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.


  1. Sam

    Check-out the Jersey Electoral Commission's twitter feed - and see who they're following.

    When I checked today, the Commission was following 116 feeds - about 100 of which were corporate, commercial interests - including a substantial amount of Jersey's army of whores, er, sorry, spin-doctors.


    1. So what?
      The Island moves on SS just like everything else and thats whether you like it or not.

  2. To the Anonymous that asked me if I was aware of certain things -

    Thanks for your comment, there was nothing wrong with asking it. But I don't really want to publish it because I'd like to keep those two parts of my life as separate as possible so I can act professional and keep any conflicts out of the way.

    In short, I am aware, so I make sure I refrain from commenting on certain things to make sure I never say anything inappropriate.

    1. Again to the Anonymous that responded.

      As I said before, I keep professional and personal stuff completely separate and make sure I am not a part of any conversations on any matter that could compromise my ability to carry out a job well. I understand your concern, but do trust me on this, I know what is expected of me and I have never done anything that would make certain people uncomfortable.

      But it might be worth reading articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

  3. Sam I think you and others who are getting hung up about this template are missing the point. The Comission is now hearing evidence and getting lots of answers on its website every day. You have tweaked that Pierre Horsfall has given a very good written submission and I have just read that and seen that he recommends getting rid of the Constables and having a much more democrativ system. That is surely what you and others should be doing - the Comission is clearly going to ignore your moaning about the template and you would be better making submissions to influence the outcome. At the end of the day the Comission's recommendations have to go for a referendum and even if Philip Bailhache wants to hijack it he won't be able to tell people how to vote. The more decent submissions the Comission gets the more chance they will be under morale pressure to listen. I will be writing my submission this weekend and I recommend that you don't send any more templates in as they will obviously just be ignored. Martin Cooke.

    1. Thanks for your comment Martin.

      I agree that the submissions will be what is important and the next step from here is to campaign for a specific type of reform and encourage as many people as possible to write in. I'm in the process of setting up a group and organising some public meetings, so more news on this as it develops!

      With my previous email, the reason I was asking for the research to be done was because I think the answers we would get from the research mean that when it comes round to making our actual submissions, we will be more informed and be able to make suggestions based on facts and statistics. Thus making for much more convincing arguments. As an request, I'd hope that everyone could acknowledge that it was a sensible request.

      Just to give a bit of context to this, you'll see from some of my older blog posts that I was hugely against the Electoral Commission losing it's independence and having States Members put on it (particularly the States Members it ended up being). Given that every attempt at reform by States Members has been a resounding failure, I'm very sceptical that the Commission is going to come up with something valid.

      When the Bailache reforms are eventually proposed, I'm very worried that they will be voted through, not because they are good proposals (I'm sure that they won't be) but because the current system is so rubbish that anything would be better. And once that referendum is won, it will be portrayed as a resounding endorsement and used as an excuse to take reform off of the agenda for years.

      The reason the templates have been used (even though there would inevitably be detractors) was because it is hard evidence to be used later which proves that the Commission was not really interested in listening to the people.

      I hope I'm proved wrong on this, but we'll see. As it stands, the majority of proposals to the Commission have recommended getting rid of the Constables. I'll be astounded if that aspect makes it to the final proposal though, even with great submissions such as Pierre Horsfalls.

      There won't be actual templates from now, but we will be starting a campaign under a proper banner, which will no doubt face detractors too.