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.