Thursday, 29 March 2012

The next campaign by the Establishment.

As time goes on, bit by bit things are being revealed in the media that are showing the Establishments true agenda, and their tactics are becoming clearer.

I saw this article on the JEP website a few days ago -
Followed by this on the BBC today -

The article predicts a future clash over the decision of the UK to rescind Jerseys right to issue passports. Instead they will all be issued from England and, although the cost will not go up to islanders, they may have to wait a bit longer for their passports to arrive.

If one examines this news objectively and without that silly instinct to automatically defend Jersey that I mentioned in a previous post, there is nothing particularly wrong with this decision. The UK public sector is facing a lot of cuts at the moment and so various departments are being shuffled about to make them more efficient and so the UK has obviously decided it's cheaper to centralise it. On the face of it, I can't see much wrong with that decision. I mean, who cares right? It's not exactly a big deal where our passports are printed. It doesn't materially affect us in anyway really.

The hysteria is astounding. The media are acting as if this is somehow an attack on Jersey and our rights. But this is a non-issue, for a start, Jersey has no right whatsoever to issue our passports for us. Jersey does not provide us with "Jersey citizenship" we are British citizens and that is provided to us by the UK government. Therefore, it is the UK government which possesses the right the print them. We should be grateful that we are actually British citizens rather than what some overseas territories have which is the inferior "British Dependent Territories Citizenship".

If you go to section 6 on the Notes section in your Jersey passport, you will see that the very first line says "This passport remains the property of Her Majesty's government in the United Kingdom". Our passports are the responsibility of the UK government, not the Jersey government.

But the rhetoric I am seeing on various websites about this whole thing is really worrying. People are taking it as an attack on Jersey and our right to be a people (I've even seen some idiots use the phrase "Jersey citizen" as if such a thing exists...). People are really wound up about this, even though there is absolutely nothing to be wound up about. The media have been using words like "fight" to suggest that the Jersey government will be standing up for us, and evokes imagery of noble battles and patriotism to turn the issue into something unquestionable.

When you couple this up with the whole LVCR debacle, it's clear that a really "anti-UK" sentiment is building up. Despite the UK acting reasonably on both counts, the media and various politicians (Senator Farnham in the case of the passports) are playing on this and fuelling the fire. The UK is being used as a scapegoat, to draw peoples attention away from the failings of our own politicians. Dr Geobbels would be proud! I've even seen some people blaming immigrants and using racist rhetoric to argue for the work permits scheme.

The more I notice these little things, the more obvious the agenda of the islands Establishment becomes. Their agenda is to consolidate their power for the benefit of international finance. It always has been and it always will be. That is why the electoral commission was usurped, because a true democracy in Jersey would ruin this for them. The next objective for them, is to do what they can to sever ties with the UK. Because at the end of the day, the British government retains the right to ensure the good governance of the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. They have even gone so far as to completely suspend the government of the Turks and Caicos islands and impose home rule on them until they can solve their corruption problems. If the UK government really looked into Jersey, they would have a field day. If the UK interfered in Jersey, to impose basic democratic principles (the rule of law would be a nice start, followed by a proportionate democratic system) it would not benefit the Establishment at all.... unless they could utilise propaganda and spin it into somehow an attack on the Jersey way.

This is why they want to silently build up a feeling of antipathy and resentment towards the UK so that when someone comes up with the idea of declaring independence, it will have some public support. And who better to launch such a campaign than our very own poll topper Senator Bailhache!

I can literally think of nothing worse for Jersey than independence.

The States of Jersey are totally incompetent, they do a bad job of running Jersey, they are incredibly unpopular and the system itself is undemocratic. How could anyone think having these fools in charge without the watchful eye of a higher authority (not God, although if he's available I invite him to stand for election) would be a good thing? The fact that we have a big country like the UK to fall back on, who leaves us alone when we are doing well, is a great thing that we should treasure.

Imagine going on holiday and getting into a spot of trouble and needing help. Where would you rather go to? A Jersey Embassy or a British Embassy? It's a no-brainer. The diplomatic weight of the British government is a force to be reckoned with (not always a good thing if you're Iraq or Iran, but good for holiday makers in trouble) that Jersey folk should really not take for granted. If Jersey were independent we would also find ourselves as a small, unpopular jurisdiction in the middle of a European Union that is hostile to us, and no longer has a UK to defend us. We wouldn't last long at all until the EU banned their businesses dealing with Jersey. Independent small countries like Lichtenstein, Monoco and Andorra are going out of fashion, and we would be fools to jump aboard that sinking ship.

But as usual, some in Jersey either don't have the foresight, or just plain don't care, and are willing to do what it takes in Jersey to look out for the few above the interests of the many.

People of Jersey, I implore you, don't fall for this propaganda!


Thursday, 22 March 2012

The father of the Electoral Commission has denounced it!

Just a short post today to draw attention to something important.

On Friday I received an advance copy of a letter and press release by former Deputy Daniel Wimberley who was in fact the "Father" of the Electoral Commission. He authored the original P.15/2011 proposition for an Electoral Commission and saw it be accepted by the States. Since then, the Privileges and Procedures Committee has been usurped by Senator Bailhache who was able to get the terms of references changed and allow States Members to become members, and was duly elected the Chairman himself.

In this press release (which can be viewed here) the former Deputy has emancipated himself from the commission and denounced it's legitimacy. Now, my readers will know that I will agree with this point of view wholeheartedly. The nature of the commission has been totally changed from what was originally intended and has been bent to the will of the Establishment. The States Members on the commission have an inbuilt majority and the role of outside expertise has been done away with to ensure that the outcome is pre-determined and no tough questions are asked.

The main point that Wimberley is making is that those with integrity should not take part in this commission. The inclusion of fair and right minded people onto the commission now would be totally futile and would only play into the hands of the Establishment by legitimising what they have done, when what we should be doing is utterly condemning them for stealing our peoples commission. That being said, there is talk about organising something to be submitted to the commission from the progressives so that the commission can't later claim that they weren't aware of what we actually want.

So if anyone reading this happens to be approached to sit on the commission, please think about what effect it will have and whether you really want to legitimise something that is doomed to failure.

Team Voice have conducted a 20 minute interview with Wimberley which is well worth watching. It can be viewed here and here. He makes the profoundly simple point that the States were just unable to grasp in their debate on the commission, that this reform isn't for the States, it's for the people. The view of the States Members is not important, it is the view of people that counts.

The serious problem that we are eventually going to be faced with is how to react to the inevitable referendum. I have said that I would very much like for the eventual referendum to include a third option of the Clothier reforms, which I could happily vote for with a clear conscience, but I have no idea how feasible this is and whether it would command any support (I'll look into this, if anyone has thoughts on the idea I would really appreciate some feed back in the comments section!).

If the referendum only has two options; the status quo and the Bailhache reforms, I could not easily vote for either. The status quo is terrible and the Bailhache reforms may possible be slightly better, but voting for them would appear to endorse his work and will be used by the Establishment to try and silence any further debate on reform for a few decades and we will be left with a States of Jersey that isn't democratic.

Until next time,

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The 2012 Budget

Today was the day of the 2012 budget announcement by the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George "Gideon" Osbourne and even though I mostly blog about Jersey politics I wanted to take a moment to write something short(ish) on what is happening because it is important to think about progressive economics in a broader sense to understand how to go about managing other economies. Also the Jersey government is one that is on the same ideological wavelength as the UK government (i.e. very right wing) so it's good to be able to analyse that frame of mind and scrutinise it to help win those arguments in Jersey too.

I won't lay out in detail exactly what was in the budget, but that can all be found here -

The most important and contentious issue was always going to be what happened to the top rate of income tax. Now, obviously as a socialist I am quite philosophically keen on the idea of the rich paying more in taxes to relieve the burden on the poorest and fund the welfare state etc, but obviously pragmatism has to win the day and what actually works should be the option to go with.

The argument by the government is that the tax was damaging to Britains competitiveness, barely raised any income and was a disincentive for businesses. So lets tackle these points one by one.

Firstly, the tax is damaging to Britain's competitiveness. In a couple of months Francois Hollande of the French Parti Socialiste is going to win the French Presidency and has said that he will introduce a new top rate of income tax of 75%. With this in mind, Britain has nothing to worry about.

Secondly, the tax barely raised any income. Well, HMRC disagrees ( their estimate is that it raises £6.7 billion. Maybe to the likes of the Etonians £6.7 billion is not very much, but I think that it's a very significant amount that is worth collecting. But lets say that the estimate was much lower and it turned out not to raise that much tax, surely the fact it collects something rather than nothing is a reason to do it anyway? It would only be worth abolishing if it actually meant we collected less taxation. But the important thing to note here, is that if that was true, the logic would surely follow that the 50p tax rate should be abolished altogether then, but instead it has simply been lowered, which just reveals that not even the government believes their own spin and are acknowledging that it does in fact raise money that is worth keeping. But hey, they have to please the party donors somehow right?

And the third point, it is a disincentive for business. How ridiculous do they need to be?

The government seems to be totally confused on this issue. Firstly, I just refuse to buy this point that the 50p tax is a disincentive for people to invest in business. Surely, because your income has gone down through tax, you would be more keen to invest to get a higher profit return to make up for that lost cash? It doesn't make sense.

What is a great way to incentive business, is to lower corporation tax (which is admittedly what they have done, and I support it). Because the corporation tax is lower than the income tax rate, and so a businessman knows that if he takes money out in dividends or wages or whatever he will pay a much larger proportion of it in tax than if he keeps it in the business. Getting businessmen to keep more money in the business and growing it is a lot more desirable than wanting them to take it out as income and spend it in the casino in Monaco. This will help the businesses expand and thus employ more people which will be good for the economy.

But whilst lowering corporation tax is a good thing to do, it is simply idiotic to do it at the same time as also lowering income tax, because that is less of an incentive to keep the cash in the business! They should have only lowered corporation tax.

Some will say that there were a few good things in the budget that I should be happy about, and there were some things that in any other circumstance I would be, but my position changes when the top rate of tax is also brought down because of the effect that has.

For example, I should be happy that the personal tax allowance has been raised. Well I am. But lets not pretend that this lowering of tax for poor people has balanced out the lowering of tax for rich people, because the thing no commentators seem to be saying today is that the personal tax allowance affects the rich too. So today they have effectively had 3 tax cuts, whilst the poorest have only had one (which is countered by the savage cuts to their services they're also getting).

Another thing that makes no sense is the Chancellors logic that lowering the 50p rate will encourage the richest to stop avoiding paying tax (this is nonsense in itself, because they won't rearrange their affairs to pay more tax just because the rate is lowered, they'll just pocket the difference instead) yet he also announced new measures to tackle tax avoidance... So why bother with encouraging them to stop avoiding if you are going to make them unable to avoid it in the first place? He either has no faith in his own measures, or he is using it as a smokescreen to let his pals get away with a bit less taxation.

This, ladies and gentleman, is typical Conservatism. Looking out for the richest, whilst the poorest pay.

If I had been the Chancellor, today I would have announced a cut in VAT, raised the personal tax allowance and repeated the bankers bonus tax. But most importantly, I would have laid off the austerity. As Keynes noted after the Great Depression, you can't get out of a recession by cutting public spending, you have to increase it to get investment going and jobs being created. Adam Smiths "invisible hand" doesn't exist and we need a strong government to interfere in the economy to sort it out when crisis hits, not resolve themselves for any responsibility like this government is doing.

Yes, this means increasing the deficit and increasing debt, but both of those are much better sorted in an economy which is growing and unemployment is falling. We currently have the opposite and the economically illiterate policies of this government are going to make it worse.

This is the attitude Britain needs, it's the attitude Jersey needs and it's the attitude the world needs.

Next blog will be more directly about Jersey politics! I promise!


Thursday, 15 March 2012

The LVCR conspiracy

Today came the news that the appeal lodged by the governments of Jersey and Guernsey against the UK governments decision last year to close the VAT loophole (LVCR) has been lost.

For the hundreds of Channel Islanders that may face losing their jobs, this decision is catastrophic and my heart goes out to every single one of them and I hope that something is done to mitigate their circumstances as much as possible.

However, the politicians of these islands are using this event as a massive smokescreen and are whipping up an anti-UK sentiment that I just cannot let go unchallenged because it is diverting attention from making legitimate criticism of the way the Jersey government has behaved.

Firstly, I'll get this out of the way - I am not, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be, proud to be a Jerseyman. Dr Johnson said that "Patriotism is the final refuge of a scoundrel" and I owe no allegiance to a geo-political entity. I only ally myself with ideas and moral principles. I can't be proud of being accidentally born on one piece of rock rather than another. And so accordingly, when Jersey is criticised, I have no urge to instinctively defend her without further thought. I'd try and be objective and look at the criticism being made and decide if it is justified or not before defending Jersey.

In the case of the VAT loophole, I'm sorry to say that Jersey is in the wrong.

The rule on VAT was that if you imported goods into the UK worth less than £15, you wouldn't have to pay VAT. This was called LVCR - Low Value Consignment Relief. It made a lot of sense at the time because the amount of VAT that would be paid would be minimal and difficult and expensive to obtain. It also created bureaucracy that was bad for people (the majority at the time) who were importing perishable goods like veg and flowers.

Then a problem arose - the internet. Some bright sparks got the idea that you could set up websites to sell CDs and DVDs at under cut prices. These were Jersey companies that started to do it, so there wasn't really a problem there. Until some UK companies decided to set up subsidiary companies and locating their warehouses in the Channel Islands. Naturally, this wound up the UK government.

So at the end of last year, as one of many things the current coalition government (who by the way, I am not a fan of) are doing to tackle to deficit, they decided to end this tax loophole. And the States of Jersey instinctively got defensive and decided to appeal the decision and today we found out that the appeal has been resoundingly lost.

Arguments against this decision have been made about how it is unfair (and not legal) to discriminate against the Channel Islands this way and that it's just another typical example of the UK taking advantage of our poor little islands.

But this is just a nonsensical argument. Why would the UK waste time and resources tackling other countries which are not currently causing a problem to the UK? The Channel Islands are the main centre of this problem for the UK and so it is totally natural that they would make the islands a top priority. And the argument that was brought forward in court today that it was not right to discriminate against the islands was dismissed by Justice Mitting who said that the UK government ministers had won the argument "handsomely" and that there was no legal requirement whatsoever for the UK to treat every jurisdiction the same. Which makes me wonder what sort of dodgy legal advice our government was getting...

What Jersey needs to just get over, is the fact they even though it is an island in the literal sense, it is not an island in the metaphorical sense. Jersey just can not get by ignoring the rest of the world and in particular it's closest neighbours geographically and economically. Allowing this business to go on in a way that was not intended in the original spirit of LVCR was always going to annoy the UK government because it deprives them of a considerable amount of taxation and creates unemployment there. You may say, but it will create unemployment in Jersey, and yes that is true, but that's not the responsibility of the UK government, it's Jersey's problem.

The UK can and will tackle any jurisdiction that it feels is abusing the VAT loophole and will get them in turn. The Channel Islands are not being discriminated against.

But what our government has to answer for is the pathetic way they have handled this, and trying to fool the masses into a state of fear. Anyone with half a brain cell could have told the government that their appeal against this decision was doomed from the start and a total waste of time. This escapade has cost the Channel Islands governments £400,000, plus half of the fees of the UK governments lawyers. This has cost us a pretty penny when we just cannot afford to be wasting money. At a time when public sector workers are facing a pay cut and all States departments have been told to make savings, why have we wasted money on something so futile?

Here's why - The Jersey government is desperate to divert attention away from their own failings and thinks that if it can pretend that this is the UKs fault, islanders will rally behind the Jersey government opposed to the UK government and we will avoid scrutinising the Jersey governments actions for fear of being labelled a traitor. That is what this is about. It's not about saving jobs (because even without this business the States have done a terrible job at stopping rising unemployment) it is about creating a scapegoat for the terrible direction the economy is headed in to save their own political backsides!

Now, I feel for every single person that may lose their job because of this and I wish that something happens and they are all looked after. But Jersey has a habit of predicting doomsday to scare people, and these exaggerations usually prove to be wrong. Many of the companies like have developed excellent reputations over the past few years and there is every chance that people may not run away from these companies just because they have a habit of going there.

So lets try and be objective and rational about this before jumping on any bandwagons!

I wonder how long it will be until Senator Bailhache uses this as an excuse to advocate Jersey's independence from the UK?

Until next time comrades,

Some interesting reading -

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Is it too late to ask for Clothier?

Just a short post today (because I have an essay to be working on and need something to distract me!) to state my opinion on yesterdays States proceedings.

For those that don't already follow me, I am on twitter where I regularly comment on politics as and when it happens. Not just Jersey politics, UK and international too! Peak times for updates are during important States debates and during Question Time.

But anyway...

Yesterday I listened to the whole debate surrounding the election of a chairman for the Electoral Commission. Deputy Southern was nominated as a token candidate essentially to make sure Senator Bailhache didn't go unchallenged. He didn't do well in the vote, mainly because several members abstained and spoilt their ballots out of principle because they didn't believe any States Member should be a member of the commission and didn't want to legitimise it. But he did a good job standing for the position and taking questions. He didn't have a prepared speech (unlike Bailhache, who probably wrote his years ago) and answered the questions very well.

Bailhache came across very unconvincing in his speech and question session. He was standing for a position that is meant to be a chairman and therefore impartial, but his speech was totally partial and made his views clear. He was asked by Deputy Martin who he would nominate to be the other 2 States Members on the commission and he totally ignored her question and just said he was upset at Deputy Martin not wanting to be one of those members (after all, how could she? She was against States Members being on the commission at all). He had it pointed out to him that he had been saying the position of the Constables was "non-negotiable" because the public clearly supported their retention, even though all the polls show that the public are actually split on the matter, which he just brushed aside.

Once Bailhache was elected, the nominations were made for the other 2 States Members, who were unopposed, and were Constable Gallichan of St Mary and Deputy Baker of St Helier. Two Establishment stooges, led by the Establishment King. Constable Gallichan opposed the whole creation of an electoral commission in the first place, and was elected unopposed at the last election (so much for legitimacy ey?). Deputy Baker was nominated because he is a Deputy in Town (which was said to be important to be represented on the commission) and he is a right-winger. So Town is represented by a Deputy who holds minority views in Town.

It's clear from most internet discussion that the public have seen this as a very bad move and are immediately cynical with it, but there are some who are continuing to argue that this is the right outcome given the election of Senator Bailhache in October.

But let's get a few misconceptions out of the way -

Senator Bailhache was not elected by the public for this job. When he was elected, it had already been decided that the commission would be independent. He had said that he didn't even think there needed to be a commission! And now he is heading up a commission he doesn't believe should exist.

We were told that the commission had to have States Members on it because we needed people with experience of how things worked to bring that perspective to be considered. Apart from the obvious fact that even without States Members on the commission, they could still have made lengthy submissions to be considered, they then decided to elect Deputy Baker to the commission who has only just been elected as a States Member and therefore has very little experience.

Senator Bailhache will not be impartial. He said in his speech that he would be impartial and even though he had views he was still be open to persuasion and if he was in a minority he would back down. This is nonsense and he has already demonstrated this. During the debates in the PPC to get politicians on the commission and change the terms of reference, Senator Bailhache tried (and failed) to get it so that the commission was only allowed to discus the composition of 30 States Members (in a 42 member chamber that included the Constables). He tried to rig the result before the commission had even had it's chance. How could he claim to be open to persuasion when he had already tried to play dirty like that?

Actually, Senator Bailhache being chairman of the commission means he is actually in a worse place for reform than his electors would probably like! If he hadn't been a member of the commission, he could have made a very lengthy submission to the commission and answered questions that would have probably been taken very serious. He will have to (although I doubt he will make much effort to) limit himself to hear other points of view if he is the chairman. Also, this will detract from his work as Foreign Affairs Minister, which to be frank, he is probably a lot better at and would be better off focusing on that.

So, it is clear that the commission has turned out exactly the opposite way that we would have liked, and I seriously do not have any high hopes for it. It has no legitimacy whatsoever. What I am interested to see is how much the end proposals are like Senator Bailhaches original proposals to see if he really was as impartial as he says he is going to be!

The problem we are going to find ourselves with is when it comes to the referendum, it will be very difficult to vote for something that is inevitably going to be rubbish, yet equally it will be difficult to vote to keep the status quo when our current system is also rubbish. But even if the commissions suggestions are moderately better than what we have now, voting for them will give them some sort of legitimacy which may encourage the States to believe that therefore there should be no more debates on States reform for another few decades, which would be disastrous.

The one possible solution I could see to this would be the inclusion of the third option to the referendum... I am one of the people who actually still believes that the recommendations that were put forward by the Clothier Report were very good and even though it was 12 years ago, it is still relevant. What could be more democratic, than giving the people a direct say and offering as many solutions as possible.

So I will speak to others and see what the opinion is, speak to States Members on whether it is feasible, and perhaps this could be the next campaign to embark on to convince our States Members to include it as a referendum option.

That being said, since it's the "publics commission", I intend on making a submission and will post it on this blog for all to see and perhaps comment on before I deliver it.

Okay, I lied, this wasn't that short a post. What can I say, I'm that desperate to avoid my Uni essay!

Until next time,

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

And now the States has spoken. The b******s!

So today the States voted 25 - 22 (with 1 abstention) that politicians WILL be allowed to be members (and chairman) of the Electoral Commission.

I listened to the whole proceedings and heard what each member had to say about the amendment and some speeches and arguments were less than impressive.

Several members, including the Constable of St John, read out speeches which sounded like they could have been written by Senator Bailhache himself. Their sole argument based around how much of a wonderful human being Senator Bailhache is and his huge democratic mandate. How strange isn't it that the role of some Deputies has now been relegated to just standing up for the manifesto of the poll topper? Are they not meant to stand up for their own manifesto and their own constituents opinions rather than stick up for one politician who may or may not have been elected for a million reasons rather than his single idea on electoral reform? In 2005 there were no Deputies arguing that they must vote for Senator Syvret for Chief Minister because he topped the poll, they voted against him based on their own ideas and mandate, not somebody elses.

As if you could have guessed, the prize for the most ridiculous, hypocritical pile of nonsense speech goes to..... Yes, you guessed it! Senator Bailhache! His speech was a masterpiece of how to talk total rubbish whilst sounding credible. I suppose it's what you'd expect from an ex-lawyer (I'm training to be a lawyer, so I'm allowed to say that!). The sheer hypocrisy and spin gave Ozouf a run for his money. He complained about the pessimism of the amendment and that he refused to accept that the States was incapable of reforming itself. This of course was after he campaigned in the election complaining that the States had lost it's way and wasted too much time. But obviously now that he is elected that has all changed. This also ignores the long list in Deputies Tadier and Martins Minority Report of examples of the States proposing reform and losing which is exactly what gives the States good reason to be pessimistic!

But what was most dismaying about his remarks was his total disregard for the public. He could only talk about finding a solution that was acceptable to all States Members and that they could all feel okay to vote for and that no self respecting member of the States would allow an independent commission to propose something that they voted through to referendum without believing in.

No Philip. What matters is not what is acceptable to the current States Members, but what is acceptable to the public. The States should have gone with whatever proposals the Commission came up with, put them to a referendum so the PEOPLE can have a say! And then if they didn't like the proposals they would be perfectly within their rights to campaign against them in that referendum. You will never ever find a solution that ends up making everyone happy, so there is no point in trying. But anyway, that's not what they are trying for anyway. They are trying to find a system that will entrench their power, hence why they insist on keeping the bloody Constables in.

We also had a surprising bit of Jersey Nationalism from our own Chief Minister. He said that having been born and living in the UK for most of his life before moving to Jersey he believed that simply copying the UK was not what Jersey should do and that the Clothier Report had tried to do that, hence why it failed. Of course Deputy Le Hérissier responded to this by pointing out that the majority of the Clothier panel was made up of well respected islanders. This sort of "Jersey is best" attitude, shows Gorst really is spending too much time with his nationalist comrade Bailhache. Wonder how long it will take him to recommend declaring independence from the UK?

That being said, there were a few very positive and noteworthy contributions. My favourite was from the Constable of St Brelade Steve Pallett. This was his first contribution to a States debate and he started off by saying he wouldn't be as eloquent as his predecessor, but he was completely wrong and spoke excellently and with passion. His central argument was that he was elected after the States had already agreed for the commission to be independent and thus it was on that basis he was elected and that he was in the States to reflect his electorates opinion and that was the only thing that mattered in his job, not looking out for his own self interest. Also nice to see a Constable supporting something that would (in all likelihood) lead to the removal of the Constables from the States. He is clearly a man of integrity.

The debate was closed by a very passionate Deputy Le Hérissier who made the point I had been dying to hear made all day, which was that members were going to vote against it because they are scared of losing their seats. How right he is, and well done to him for having the balls to say it to their faces. It's a shame he wasn't commended by winning the vote.

Now that this battle is lost, it is difficult to say what the next move should be. They have yet to actually vote in which States Members will be on the Commission, so it will be interesting to see who stands against Bailhache and who takes up the other seats. But once the commission is finally established, we should inundate it with our own recommendations for reform and try and coordinate it so our recommendations are similar. And for the sake of democracy, I would urge any progressives to recommend that the Constables are removed from the States. Their position is just so undemocratic that it has to go and Bailhache will do anything he can to keep them.


Thursday, 1 March 2012

The public have spoken


Following two Parish Assemblies organised by the parishioners of St Clement and St Helier, the result of the public vote has been resoundingly against States Members having a role in the Electoral Commission.

In the St Clement the result was 16 in favour of the proposition (that Deputy Le Hérissiers amendment be adopted to keep the Commission independent), 0 against (thats zero!) and 11 abstentions (including Deputy Baudains who said he was in favour, he just as a matter of principle doesn't vote at Parish Assemblies).

At the Town Hall meeting the result was 53 in favour and 3 against.

This result could not possibly be more unequivocal. Senator Bailhache has no mandate whatsoever to usurp the Commissions independence and the public are totally against it. People are cynical about politics in general and the idea of politicians being involved in deciding their own future is alien to them. At the end of the day, in a democracy the politicians are not our bosses, we are their bosses! The system of government and elections that we have should be determined by the public and not by those already in the system.

I note that several commentators on electoral reform are specifically avoiding using the phrase "electoral reform" and are instead calling it "democratisation" which I think is very apt given the position Jersey is in. By no stretch of the English language can a system which actively encourages voter abstention be considered democratic.

But the actual vote in the States takes place in 5 days, now is the time, if you haven't already, to contact your representatives and alert them to these results. If they vote against Deputy Le Hérissiers amendment, they are voting against the will of the people of Jersey. I will attach a slightly amended version of my template email that takes into account the Parish Assemblies.

Since I am not in Jersey, I can't tell what the mood on the ground is like and I therefore find it difficult to make any predictions, but we have generally had a positive response from the States Members we have spoken to, so I have my fingers crossed. If the vote is lost, that will be it, there will be States Members on the Commission and there will be nothing that can be done about it. We will simply have to make the best out of a bad situation by enthusing the public to overwhelm the Commission with their submissions on recommendations for democratisation. If we feel really shafted by the result, maybe even have a bit of a demonstration outside the States Chamber!


New Template

Dear <insert States Members name here>,

I write to you as a constituent to canvass for your support for a vote due to be debated in the States on the 6th of March on an amendment to P.5/2012.

I am aware that an amendment is to be put forward by Deputy Roy Le Hérrisier to replace the 3 States Members on the Electoral Commission with unelected and independent members instead. I feel it is important to ask you, as my elected representative, to back Deputy Le Herrisiers amendment and maintain the position that was decided last year following former Deputy Wimberly's proposition.

Over the years the States of Jersey has proven itself to be incapable of reforming itself and it is of vital importance that the Electoral Commission is independent so that there are no vested interests on board. I am utterly dismayed at the attempts of Senator Bailhache (with the backing of the Chief Minister) to try and usurp the Commission for himself to put forward his own views which do not reflect the wish of much of the electorate.

The States of Jersey as it is currently constituted has severe deficiencies in democratic accountability. The election turnouts are appallingly low, there is considerable disproportionality in the representation of certain parts of the island and there is a lack of separation of powers. This can only be solved by a commission of people whose sole objective is to improve Jersey's democracy and not those who have a vested interest in their seats being maintained. I fear that if we allow the commission to be taken over by politicians then we will simply have another few years of wrangling, disagreement and no progress whatsoever.

Over the past couple of weeks, two Parish Assemblies were called, one in St Clement, one in St Helier, where the parishioners voted overwhelmingly against the prospect of States Members being on the Commission and therefore to vote against Deputy Le Herissiers amendment is to defy the will of the public you are meant to represent.

I hope I can count on you to support this amendment, and the principle in general.

Many thanks,
<Insert your name and parish here>

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