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.
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,