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.