government wants to focus on until almost 4 months later. We won't get a vote in the States to endorse this until 6 months into the term.

If we want efficient and effective government, this should be considered totally unacceptable.

In a party system, all of this work would be done before the general election, and would be done as an extra-parliamentary engagement (i.e. not funded by tax payers), with party grassroots involvement and wider public consultation. This would then be presented either before the election, or directly after it, so that the newly formed government can crack on with it straight away (they may even have the draft legislation ready to go) without wasting so many months.

Instead, you and I and funded the Jersey Conservative Party coming up with this document and we have so far had no say whatsoever in what the document contains.

There will now be a public consultation, but we know how much of a waste of time that will really be when the Ministers have already set out their key visions, they won't be backing down on them.

When you compare this, in terms of timeline, level of detail, and mandate, our system fails to deliver on all counts.

Contrast this with the party political system of Gibraltar which saw a multi-party election in 2011 fought by 4 parties, the governing Gibraltar Social Democrats fighting for another consecutive victory, against the opposition Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party (in coalition with the Gibraltar Liberal Party), and the new Gibraltar Progressive Democratic Party giving it a shot.

Here are their manifestos, just to give you an idea of how credible the options for government are there -

Gibraltar Socialist Labour/ Liberal Parties
Gibraltar Social Democratic Party
Gibraltar Progressive Democratic Party

In that election, the people of Gibraltar turned out in huge numbers (81%) and voted to kick out the GSD in favour of the GSLP/Liberal alliance.

How in Jersey are we able to do such a thing? It is impossible without an overt party system.

One criticism that is sometimes (unfairly) labelled at Reform Jersey is that a party is an artificial construct. But nothing could be more further from the truth. The party was simply a gathering of individuals who were already like-minded, shared the same set of political values and who realised that working independently would be far more ineffective than officially working as a team to try and get our values featured in the laws of Jersey. That is exactly what the Council of Minsiters is, they just aren't open about it.

Mr Sibcy calls us "left-of-centre". I am comfortable with that description.

Reform Jersey's constitution does not assign ourselves any party ideology, but does commit us to a set of progressive values which are, I think, relevant to anyone who might consider themselves a liberal, a social democrat, a green, a democratic socialist, or progressive independent.

Senator Gorst's party is a Jersey Conservative Party which does not appeal to the politically disengaged Jersey people. Our challenge as a party is to spend the next few years showing that we can operate effectively together to demonstrate that there are more ways to politics than just toeing the Establishment line.