Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Independence? I'll burn my passport if it ever happens.

Well today it has been virtually impossible for me to check my Twitter feed, read the local news and even read the national news (I'm a Guardian reader, you'll be surprised to hear) without hearing all about the suggestion that Jersey should be prepared to become an independent sovereign state, should the need arise.

The emphasis has focused on an article in the Guardian based on an interview with the Assistant Chief Minister (our sort of Foreign Affairs Minister) Senator Philip Bailhache in which he said that should a time arise where the interests of the UK and Jersey are too at odds to be reconcilable, the island should be ready for independence.

The article can be viewed HERE. The interview was conducted a month ago, before all the news hit about Jimmy Carr's tax scheme/ scam and the K2 arrangement. In the JEP today Senator Bailhache said that apart from the articles headline (which in fairness was a misrepresentation of what the Senator had said) it was actually an accurate representation of the interview they conducted with him.

Now, as a democrat and a believer in self-determination, I don't have a problem with people wanting to talk about the future of their nation (I don't consider Jersey a nation, but I concede that some people do, and they have the right to disagree with me and have an identity different to mine), and so if people want to engage in a discussion about Jerseys constitutional future, I say, bring it on and lets have the debate.

But I have some serious reservations with how this particular episode has been played out and I have strong views on the independence question.

I think Senator Bailhache was completely out of line to say the things he said, has done a very poor job of representing Jersey internationally and wasted what could have been a great opportunity to present a positive image of Jersey to the Guardians hundreds of thousands of readers.

The fact is, until today, the independence question was not even vaguely on the agenda. No businessperson had called for it and no politician had openly rallied anyone around the cause (I'm of course discounting Sir Philips conference a couple of years ago because tickets were ridiculously expensive). The independence question is not being asked, so why is he bringing it up?

There being a big question mark hovering above the constitutional position of the island is bad for business. Businesses don't like to invest in jurisdictions that aren't secure and with an uncertain future. The process of becoming independent means fundamentally changing the nature of the jurisdiction, it means renegotiating all international agreements and potentially changing currency and tax arrangements. These are all things that a business looking to make some new investments would want to avoid. They want to put their money in a place where the future is certain. If we became independent, there is nothing to suggest that various international organisations (EFTA etc) would be happy for us to be admitted as a member and it would have huge implications for Jersey business.

The same things are being said in Scotland at the moment, where businesspeople are saying that the Scottish Executive waiting until 2014 to hold a referendum (when they could hold it much sooner) is bad for business because the country is currently in purgatory.

By Bailhache's own admissions, independence is only a vague possibility upon certain conditions being fulfilled (namely the total deterioration of relations between Jersey and the UK) and that he doesn't want it to happen. But because these conditions are not being met, there is no need to even bring up the issue. An interview with such an important national newspaper could have been a great opportunity for Senator Bailhache to put forward a positive image of Jersey, it's role in the British economy and how it conducts business. But instead the opportunity was squandered by his pet obsession, and has put a totally irrelevant issue on the front page (literally!). But if he was genuine about independence just being a far off idea, surely he should dedicate as much of his time to also talk about the possibility of an emergency (the finance industry crashing) where Jersey might want full amalgamation into the UK. Okay, it's unlikely, but it's not inconceivable that such a thing could be desirable under certain circumstances. My guess is that he is less keen on that idea.

A professional politician should know before an interview exactly what points they want to make, what message they want to get across and know how to avoid going off track, and on this occasion the Senator has utterly failed and done not just himself, but the whole island, a big disservice. It was irresponsible for him to make the comments he did, because of the stir it has caused, and has had no benefit from being said whatsoever.

And what is more is that he seems to be the only one in the Council of Ministers that has said anything to do with this issue ever. I'd be intrigued to know if there was any conferring amongst them to decide whether they felt that it was appropriate for him to use an important interview to talk about such things.

I've heard arguments that it's okay to keep the idea of independence on the table because it could be used as leverage in negotiations, but if there is one thing that today has proved is that plenty of people in the UK would be happy to see the back of us (interesting how their views are different for the Falklands...), and so such a threat is only something to use if we are actually prepared to carry it out. As it stands, there doesn't appear to be an appetite in Jersey for independence. Senator Bailhaches position is that an independent Jersey is something that could be an acceptable circumstance given certain conditions, but perhaps even that doesn't reflect the view of the people, who, for all he knows, might think independence is unacceptable under any circumstances?

It is my view, and the view of the majority of people I have spoken to, that Jersey should absolutely NEVER become an independent sovereign state.

Just imagine it, an independent Jersey. It's a horrifying thought. The States of Jersey is generally held in contempt by most people in the island, could you even contemplate what they would be like if they didn't have the ever watching eye of the UK government checking over their shoulder to ensure the "good governance" of the Crown Dependencies?

The only people in Jersey that are interested in the idea of independence are the ultra-conservatives who have no interests in the needs of the average person in Jersey. All they are interested in is preserving their hegemony, and ensuring the needs of finance are always met.

Jersey doesn't have an effective separation of powers, we don't have a pluralistic media and we don't have a representative electoral system. There are plenty of feudal relics still kicking about in our system. But Jersey doesn't have the means to change this for itself, because those that benefit from these deficiencies are the ones who are in charge. The UK is meant to be in charge of the "good governance" of it's overseas territories, and it recently imposed direct rule on the Turks and Caicos islands because of corruption. Currently the UK is not stepping up to the mark with it's obligations to Jersey but the Establishment in Jersey is terrified that they could eventually change and start cleaning up the island.

That is the only reason they want independence, so that they can make sure the UK has no power to step in and fix Jersey. Now that the tide is turning against tax havens, places like Jersey are going out of fashion, and instead of remodelling Jerseys finance industry to provide a totally moral and useful offshore service (as it is more than capable of doing), instead they would rather preserve it as it is and concoct fake disputes with the UK (PASSPORTS and LVCR) to engineer public opinion in Jersey to be against the UK so that the seeds are sowed to fool the public into sleepwalking into independence. This is absolutely NOT the context that any debate on Jerseys future should take place in.

Make no mistake, for the average person in Jersey there are no positives of independence, only negatives.

  • We could have no guarantee to keep our British citizenship.
  • We could lose our rights to rely on British diplomacy if we get into trouble abroad.
  • We would either have to set up our own currency or use a foreign currency in which we would have no say on it's rules.
  • We would not be able to appeal Jersey States and Royal Court decisions to the Privy Council, and possibly the European Court on Human Rights.
  • We would lose our defence.
  • We would have to start paying to use the UK services and expertise, many of which that we currently get for free.
  • If we needed the UK to represent us internationally on something that we couldn't fight ourselves, they wouldn't do it.
  • We would lose the local BBC (leaving it all to the JEP...)
  • Most importantly, we lose the vital safety net.

But if that isn't enough to give you nightmares, just think about the general principle. Jersey is British. We have our own history, autonomy and a special identity. We have the best of all worlds. I hate the idea that a person from England is somehow foreign to me, as they would be if we were independent. We speak English, we drive on the left, eat fish and chips, use the pound. Jersey has no reason to culturally detach ourselves from our mainland counterparts. Nationalism is just evil and divisive and has to be fought against at all costs.

I'm tempted to write another letter to the JEP over this, but if someone wants to beat me to it, please do, they might be getting sick of hearing my name! I'd also want to mention their rather poor headline talking of how the UK is "attacking" us. "Attack" is an emotive word that implies that it's unjustified, whereas "criticise" would be a much more appropriate word to use because anyone is entitled to comment on Jersey and it's finance industry without being delegitimised with words like that.

In the mean time, please vote in the new poll I have put at the top left hand corner of this page for you to vote (anonymously) on whether you think Jersey should become independent or not. It it's successful I might do more polls!

Until next time,

P.S. I do realise that some people will consider the title of this post to be a good enough argument to declare independence right now, but oh well!

P.S.S. Does anyone else think Senator Bailhache looks like he's playing a piano in that picture?

Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Economic Dictatorship

I've added a tab to the top of this blog with a big article I've written for uni just generally about some philosophical views I have on economics, the law and politics.

I'm quite proud of it, so hopefully it will be of interest to some people.

Please have a read and feel free to constructively criticise or add to my comments etc!


Monday, 18 June 2012

Sad attempts to discredit democracy in action

After some discussion in the comments section on the last blog post and after reading a fairly ridiculous submission on the Electoral Commissions website, I felt that it might be worth taking a brief moment to be rid of any ambiguity and just explain why the template emails I have posted are important.

What prompted me to write this was reading Peter Drummond's submission to the Electoral Commission (which can be viewed on their website) which opens with -

"I am surprised to see that there are a number of people using the 'same template' to submit their 
thoughts and I hope the Commission discards blatant attempts to hijack the consultation by a 
minority which appears to be going on here."

I feel the need to address points like this, simply because those who make these points clearly have an agenda to discredit anyone who takes our (the progressives) line of view on things and we should be unequivocal about our motives because, unlike our opposition, our motives are benign.

The purpose of the templates is to empower people to get THEIR voices across. It's that simple. Plenty of people have views and are happy to express them, but for one reason or another are unable (or just don't want) to sit down and write an email from scratch. So I provide them with one that reflects a certain point of view, and if they agree with it, they can pass it on. This is just democracy at work, who could be against that?

One reader accused us of "fudging" public opinion. Such criticism is so void of logic. A public consultation is there to work out what the public think. No one will send on a template email if it doesn't accurately reflect what they think. These are all genuine people, not fake emails. So therefore, there is nothing wrong with it. If anything, I should be thanked for helping the Commission get more opinions sent to them!

People using the same document to represent their opinions is nothing unusual. In UK general elections over 2,000 people stand for elections, using manifestos that will also be used by up to 600 other people. That's normal and sensible. A party could never put forward candidates each with their own manifestos. We are putting forward a united front, because that makes us more effective.

A commission that receives hundreds of unique submissions all suggesting different and opposing ideas, is going to find it much harder to come to a conclusion that pleases many people. If a person or group can gather the approval and support of a large number of people and campaign together, surely that makes the Commissions work much easier and they can accurately gauge public opinion?

Peter also said we were a minority trying to put forward our thoughts. Well firstly, putting forward thoughts is sort of what a public consultation needs (nice one Peter, genius...), but more importantly, actually we didn't put forward any thoughts at all. We just asked for an important piece of work to be done. What could be more reasonable? And the Clothier Report had submissions by groups rather than individuals, so there is nothing wrong with it.

Though, the irony isn't lost on me by someone accusing me of trying to "hijack" the Commission. The only person that's done any hijacking here is Senator Bailhache!

I end by saying, instead of belittling people for doing nothing other than exercise their democratic rights, why don't those opposing us use democracy too? If any right-wingers start a blog that encourages others to get involved in the democratic process and make their voices heard, I will happily plug it and direct like-minded people to it. What Jersey needs is for people of all political persuasions to engage with each other and express their arguments to the public. Not these petty attempts by the Establishment to silence debate. In a democracy, anyone is allowed to express themselves, so these trolls need to just shut up and get over it.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A wholly inadequate response from the Electoral Commission


Today I, and presumably those of you who sent on the previous template email, received a response from the Electoral Commission rejecting our reasonable request to find out exactly how much work each category of States Member does.

I am fairly disappointed, though not surprised, with the argument that has been put forward to us.

Essentially the commission have tried to side-line us, and have done a very poor job of it.

Here is the response we received -

12th June 2012

Dear Mr. Mezec,

Thank you for your email asking that the Electoral Commission carry out research so as to establish the work actually done by different classes of States member. The Commission considered this request at its meeting yesterday.

As you may know the Commission is working to a very tight time-scale because the States have directed the Commission to present its report before the end of the year. If the Commission was to carry out research for one individual, it would obviously have to agree to do the same for any other individual making such a request. The Commission is unwilling to enter into a commitment of that kind.

All the information which you have requested is publicly available on the States Assembly website ( and the Commission would encourage you to use that information to support any submission that you would like to make.

Yours sincerely,
Mrs. A. Goodyear
Executive Officer to the Electoral Commission

And here is the reply that I sent on, which you might like to copy and paste, edit as you see fit, and send on to show your dismay at the response we received. If you want to write your own response from scratch, please do, it's important that we get our message across -

Dear Anna and members of the Electoral Commission,

Thanks for your response and for the commission taking it's time to consider my request.

Obviously I am disappointed with the response and would be grateful if you could forward my concerns to the commission members.


The commission is not at all being asked to carry out research for one individual. As is clear on the Electoral Commission website, at least 13 "individuals" have contacted the commission asking them to carry out this very specific piece of work. Also, I have read all of the submissions that have so far been been published, and not a single other individual has asked the commission to carry out any other tasks on their behalf. Contrary to the commissions assertions, this is not an individual request. It is a request from a substantial group of people.

The commission has said from the start that it intends to be a "peoples commission" and take the views from the public and so it really seems hypocritical to then deny a sensible and reasonable request by a substantial number of people. I would agree with the commission that they can't carry out every individual request if they received many, but they have only received one request, and they have received it many times.

But I also take issue with the suggestion that such a piece of research would in anyway detract from the work the commission is currently doing. The task of compiling how much work each category of states member does is relatively simple and could be done in an afternoon and, most importantly, would not need to be done by the commission members themselves, for they could easily delegate it to another states body, such as the Greffe.

The information we requested is either not on the States Assembly website, or if it is it is hidden somewhere not obvious or is undecipherable. The whole point in us asking for the information, was not necessarily for us as individuals to use it, but so the public at large had easy access to a clear and coherent document outlining the facts and statistics. It is important that the public has this, and it currently does not, which has no doubt led to some of the uninformed and incorrect observations I have read in some of the current submissions.

Therefore, I am very dissatisfied with the reasoning behind the rejection of my proposition and would like it to be reconsidered or a better explanation provided.

Samuel Mézec

As I hope I have adumbrated clearly in my response, the reasoning that the commission has given us was totally inadequate. The commission has received no "requests" from "individuals" they have only received one request from several people. The work would be undertaken by another body, not the commission itself. And the information is not currently available to the public.  The commission is wrong on all three counts.

Make no mistake, we were rejected because they knew the evidence they would find would destroy any possible case for the Constables to remain as ex-officio States Members.

In the next few days some of us are holding a meeting to discuss what the way forward from here is and, as always, I will keep you up to date.


Sunday, 3 June 2012

What better way to celebrate the Jubilee than by letting Her Majesty retire?

So it's Jubilee weekend and I feel like being a party pooper. The Union Jacks are hanging from every pub, flowers are set up everywhere and we are all looking forward to a few days off work. What better time to explain why we should have none of it and abolish the Monarchy instead?

I was inspired to write this blog after a brief drive through St Ouens past the Parish Hall the other day and saw all of the Jubilee decorations and just felt like puking over how people could be so excited for something so utterly unimportant when there are far greater things we could celebrate. A few weeks ago there was an episode of BBC Question Time where an audience member asked if this would be a good year to abolish the Monarchy and I was astounded by the ignorance of all opinions expressed by everyone (panel and audience) on the basic facts of the Monarchy and how it works as a system.

Let me first start by saying, don't get me wrong, I love the Queen. She's a wonderful woman who has done fantastic things for this country (and the other Commonwealth Realms) and she, as an individual, is a huge asset who has generally done a very good job at what is a rubbish job to have. But this can't be an argument for having all of her heirs and successors to be our future head of state, because there are no safe guards in case one of her children is incompetent or, worse, active and interfering.

This is an issue of democracy and specifically that there is an alternative system that would suit us much better. There are of course the usual philosophical arguments made in favour of abolishing the Monarchy about how it's an unfair hereditary system etc, but I don't really want to dwell on that, because I'd rather focus on the issues of pragmatism.

It is often said that the Queen doesn't possess any actual power, but theoretically this is not the case. All power in Britain is divided between Parliament and the Crown. But the convention is that the Crown does not exercise these powers (known as the Royal Prerogative) and instead it is effectively exercised by the Prime Minister. The Queen only exercises her powers (like declaring war or dissolving Parliament) on the advice of the Prime Minister. She would never dream of unilaterally exercise her powers because she has no democratic legitimacy.

If the Queen decided to exercise power there would be a constitutional crisis and the country would be in chaos. The last time that a monarch vetoed legislation was in 1707. So her power is theoretical, rather than actual. But then this poses the question, why on Earth do we even bother with the title of Head of State when that Head of State doesn't get the opportunity to act like one?

Instead, we have someone who, when it comes to her political powers, is essentially a puppet of a here today, gone tomorrow Prime Minister who only ever uses the Royal Prerogative powers for their own political gain. For example, the Queen retains the right to dissolve parliament and call an election, but she only ever does so on the advice of the Prime Minister. This means that the PM can call an election depending on what he thinks the results will be, rather than what time is best for the country. For example, Tony Blair called the election in 2001 a year early, because he knew he would definitely win it if it was held then. Gordon Brown didn't call an election after the expenses scandal (despite a huge public appetite for one) because he knew he would definitely lose. This is not the basis these sorts of things should be decided on.

If we had an elected head of state, they could be above this petty politics, and decide things like election dates independently of the whims of politicians. And because they wouldn't be intertwined with the parliamentary scandals, they could intervene at select moments to ensure parliament is kept in order. For example, the Queen should have called an election straight after the expenses scandal, but she couldn't because she doesn't have democratic accountability or a mandate. The power to declare war is technically the head of states, but the PM exercises it, so an elected head of state could have avoided the Iraq war like the vast majority of the British people wanted.

Some argue that it is fine for the Prime Minister to exercise all these powers on the Queens behalf, because he was democratically chosen by the public. I retort simply with two words - David Cameron. Our current Prime Minister is pursuing a political agenda which he has absolutely no democratic mandate to carry out. The British people did not pick him to be Prime Minister (if we had a proportionate voting system, Gordon Brown would still be Prime Minister, with Nick Clegg as his deputy... sounds scary, but it would be better than what we have now). If we had a President, they could have overseen the process of forming a coalition, and could dissolve it when they got out of line. Instead, this is left to the Prime Minister who has a vested interest.

One of the panel on Question Time a few weeks ago was David Davis. Now, obviously I have a lot of ideological problems with him, because he is a Tory, but he was someone who I did have some respect for because he was generally quite principled (he resigned his seat and ministers position to fight a by-election on the issue of 42 day detention). But he said something just so inherently ridiculous it really has to be answered. He said that the Monarchy was a "protection against dictatorship". He must be joking, he just has to be. Has he ever heard of a guy called Benito Mussolini? He wasn't the Fuhrer or President of Italy, he was the Prime Minister, under an Italian King who did nothing to stop him. Monarchies can actually be unhelpful for overthrowing a dictatorship. If a dictator rose in Britain, the Queen would do nothing about it, like she has never done anything about anything else, because that's what she does; nothing. An elected President with reserve powers would have authority to throw out a Prime Minister who got too dictatorial.

Our Prime Minister has too much power and is too unaccountable.

Now, obviously there are a million different models of Republic we could choose, and people would be right to point out the flaws in all of them, so there's legitimate debate to be had about which system would be best for us. I'd rule out the American version because it is too different from what we have now and doesn't have enough democratic safeguards. I'd be split between choosing the Irish system or the French system.

The Irish system is a non-executive position for someone who is to be above politics and not a part of the system any more, just to be the representative for the country with some reserve powers for emergencies. Imagine President Joanna Lumley, or President Stephen Fry? How awesome that would be! Or the French system where they still have a Prime Minister and power is split. Or we could have a Prime Minister that focuses on domestic issues and a President for foreign affairs. I am a Labour voter, but I don't particularly like their foreign policies, so when I vote I am voting for a party I only half agree with. With that Presidential system I could tailor my votes for different purposes. Can't get more democratic than that.

Now a few misconceptions....

The Monarchy does NOT bring in tourism. This is just a silly argument that people so often say without any evidence to back it up. One of my favourite places in the world is the beautiful city of Paris. There is nothing I enjoy more than wondering round the Louvres and the Palace of Versailles. I wouldn't be able to do that (and pay a nice entry fee!) if France still had it's monarchy. People visit London and Britain because of it's culture, it's sights and it's attractions (it's not the weather, obviously) and we would still have all of this without the monarchy. People still go visit the Tower of London even though it's not a dungeon any more! Chuck them out of Buckingham Palace and people will flock to London to get inside the building and see what it's like.

We were told last year that the Royal wedding was going to boost the economy, yet the actual figures were negative growth, and I'll bet it'll be the same this Jubilee quarter!

One of the arguments in favour of keeping her is that she is great value for money. This is simply not true. Obviously Presidents with lots of executive power, like the Presidents of France and America do cost more, but most symbolic Presidents (like Ireland or Germany) are far cheaper. The figure is often said that she costs 62p person, but this figure is silly because it doesn't take into account security costs. The President of Ireland is hugely respected and admired and he barely costs the Irish Republic a penny.

So, I wish her and her family well, and maybe they'd like to stick around for those that want them, but so long as they lose all their legal and political roles, Britain (and the other Commonwealth Realms) could do a lot better. Our democracy is severely lacking in certain areas, and this is one simple way problems could be rectified. I know that my point of view is incredibly unpopular right now, so I may as well be banging my head against a brick wall, but lets see how things pan out. King Charles III?.... I think he may one day make my position a lot more popular!