Monday, 23 July 2012

Reform Jersey

So, the time has come to officially announce the formation of a pressure group "Reform Jersey" to campaign for meaningful electoral reform in Jersey.

Reform Jersey is a non-politically affiliated group that is seeking to promote a united vision for reform in Jersey and actively engage with people across the island and encourage them to take part in the reform process so that their voices are heard and we make the Electoral Commission deliver on their promise for reform.

Reform Jersey believes that it is fundamental that any reform of the composition of the States Assembly must encompass these three principles:
  1. Each States Member should represent the same number of people.
  2. Each voter should have the same number of votes.
  3. The system must be simple and user friendly.

The system we currently have encompasses none of these principles, yet they are fundamental for ensuring that everyone in Jersey is adequately represented.

Essentially, this will mean that Jersey will be split into several multi-member super-constituencies, each covering the same population and each with the same number of members. We feel that this is the best way for islanders to make sure no one has more of a say than anyone else, each area will have equal representation and everyone will have the maximum say that is practically possible. It also means that there will be one type of States Member, and the Constables will remain as solely the heads of their Parish, rather than having their current dual role.

Over the next couple of weeks, we are aiming to deliver leaflets to as many houses in Jersey as possible (we are looking for volunteers, so please get in touch if you want to help!) to spread the word and encourage people to make their voices heard by writing into the commission and arguing for those three principles. You can see an online copy of the leaflet by clicking on the "Reform Jersey" tab on the navigation bar.

As well as that, on the 30th July we are holding a public meeting at the Town Hall to discuss reform. There will be a panel of speakers, politicians, former politicians, academics and mere mortals, as well as an opportunity for members of the public to express their views, ask questions and hopefully get a good debate going. More speakers are to be confirmed, but so far I can announce that we have former deputy and father of the Electoral Commission Daniel Wimberley, current Deputy Roy Le Hérissier, as well as myself.

So if all of this interests you, there are 4 things you can do -
  1. Attend our public meeting at 7pm on the 30th July at the Town Hall.
  2. Write to the commission at and argue for those three principles!
  3. Join our facebook group at and follow us on twitter @ReformJersey.
  4. Get in contact with us at, call me on 07797 811130 or send me a message on this blog (if you don't mind it being public).
The campaign officially starts now! So comrades, join me, gather your friends and lets make this happen!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Daniel Wimberley's submission to the Electoral Commission

Just a post to reproduce Daniel Wimberley's first submission to the Electoral Commission in which he addresses the commissions response to our request for more information as well as outlining his other problems with how the commission is working right now. I endorse every word he says.

I gave evidence to the commission on Monday. It was incredibly clear that by far the most valuable members of the commission were the non-States Members. They asked the best questions, they seemed to be the most informed (Deputy Baker didn't even know how many deputies St Helier has) and appeared to be the most engaged in the process (Senator Bailhache was an hour late).

The transcript will be available soon and I will post it here. But in the next few days there is going to be an announcement on a new campaign group for all of this. More details, hopefully on Monday!




Submission No: 175

From: Mr. D. Wimberley

Dated: 13 July 2012



Daniel Wimberley

Friday, 13 July 2012

- - - - - - - - -

Before writing my main submission I would be grateful for answers to the following questions:

1 Will the commission conduct research to find out how much work is done by the different classes of member we currently have in the States, and publish the results soon in a form that is accurate, clear and transparent?

The reason for this is simple – the public need to know this, obviously, if they are to make an informed judgement about the current classes of member, and which ones might be kept and which not.

I am aware that you have been asked to do this by a number of people already. I would add my voice to theirs. I never seem to read in the JEP of proposals brought to the States by Constables (with the exception of Constable Crowcroft) . They never seem to be taking the lead in Scrutiny. The reports of questions rarely feature their names. Very few were or are Ministers.

It is obviously vitally important for the review of the composition of the States that you find out the truth on this. Only with this information can an informed view be taken.

I also request that you publish the results quickly, (especially as it is not a difficult piece of research to do) in time for further debate and analysis to take place amongst the public.

This request is perfectly reasonable You have rejected this request with arguments that are manifestly absurd and throw into doubt the credibility and good faith of the Commission.

In other words, if the arguments you advance are so nonsensical then the question arises – what is the real reason for the refusal?

You have said a) that if you were to grant one request for you to do something, then you would have to grant all other requests. And following on from this, you have said b) that there would not be enough time to do that. (More precisely you have implied that – for the exact wording of the form reply which was sent out by the Commission, see footnote 1

On your reason a) for not doing the research, the simple point to make is that you have received no other requests, so this sounds rather like a pathetic excuse. But more importantly, does the commission have a brain? Are you really saying that you have to do anything which anyone asks you to do? No, you make the judgement about whether the request is a good one and should be granted.

A moment’s thought shows reason a) to be utter nonsense. Imagine a teacher who said to little Johnny asking to go to the toilet, “no, sorry son, you cannot go, because if I said yes, then I would have to say yes to the next person in the class, whatever they ask me, like, say, ‘can we all go home now?’ “ Or a judge never granting a lawyer’s request on the basis that he would then have to grant all the requests made by that lawyer. Absurd!

No the teacher and the judge decide each request on the merits of the case. And so should the Commission. All you have to ask yourselves is: is this request well-founded? Does it help the public to understand the issues? Is it feasible? Is it not inordinately expensive? The answer to all three questions is yes, and so you should agree to do this research

If just one person had asked you to do it, then if it is the right thing to do, then you should agree to do it. However it does give added weight to the request that many people have made it.

In response to your reason b), again this is palpable nonsense. Did you ask for an estimate of how long this research would take? How come there is time to ask experts to produce reports for the Commission, but not time for this simple piece of work to be done?

So, to recap, the question is:

“Will the commission conduct research to find out how much work is done by the different classes of member we currently have in the States, and publish the results in a form that is accurate, clear and transparent?”

You have suggested that members of the public do this research themselves, in their own time. You are the Commission, and you have the administrative support, and the budget which allows for this research to be done.


“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.”I can offer to carry this out on your behalf, to a properly agreed specification, in a neutral and correct manner. My research drew frequent praise in the States and I know my way around! It is not difficult, but it is time-consuming. I estimate that the collection and tabulating the data would take between two and three weeks. For a full description of what this research should include, please see Appendix 1.

2 Your consultation document entitled “The reform of Jersey’s States assembly” goes through the classes of member one by one and says a few words about the number of members in the States. There is no explicit mention or discussion of the fundamental principles of electoral reform or of the purposes of having elections, and so there is no context to help people understand the issues and come to a view. Why is this?

Why are we doing this reform? Elections have a purpose. Without a purpose, the discussion of more or less of this or that class of member is meaningless. Without such a context how can people understand the issues? And if they do not get to grips with the issues, then they are unlikely to modify their positions, which will be essential if we are to create a reasonable consensus on the way forward.


There are also certain fundamental principles underlying elections. For example “Every schoolchild in Germany is taught that elections to the German Bundestag are general, direct, free, equal and secret. But what does that mean in practice?” (From

If the relevant fundamental principles had been worked on by the Commission and stated in the consultation document, then the public would have had a framework to guide their thinking, or with which to disagree.


For ease of reference I have described these purposes as follows. The first is “to arrive at a representative Assembly which accurately and fairly reflects the wishes of the people, so far as this is possible.” (Report for P15/2011paragraph 1.) As I am sure you are aware, this is not just a matter of proportionality.

And the second purpose is to pass a verdict on the government and to have a say in the formation of that government. I stated this purpose in my opening speech on P15/2011:

“A member of the public said to me as I was preparing for all this, he said to me: ‘I do sometimes think it is not worth voting, it is just a waste of time, it is not going to make any difference.’ That was not from someone who wants to be put off the electoral process, it was from a politically interested retired worker from the finance industry. He also said: ‘Many of my friends have come to that conclusion, they do not vote, I still do.’ So he has not lost hope, but I think we need to listen to that cry quite carefully because he is telling us something very important. There should be a link between the vote or votes the voter casts in the polling booth and the end result that matters most to voters, which is who gets to have decision making powers in their jurisdiction. But in Jersey, as things stand, the public does not vote the Government in or out and this weakens the mandate of Ministers and the Chief Minister. They cannot tell the world honestly that they or their colleagues have won the election. They do not have direct legitimacy from the voters.”

Hansard for debate on P15/2011 (my emphasis)

A fuller statement of this function of the electoral process is at P15 Amd. (2) Report page 3 section “Amendment 1”:So why are the fundamental principles and the purposes of holding elections nowhere to be seen in your consultation? A consultation on an issue such as electoral reform, without context being given, is likely to produce a shotgun effect of responses.

And if the answer is that you were waiting for your experts to advise you on these matters, then why was the consultation launched before the public could be given the benefit of that advice?

3 Has the issue of “how do we promote a debate on electoral reform throughout society,” ever been on the Commission’s Agenda? If so, what strategy has been agreed?

Promoting such a debate is absolutely vital if the Commission is to succeed in devising a package which will command public acceptance. I explained this in my response to the former PPC’s consultation paper R54/2011 on possible options for the Electoral Commission.

The chairman has seen this document as it was sent as an attachment to the memorandum which I sent to the current PPC on January 9 th this year, and which was minuted as “noted” by that committee.

However, in case members of the Commission have not seen it, I attach it to this submission. See especially sections 2 and 3. This quote gives a flavour of the content:

“3.5 So, that is the first aspect – a Commission which goes out of its way to engage with the public, indeed sees that engagement as essential to its success”

4 Has the issue of “what are the fundamental principles of electoral reform?” ever been on the Agenda, and if so, where can the public see the outcome of those discussions?

It is difficult to see how you can conduct hearings without having overtly considered this.

Of course I am not saying that those discussions would lead you to firm conclusions. I am saying that it is difficult for you to develop an intelligent approach to questioning those giving their views to the Commission without having considered these issues beforehand.

And these fundamental principles should have figured in the Consultation leaflet (see Question 2, above)

5 Have any of the expert advisers mentioned in your Minutes of your first meeting on May 17 th been appointed? If not, why not? If so, who are they? And what work have they been asked to do?

6 Will their work be published as soon as it is completed?

7 Why was the public consultation begun before the expert critique of the present system and other work had been completed and available to the public?

This is the normal procedure. For example the consultation on the future of the Health Service was preceded by expert analysis of the issues facing Jersey, and rightly so. How can the public be expected to give their views without a clear statement of the issues involved?

8 What steps have you taken to ensure that your processes and methodology are free from bias, as far as this is possible? Other bodies with important jobs to do, particularly jobs where bias or perceived bias is an important issue, take great care to ensure freedom from bias. For example the Appointments Commission, which has to be scrupulously free from bias and seen to be so, has the following four guiding principles:

“Recruitment principles:

- Prospective applicants must be given equal and reasonable access to adequate information about the job and its requirements and about the selection process;

- Selection techniques must be reliable and guard against bias;

- Selection must be based on objective criteria applied consistently to all candidates;

- Applicants must be considered equally on merit at each stage of the selection process.”

(JERSEY APPOINTMENTS COMMISSION, RECRUITMENT CODE, Version 3, March 2012, section 1.1, my emphases)

Again I covered the importance of this and how it could be resolved in my response to the former PPC’s consultation paper R54/2011 on possible options for the Electoral Commission (attached). See section 6 entitled “INDEPENDENCE”

The way that the appearance of any bias could be avoided and a fair process be guaranteed is set out clearly in my memorandum to PPC of January 9 tthis year, at Paragraphs 29 – 33. I attach this memorandum, again in case members of the Commission have not seen it.


Question 1 is a substantive request and needs no further comment. But the other questions are about process. How is the Commission carrying out its task?


I ask these questions for two reasons.

First, in order to prepare my main submission I feel that I need to know how the Commission is approaching its task. Otherwise it is difficult to decide what to say or how to say it. Second, the answers to these questions, which concern how the Commission is approaching its task are matters of public interest.


You could always walk away like our Comptroller and Auditor General when his process was questioned!

But surely it is better to simply face up to the implied criticism and justify your position.There is considerable disquiet about the way the Commission was set up. In total disregard of the original intention that the Commission be “independent” it is now dominated by politicians. In total disregard of the original intention that the Commission be comprehensive and tackle the issue of electoral reform in the round, the Terms of Reference were cut in half.

So these questions are a sort of check-up: can the public believe the Commission is acting in good faith? How is the Commission doing its job? I case you might be tempted to resist answering these questions, I would remind you that the Nolan principles developed by the Committee for Standards in Public life state, inter alia:
• Accountability Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

• Openness Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands it I have taken great care with this letter. I am sure that I need not remind you of how important it is for Jersey that we get this matter of electoral reform right. I look forward to your reply.

Daniel Wimberley

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



MEMORANDUM to Constable Simon Crowcroft, chair of PPC and all members of PPC,

January 9



The research I am asking for would include

How many propositions of substance;

I add the words “of substance” to allow for nuances to be taken into account between

propositions and amendments which most would see as frivolous or vexatious, and “real”

propositions. The research would probably have to include a totals figure and one with the 2

frivolous or vexatious” ones removed. In practise, the difference would be tiny.

How many written Questions?

How many Oral Questions?

How many Written Questions?

How many supplementary Questions in oral question time?

How many questions in question time without notice??

How many contributions to debates (excluding mere interjections)

Again “contributions” is liable to different interpretations. Does “I agree with most of what has

been said and I suggest we should get on with it” count as a substantial contribution to a

debate? A similar solution to that described above would have to be adopted here also,

listing total contributions and then contributions under certain qualifications.

How many Scrutiny reports have different classes of member actively worked on?

Note the word “actively.” It is one thing to be listed as a member of a scrutiny panel. It is

quite another to actually turn up to meetings of the panel, and it is another again to take an

active part in hearings and in the drafting of the final report. (non-States members of the

Commission might indeed be surprised at the differences!)

How many serve as Ministers or Assistant Ministers?

What other work is carried out?

This covers work such as sitting on bodies such as the Planning Applications Panel or the

Bailiff’s Advisory panel. This work would have to be weighted in order for comparisons to be

made. This would be difficult as it requires objective (!) assessments from people who have

performed these roles (if the roles are not well-known and not carried out in public) COMMENTS RE R54 “ELECTORAL COMMISSION: POSSIBLE OPTIONS”

Daniel Wimberley


First, can I say a warm thank you to PPC for putting out some preliminary thoughts

fairly speedily and then inviting comment, before you move further with this. Definitely

the right way to proceed.

Second, I believe that there is a firm principle standing above this whole process, and

that is that the final decision rests with the people of Jersey.

I know that technically the States will debate the proposal for reform that emerges

from the work of the ECC and phrase a question for the referendum, and that

question could refer to a package different from that put forward by the commission.

Technically they can even refuse to put the reform package to a referendum.

Technically they can then ignore a massive vote in favour of the proposed change, if

that were to happen.

I believe that it should be made quite clear, starting now, and at all stages of the

process that what we are trying to do is meet the needs of the people of Jersey. We

have to set this out from the start, to limit the danger which you yourselves refer to, at

the foot of page 5, where you write:

“If the Electoral Commission were to recommend fundamental and farreaching changes to the composition of the Assembly PPC is concerned that

any future States Assembly may simply decided to ignore the

recommendations, or amend them beyond recognition so that the entire work

and cost of the Commission would be wasted.”So the idea that it is the public who come first, and not the various vested interests

within the States, should be clearly signalled within any report coming from PPC on

this matter. It should be repeated during the debate on the ECC within the Business

Plan debate. And it should be clearly stated when recruiting to the ECC.

Local members of the ECC will be giving a substantial voluntary commitment of time

and effort to their island. They therefore have a legitimate expectation that the States

will not seek to subvert their work or run it into the sand. They therefore should be

given as clear a guarantee as it is possible to give, that their work will be respected

and honoured.

There is of course a quid pro quo. In return members of the Commission must be

under no illusion that their job is not to justify any prejudices they may bring to the

task, but to actively seek out the best solution, and actively use methods which will

guarantee public engagement and acceptance.

There is another reason that the primacy of the people’s wishes should be made

clear from the outset. I am sure we all agree that the process has to engage the

public. If it is to succeed in doing this, then we have to make it absolutely clear that

this is for real, that we want to hear the public, that we will go out to the public, and

that at the end of the day we will be fair with the public.


The end result must be accepted by the public. It is important to think a bit round

what that realistically means. What is this “acceptance” that we would all wish to


I do not think it means that every single person on the island will agree. It does

however imply, first that all islanders (bar the inevitable sceptics-about-everything)

are satisfied that the process was both thorough and fair, and that therefore, even if

they do not agree with the final package as put forward by the ECC, they accept that

it was fairly arrived at. Then, if that package gains a majority in the referendum, they

will give consent to it. They may disagree with it, but they will accept it.

This is not a trivial matter. It is vital that any new voting arrangements are not the

source of ongoing bitterness and resentment and accusations that the whole

exercise was “rigged.” We are after all talking about the government of the island

going forward for decades.

And second, a good majority should be satisfied that the proposal would be an

improvement on current arrangements, preferably, a big improvement. Of course,

because without such a “good majority” the package will fall at the hurdle of the


And then, the end result must be accepted also by the States. Again, States

members will need to be satisfied that the process was fair and thorough. They will

also need to be convinced that the package as put forward by the ECC is acceptable

to the public. If it is not, then the referendum is indeed pointless..

I do assume good faith in this matter on the part of the States. Some may question

this. Will not the vested interests, whichever they may be, arise once again? I

reiterate the point I made in the introduction. PPC, Ministers and all of us have to

say, so often and so loud, that we will on this occasion keep faith with the public, that

backsliding becomes very difficult.

HOW TO ACHIEVE ACCEPTANCEI think the two words thorough and fair cover the fundamental requirements for

achieving acceptance in a nutshell. I will make a couple of general points here, I

cover specific topics in detail below.

First the ECC should be focussed from the outset on the need to engage with the

public. They must ensure that the public know that the CC exists, that it actively

wants people to come and tell them what they think, and that they are proactively

going out into the community to establish people’s views.

They should deliberately stimulate debate on the issues. For example they should

negotiate with the media to ensure ongoing coverage, so that the progress of the

review is constantly brought to people’s attention, and what the key emerging issues

are, so that the whole process is very much a public process which all are invited to

comment on and participate in. Maybe the CC could build into the process certain

“staging posts” as pegs to hang media interest upon.

PPC writes in its report:

“Although the hope was expressed during the debate that solutions would emerge

from the consultation process to be undertaken by the Commission previous such

consultation exercises undertaken by former Privileges and Procedures Committees

have shown that there are extremely divergent views in the Island on the composition

of the States and it is possibly naïve to imagine that any one single solution will

emerge that would be acceptable to the public or to States members in a future


PPC is right to point out the difficulties. However I do not think we should necessarily

predict the outcome of the work of the CC based on the experience of PPC’s in the

past. The point of setting up a CC is that they will have the resources, the undivided

focus and above all the time to carry out the task. (see the quote from the Chief

Minister below at Para. 5.8)

The process I have outlined is needed to increase understanding of the issues, of the

tradeoffs which can be made between this and that aspect of any package, and I

believe that they should lead ultimately to acceptance in the sense of section 2

above.So, that is the first aspect – a Commission which goes out of its way to engage with

the public, indeed sees that engagement as essential to its success. The second is

that the Commission should demonstrate expertise. We should all be confident that

they either have the necessary grasp of the issues within their membership, or that

they have access to such expertise.

The CC needs at least expertise about the principles behind voting systems and the

technical issues that can arise, about the local considerations which might apply in

Jersey, and about the difficult issues around how one establishes the views of the

public in a non-leading way amongst different sections of the population.

And the third aspect is of course the independence of the ECC. Independent they

must be, and seen to be so. There are, I believe, different ways of achieving this

independence. It is not just a matter of the membership, although that is clearly

important. It is also how they conduct themselves, how they present their activities to

the public,


Establishing public opinion is difficult and contentious, hence my appeal that the ECC

must have expertise in this area or access to expertise. I cover this aspect below in

the section about membership of the CC.

Some thoughts however. First, before the debate I found out from Duncan Gibaut at

the Statistics Unit that their schedule for the annual Social Survey would allow for the

sampling of public opinion in mid 2012, which of course would entail no additional

cost. He wrote: “The schedule will be similar to previous years....questionnaire

design/development in Jan-April....pilot in full survey in June/July....aiming

for results out around December.” Results for that section could presumably be done

first for the benefit of the CC’s work.


I am not saying that the Statistics Unit would develop the questions, merely that they

are a ready-made vehicle for carrying out the pilot and then the actual survey and

tabulating the results. Developing the questions would be a major task for the CC

and require much thought and expert input.

Other work might include focus groups working with different sectors of the

population. Again this requires much thought and expert input. In this way one could

confirm or otherwise the results of the survey, and also conduct qualitative

assessment of the issues, for example, exploring why it is that so many do not vote,

and how that might be remedied, if at all.

Towards the end of the process, elements of the emerging package should somehow

be subjected to testing for acceptability, if at all possible, so that all can know that the

final package is indeed going to pass the great test of the referendum.


I have thought long and hard about this, as you might imagine. I have been

concerned about the cost, and wondered if there was another way to ensure that the

ECC had all the necessary qualities. I was troubled by the range of qualities and

expertise required, and wondered if the best way was to try and have it all “on the

CC” Maybe it was better and more feasible to have the expertise “on tap” so to



NOTE I did not ask specifically about the ECC’s work, simply asked in general

about the timeline for the JASS.I suggest that the qualities needed are

Expertise – of various kinds

Focus, keeping the show on the road

Desire for public engagement


Expertise This is needed in the areas of

electoral systems and voting systems, both the principles and the


how to successfully engage with the public and consultation methods; and

how to shape the discussions within the CC, and create a work programme

which will lead to the acceptable and better result we want to see.

It may be that the best way is to have expertise in these areas on the panel itself, but

it may be more productive, easier, cheaper and actually more transparent to have the

expertise in the first two of these areas at arm’s length in the form of an advisory


The third area of expertise has to be available within the Panel. It is basically the

skill of a good chair – always having an overview of the entire work programme,

ensuring that this programme is robustly discussed with the Panel and agreed, and

then progressed, in a way that keeps everybody, both on the Panel and attending on

the Panel or working with the Panel involved and committed

Desire for public engagement must translate into the selection of the members of

the CC and in their choice of venues for hearings, in their media strategy, in the

execution of that strategy, in their handling of witnesses, in the way they go about

finding out what the public think about this issue and what the public might like to


INDEPENDENCE.Independence And finally, this vital area. Here is what the Chief Minister said in the

debate on the third Amendment to P176:

“One thing which seems to be a common thread throughout many speakers today

has been the desire to have an Electoral Commission. I think for 2 reasons: firstly, it

can look at the whole subject in proper detail and at length, and secondly, because,

as an external body, it will have a greater degree of independence than we seem

to be capable of bringing to it in this Chamber. If there is one thing which maybe we

can learn from this week’s discussions it is that this problem is never going to go

away, but if we had an independent external Commission there is more chance

that something might get resolved in a proper way” (my emphasis, from Hansard

Wednesday 19


January 2011 paragraph 4.5.8

In this context, “independent” means “from outside the island” and also “unbiased”,

“not having a fixed view”. It is not enough to be “non-States”. How essential this is

can quickly be established by reference to Jersey’s normal practice in other areas.

We have our Police externally inspected, our schools are either externally inspected

or their self-assessment is externally validated, and we have just set up external

ongoing review of our Social Work provision.

This is all perfectly normal, indeed essential if impartiality is to be guaranteed. PPC

make the point in this way, when they rightly point out the problem with an all-local


“This option nevertheless has the disadvantage that the local members may all come

with predetermined positions and it may be difficult to identify local residents who

would have the necessary interest and expertise in this subject without bringing


preconceived ideas about the way forward.”

And they repeat that this problem arises with any local members. However the local

members are indispensable for their awareness of local sensitivities and issues, and

for the acceptability of the result. They are also on the spot, and they will find it

instinctively easier to relate to what is being said to them

PPC repeat that this problem arises with any local members. As I thought about this,

I realised that the process has to have outside input. But does that mean on the ECC

or available to the ECC? So in the light of that question, I went through the options in

my mind:

All from the outside




all local + expertise “on tap”All from the outside. This would logically follow from all I have said above about the

absolute need for independence, and to be seen to be independent. But this would a)

give problems with acceptability, it would appear to be a package “imposed from

outside” and b) it excludes local input and awareness from the Panel itself. It is

obviously a non-starter, in spite of apparently being the solution that would give the

most “independence”

3/3 – i.e. a 3-3 split between locals and non-locals. This gives visible

independence and robustness and it has equal representation from locals. But first,

even here there are problems with expertise. The 3 may not have all the specialised

expertise required. And one is limited to what the 6 members have at their disposal.

And secondly, there are the logistical problems set out by PPC. Those with full-time

jobs, for example serving academics, are effectively excluded, restricting the options

to people who are retired, or who are full-time consultants

A 2-2 split between locals and non-locals I feel, as PPC suggest, is too small. It

would limit the range of the debates within the CC and would damage acceptability.

Outside chair and many locals. Again ALL the expertise required is not actually

available in this scenario. In addition the one with the greatest expertise being also

the chair, is not the best way to secure a well-functioning group. In fact what is

essential, the key expertise to have within the ECC is the skill of chairmanship. And

this could as well be provided by a local skilled in this field as by an outsider.

All locals + expertise “on tap” This is now my favoured solution.

It is sure to be cheaper, much cheaper than having expertise on the ECC.

It solves the problems of availability, increasing therefore the range of

expertise we could draw on

Local knowledge and acceptability are not compromised at all

The expert advice drawn on by the Panel would be fully transparent – there

would be a full audit trail of written advice, email exchanges, notes of

discussions between the experts or between the experts and the ECC – more

transparent than unrecorded discussions and advice given within the panel’s


It would ensure that the work of the ECC was quality assured by visibly

independent external experts in a transparent and accountable way.BUYING IN EXPERTISE

The appointments of this “Advisory Board” would be made by a process run by the

Appointments Commission. All the expertise necessary would be available on the


The expert group would meet on the mainland, and/or have email meetings, and

meet with the ECC as required.

They would peer review the agreed process the entire review would follow, challenge

assumptions, and make observations/suggestions

They would peer review the key elements of the work programme, for example the

thinking behind and the execution of any public surveys, or the proposed

methodology of any focus groups

They could write expert papers on particular aspects of the work as required

Importantly, all this work would be public and accountable.

The Advisory Board might provide specific elements of the work programme


Again this process should be supervised by the Appointments Commission.

They should set out in advance clear criteria for the membership and for the desired

balance for the ECC, not just in terms of expertise or interest or known views, and in

terms of their openness and ability to listen, but also in terms of gender and in terms

of age.

I state here what might be seen as the “bleedin’ obvious” just to emphasise really the

need at every stage to ensure that this whole exercise is bullet-proof.

, absolutely fair-and-seen-to-be-fair.MEMORANDUM

To: Constable Simon Crowcroft, chair of PPC

From: Daniel Wimberley

Cc: all members of PPC; Senator Ian Gorst, Chief Minister; Anna Heuston, clerk to PPC;

Michael de la Haye, Greffier of the States

Date: Monday, 09 January 2012

About: PPC suggested proposals to take forward the Electoral Commission


1. I was appalled to read of the package of proposals being considered by PPC with regard to

the Electoral Commission, as reported in the JEP, together with the JEP’s gloss on it which

was that its purpose was to enable Senator Bailhache to become the Electoral Commission


2. As you may imagine I have a particular intense interest in this subject. I write to you as one

who has researched it thoroughly and as one who knows how vital it is that islanders have

a fair and effective electoral system.

3. At this stage this memorandum is private, in the hope that sense will prevail. Also, it may

be that you have been misreported, in which case please make clear in your reply to this

memo exactly where this is so.

4. As reported, I see the PPC basically strangling the baby Electoral Commission at birth, with

i) the suggestion that States members would sit on the Commission, ii) the possibility, and

this is being touted by the JEP as a near-certainty, of Senator Bailhache as the chairman,

and iii) the vital questions of voting systems and electoral functions being excluded from

the Terms of Reference. So what the States agreed, and what the public expects and

deserves, an independent and comprehensive Commission, has been apparently tossed


5. PPC’s suggested proposals will have, I believe, the following consequences:

a) The mistrust and division of the last three years will be immediately rekindled

b) You will seriously undermine Jersey’s credibility and reputation in the world, by showing

that we are unable to set about the review and improvement of our institutions when

they are defective, in a way which is fair and objective and which is seen to be so.

c) You will open the door to criticism of Jersey by whoever might wish to do so. Those, for

example, who might be inclined to criticise the finance Industry will have another stick

to beat Jersey with, and the beating which we will receive will be entirely justified.

6. For PPC to proceed along a path which has any of these consequences would be utterly

irresponsible, let alone all three. Would PPC agree?7. On the assumption that PPC does not actually want these things to happen, the only

defence is that the proposals would not actually have these effects. If that is the view of the

Committee, please as part of the response to this memo, say clearly that you believe that

a), b) and c) above would not happen and state why you think these consequences would

not come to pass. NB Why I think that these are very real risks will become clear in the

rest of this memo.

8. I will address briefly the different aspects of PPC’s reported proposals, and then make

some suggestions.


9. In the debate on P15/2011 “ELECTORAL COMMISSION ESTABLISHMENT” on 15


March 2011 member after member referred to the fact that the States cannot reform its

own constitution. It has achieved some reform, such as a single election day, but the basic

issues of proportionality and fair representation, set out briefly in my Report to P15 and

more fully in my opening speech, remain, as does the failure of our electoral system to

deliver the other function of an election system, which is to enable the voters to cast a

verdict on who they want in government and to cast a verdict on the previous government.

10. When the States does try to carry out major reform it fails, and there is always the

suspicion, or the reality, of vested interests at work. That is why my proposition stressed

the word “independent” – the Electoral Commission must be independent and be seen to

be independent. PPC itself, in its report to the States “ELECTORAL COMMISSION:

PROPOSED STRUCTURE (R110/2011)” wrote: “The process for the selection of members

would, as already agreed by the States, be overseen by the Appointments Commission,

and it will be essential to ensure that those who apply do not come with preconceived ideas

or existing strong views on the matters to be addressed by the Commission.”

11. And here is what our Chief Minister said in the debate on the Third Amendment to P176,

the draft Law which gave legal effect to the decisions taken by the States on 13th October

2010 in relation to the composition and election of the States (P.118/2010). (In adopting

P.118/2010 the States agreed that, over time – · the term of office of all members of the

States should be 4 years; · the single election day for all members should be moved to the

Spring; · the number of Senators should be reduced from 12 to 8)

“One thing which seems to be a common thread throughout many speakers today has

been the desire to have an Electoral Commission. I think for 2 reasons: firstly, it can look

at the whole subject in proper detail and at length, and secondly, because, as an external

body, it will have a greater degree of independence than we seem to be capable of

bringing to it in this Chamber. If there is one thing which maybe we can learn from this

week’s discussions it is that this problem is never going to go away, but if we had an

independent external Commission there is more chance that something might get

resolved in a proper way” (my emphasis, from Hansard Wednesday 19


January 2011

paragraph 4.5.8)

12. The only way that having States members on the Electoral Commission could be made to

be remotely acceptable would be to ensure that the chosen ones had known, strong and

opposing views on the key issues. Thus you would have to have one who was known to be in favour of removing the Constables, one who was known to be in favour of removing the

Senators, and one who was known to be in favour of removing both. And so on.


13. (or indeed, anyone who has expressed strong views on the make-up of the Assembly)

Here we see underlined how extraordinary this proposal to have States members on the

Electoral Commission actually is. A man who has expressed in his election campaign

strong and specific views on what the States should look like, and who has said that an

Electoral Commission is actually unnecessary as “the answer is staring us in the face”

( could end up

as chair of the Commission, and indeed, if the JEP is to be believed, is the Chief Minister’s

nominee for the job.

14. How can such a person be seen to be impartial? How can he “secure the greatest possible

acceptance by the public of any new arrangements proposed” as the proposition setting up

the Electoral Commission states must happen? The answer must be that it is impossible. It

follows that such a person cannot be chair of the Commission – it’s as simple as that.

Please will PPC make it clear that this is unacceptable.

15. If PPC disagree with this conclusion and do nothing to stop this from happening, I would

ask that they explain how the appearance of impartiality is achieved under such a


16. Note that I am assuming that the PPC wants the Electoral Commission to be a fair,

thorough, impartial and independent body which is trying to reach the best solution and

which will be seen by all islanders to be exactly that. That is the only way that public

acceptance of the results of the work of the Commission can be achieved. NB By “public

acceptance” I do not mean that “everyone will agree with their conclusions”. I refer PPC

members to section 2 of the submission which I made to PPC’s consultation report

R54/2011, which is attached to this memo, which explains what this goal of “public

acceptability” really means.


17. Voting systems are fundamental to having a fair electoral system. For example, even if

present single-member constituencies are maintained in the UK there is a massive

difference in the effects of the various voting systems: FPTP (First Past The Post); AM

(Alternative member); and the different forms of STV. (see, for example:

18. Derek Bernard has written excellent papers about the importance of these matters in the

Jersey context. I quoted from these in the unofficial Addendum which I circulated to

members shortly before the debate. I attach this Addendum for PPC members

convenience, Mr. Bernard’s comments are on the last page.

19. Voting systems are an integral part of electoral systems. To exclude them is completely

absurd. 20. Furthermore, the Electoral Commission must, as a matter of principle, tackle the electoral

system in the round. At paragraph (a) of P15 the States “agreed that an independent

Electoral Commission should be established in Jersey to investigate and report on all (my

emphasis) aspects of the composition of the elected membership of the States Assembly

and the election and voting processes for such members . . . ”

21. I explained why this is so in my opening speech; “it has to be comprehensive. The

piecemeal approach that we have seen for 10 years has led to hours and hours of debate,

more heat than light, and the linkages get obscured. A case in point is the recent debate on

Senators where we went from 12 to 8, and there was the fact that we have chosen to

reduce the only class of Member, which at the moment is truly proportional, the class for

which most people vote and the class of Member we know to be most popular with the

public. Now, I do not want to revisit that debate, I am just saying that is a result of the way

we have tackled these amendments one by one. But I do maintain that this has raised

questions out there about whether the decision was properly reached and the piecemeal

nature of how we make these decisions. The Commission has to be comprehensive, there

is no point in looking at this aspect or that aspect of our electoral system. To attempt to do

so reignites all the old accusations about vested interest, so that is why that first sentence

is there.” (Hansard of 15/3/2011)


22. Again, the Terms of Reference must include these, for two reasons. First a little hurdle

(which may apply to all of PPC’s proposals): the Deputy Bailiff said these words during the

debate on P15: “The extent of the work of the Electoral Commission is set by paragraph (a)

of the proposition and the terms of reference are obligatorily set in paragraph (b) in the

appendix” (For your convenience, I have copied the context in this endnote



23. Second, we cannot leave to one side the issue of what elections offer to voters in most

democracies and which they fail to offer in Jersey. I covered this point in my opening


“A member of the public said to me as I was preparing for all this, he said to me: “I do

sometimes think it is not worth voting, it is just a waste of time, it is not going to make any

difference.” That was not from someone who wants to be put off the electoral process, it

was from a politically interested retired worker from the finance industry. He also said:

“Many of my friends have come to that conclusion, they do not vote, I still do.” So he has

not lost hope, but I think we need to listen to that cry quite carefully because he is telling us

something very important. There should be a link between the vote or votes the voter casts

in the polling booth and the end result that matters most to voters, which is who gets to

have decision making powers in their jurisdiction. But in Jersey, as things stand, the public

does not vote the Government in or out and this weakens the mandate of Ministers and the

Chief Minister. They cannot tell the world honestly that they or their colleagues have won

the election. They do not have direct legitimacy from the voters.”

24. A fuller statement of this function of the electoral process is at P15 Amd. (2) Report page 3

section “Amendment 1”. I reproduce this section at endnote


25. Third, the argument of paragraphs 20 and 21 above applies here also – the Electoral

Commission must be comprehensive in its approach.26. As with voting systems, this cannot be omitted from the work of the Electoral Commission.


27. PPC should draw back from these proposals. The consequences which I outlined in

paragraph 5 above would be politically disastrous.

28. In addition there is the issue of expert input. It is mentioned by PPC in their R110 and it has

to happen in some form or other, and yet it appears nowhere in the JEP’s coverage. Does

PPC really think we can do without?

29. The former PPC’s summary of my submission to them on this topic reads: “a better

structure would be for an all-local Commission assisted by an Advisory Panel of experts

from outside Jersey. In this way, there would hopefully be greater acceptance of the

Commission membership within the Island with no concerns about a solution being

imposed by ‘outsiders’, but the local members would nevertheless be able to draw on

advice and guidance from the Panel of experts, who would peer-review the Commission’s

work” (R110/2011, page 4)

30. This is the most cost-effective way of having access to the necessary expertise. The costs

of flights and accommodation are avoided, as are the costs and complications involved in

making arrangements which involve splicing in the availability of outsiders for meetings and


31. The advantages of having expertise provided NOT inside the Commission are as follows:

• It is sure to be cheaper, much cheaper than having expertise on the Electoral


• It solves the problems of availability, increasing therefore the range of expertise we

could draw on

• Local knowledge and acceptability are not compromised at all

• The expert advice drawn on by the Panel would be fully transparent – there would

be a full audit trail of written advice, email exchanges, notes of discussions between the

experts or between the experts and the Electoral Commission – more transparent than

unrecorded discussions and advice given within the panel’s discussions.

• It would ensure that the work of the Electoral Commission was quality assured by

visibly independent external experts in a transparent and accountable way

32. To be absolutely clear: the experts do not decide anything. They do not dictate anything.

But they do ensure that the local members of the Electoral Commission are fully aware of

the key issues and they provide an independent check and balance to the process. For

example, attempts to effectively gerrymander elections by packing or cracking would be

pointed out and resisted. You are not aware of what I am talking about? Exactly.

33. All is completely transparent. The public will be able to see what the Advisory panel’s

advice was on any given point, and whether or not it was accepted and the reasons given

by the Electoral Commission as to why the advice was accepted or rejected. Who could object to this, if they wished to guarantee objectivity and acceptability and try to get the

best possible result?


34. I look forward to the response of the Committee to this memorandum, in particular I request

that the questions which I pose at Paragraphs 6 and 7 and 15 and 28 are answered please,

and the point at paragraph 3 responded to if it applies.

35. I have taken much time and effort over this document, after recovering from the shock of

reading the item in the JEP. Improving our electoral system is of the utmost importance for

the well-being of islanders. I hope you accept these words in the spirit in which they are

intended – please draw back from proposals which if correctly reported will do serious

damage to the reputation of the States within the island and to the reputation of the island

in the wider world.


9.6.1 Senator B.E. Shenton: “It was just to point out to the Assembly, subject to having these

amendments go through, what we are now voting on is just the principle of having an Electoral Commission

subject to funding being found in the Business Plan. That is it. We are not here to discuss how it is going to

be constructed or anything else. That will all come back. P.P.C. will consult on it. It should be fairly

straightforward. You either want an independent Electoral Commission or you do not.

The Deputy Bailiff: I am not sure, Senator, that that is entirely accurate. [Laughter]

Senator B.E. Shenton: It was wishful thinking, Sir.

The Deputy Bailiff: The extent of the work of the Electoral Commission is set by paragraph (a) of the

proposition and the terms of reference are obligatorily set in paragraph (b) in the appendix” (Hansard



“Amendment 1

This first Amendment and its partner Amendment 2(i) add few words, but they are very significant.

Elections have 2 main functions – the first is to enable the voters to decide who represents them in the

representative assembly of their jurisdiction. This should be achieved by fair and equal representation. In

Jersey this is manifestly not the case, and I covered this in my original report and proposition.

The second is to enable the electorate to cast a verdict on who they want in government and to cast a

verdict on the previous government. It is this aspect which, although implied in the original report and

proposition1 needs to be made explicit. There should be a link between the vote or votes the voter casts in

the voting booth and the end result that matters most to voters which is: who gets to have decision-making

powers in their jurisdiction.

However in Jersey, as things stand, the public does not vote the government in or out. This system has the

effect of weakening the mandate of Ministers and of the Chief Minister. They cannot tell the world, their

colleagues, or themselves, that they “won the election” or that they have direct legitimacy from the voters.

This is a very strange and unusual situation in modern democracies. Could it be that this gap, this

disconnect, between the votes cast and the end result is one reason for the voter apathy which we all know to

exist and which we all agree is so damaging to our democracy?

And so this Amendment expands in the guiding principles set out in the proposition at paragraph (a)(ii) the

phrase “the make-up of the States” to “the make-up of the States and of the Executive, namely the Chief

Minister, Ministers and Assistant Ministers.”

Amendment 2(i)

This first part of Amendment 2 amends paragraph 1 of the Terms of Reference in Appendix 1 of my original

proposition so that in the areas to be considered by the Commission, the area “the election process” becomes

“the functions of the election process.” This opens up discussion of these functions explicitly and invites

Islanders to express their views on these functions to the Commission.

I am not saying that there must be a direct link between voters and Ministerial positions, or that if a direct

link becomes a major issue in the discussion, what form that link might take. Squaring this requirement with

all the other factors in the equation is complicated, but the Commission clearly has to include it in their

deliberations, given its potential importance, hence this amendment.” (P15 Amd 92) page 3)

Saturday, 14 July 2012

A great idea, out the window again - the private school subsidy remains.

In 2009, I was part of a team of kids from Hautlieu School who took part in the annual Youth Assembly, where 6th form students from each of the schools go and sit in the States Chamber for a day and debate propositions and interrogate ministers.

The propositions are not normally as dull as the usual ones in states proceedings, but on more general topics of principle that are easier for young people to get involved in. The things that usually come up are debating whether to legalise euthanasia, whether to extend the smoking ban or whether to tie university funding to the “usefulness” of the degree etc. So it’s normally issues of principle, rather than the ins and outs of funding arrangements in a context of deficit reduction. But all in all, it usually ends up a great day.

The proposition that my team put forward, that I proposed, was that the States of Jersey should cease to provide any public subsidy to the islands fee-paying schools. Essentially our position was that over a few years the subsidy should be decreased and the schools should seek private sponsorship instead. The idea was to alter the strange circumstance we have in Jersey where private schools have state funding, so to save money in a way that didn’t adversely impact on anyones education.

Needless to say, given that it was being suggested by a non-fee paying school to be approved by 4 fee-paying schools, we were resoundly defeated. But the whole process was very interesting. I had to do a lot of research, I had a meeting with someone at the Education department who was incredibly helpful, gave me a lot of information, suggested ideas and played devil’s advocate to help format the argument. Hautlieu were terrified when they found out their students planned to put forward this proposition and (literally) begged us to change it, and not being one to ever bow down to those in positions of authority unless they could convince me they were right, I explained they were not convincing and said we would do it anyway.

But the arguments we were given in the assembly were generally very poor. Most had taken it as nothing but an attack on their way of life, inspired by jealousy and pettiness, despite our strenuous attempts to make it clear that was not the case. My personal favourite comment was from someone whom I now consider a friend, who accused me of putting forward “Socialist drivel” (wasn’t sure whether to be insulted or flattered!) despite the fact we were arguing for cutting ties between private and state, rather than extending them.

So you can imagine how vindicated I felt when a matter of months after this, the then Education Minister Deputy Reed proposed halving the States subsidy! Since the Youth Assembly propositions were more based on principle, rather than practicality, I understood that the proposition to half the subsidy (rather than mine of abolishing it outright) was more appropriate and fully endorsed it.

Just with the Youth Assembly arguments, we had the parents coming out to condemn the move, decry it as “unfair” and they even had prominent supporters like the then Senator Shenton (obviously nothing to do with the fact he sent his kids to private school), who dismissed the Minster as if he obviously didn’t understand the whole argument for having the public subsidy.

But the issue has arisen again because of the new Education Minister Deputy Ryan’s announcement that there will be no alterations to the subsidy until at least 2016 (the JEP article can be found HERE). And, as was the case with the Youth Assembly, we can see by the comments that the parents are as ill informed as they were when the issue was first brought up and those that are in favour of the proposed cut are dismissed as not understanding the reasons for the subsidy in the first place. But they are wrong, and I’ll demonstrate it now.

Here’s the argument –

The government providing a subsidy to the fee-paying schools is value for money. Educating children in a States school costs the government more than it does than if they were educated privately. So by offering a subsidy to the fee-paying schools, they are able to lower their fees by an amount that widens the scope of families that are able to afford to send their children to the fee-paying schools, and thereby lowers the burden on the taxpayer. Simple.

None of this is wrong. But what none of these parents are capable of thinking is, is the current level of subsidy the optimum amount? They are too busy trying to stifle any debate on the level of the subsidy, even though it is entirely possible that the current level of the subsidy is actually either too high or too low. There should be regular reviews to determine whether the best amount is being paid out and whether it needs altering to make sure as much money is being saved as possible. The previous minister judged that this wasn’t the case, and whilst his department was being asked to make savings, this was a perfect area to review because it didn’t actually involve firing any teachers or lowering the standard of education that Jersey students got.

The second part of the argument put forward by the parents and headteachers was that the fees would have to rise and this rise would lead to an exodus of students out of the fee-paying schools and into the state sector, where the government would have to pay twice as much for each pupil. Every child in a fee-paying school is given 50% the amount they would be if they were in a States school. So the more students in the States schools, the more the government spends there so they wouldn’t actually save money if enough students swapped.

The problem with this is that it didn’t take into account a few factors that would actually offset the costs and make it still economically viable. Whilst the debate was going on, one of the headteachers came out and made a prediction (which you can bet was pessimistic) on how many students in fee-paying schools would have to leave because of the rise in fees. The amount of students he predicted was NOT enough to mean the States weren’t saving money (I’m looking for the citation of this, and will post it when I’ve found it).

Only taking into account the direct costs of education, 50% of the students would have to leave the fee-paying schools to mean the states weren’t making money (because each student would thus become twice as expensive for the government). Though this doesn’t take into account the costs of building new classrooms and hiring more teachers, so it would actually be less than that. But the number of students predicted to leave was far lower than this. In fact it was also a number that the States schools headteachers announced that they had capacity to accommodate. So no new extra funds would have to be allocated to the States schools.

But this also doesn’t take into account the fact that the fee-paying schools actually have waiting lists and so it’s likely that some children would actually swap from state to fee-paying schools because of increased availability. So this would further reduce the cost to the tax payer.

The numbers work out!

The fact is, the government giving away £9.8m a year to the fee-paying schools is NOT economical. It is not value for money and we could do better. Providing them with £5.5m a year instead means we keep all of the benefits of having the public subsidy and reduced strain on the states sector, without any of the negatives.

Now, of course it would upsetting for any student to have to leave a school they have become comfortable in and you can totally understand parents being annoyed at having to pay extra fees. But where they seem to have a misunderstanding is that this arrangement does not exist to provide an economic benefit to those families, it exists to provide an economic benefit to all of the islands taxpayers as a whole, and so this change was going to reflect that.

But despite all this, the new minister has thrown out the proposition.

Make no mistake ladies and gentleman, Deputy Ryan has not thrown out the proposition because it had no merit, but because he is trying to win votes from a certain section of society. He would rather shift the public spending cuts in education on to the already underfunded states schools so that poor people have to make it up. This is typical of the government we currently have.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

My submission to the Electoral Commission.

Below I have attached my submission to the Electoral Commission.

Shortly there will be an announcement about a public meeting myself and some comrades are organising at the Town Hall with a panel of speakers and opportunity for the public to speak on electoral reform, where we will try to galvanise support and encourage the public to write in to the commission essentially recommending the commission find a solution that is -
  1. Simple and user friendly,
  2. Each constituency has the same population,
  3. Each voter as the same number of votes.

In the meantime, please read my submission and give me your thoughts on it. If anyone wants to write to the commission, but hasn't done this sort of thing before and wants a bit of help, please get in touch with me. I'll be happy to help.

My submission is pretty excessively long, and should by no means be regarded as a template (though maybe my conclusion section could be a good guideline for those that agree and want to add their voice to it?).


Dear Chairman and members of the Electoral Commission,

Following my request to the Electoral Commission for information regarding to the workload of each category of member (which was denied) I have endeavoured to produce a final submission without such important information regardless.

About me –

I thought it might be useful to briefly explain who I am so the commission understands where I am coming from.

I am currently in between my 3rd and 4th year of a law degree combined with the Legal Practice Course studying at the University of Westminster in London. I am Jersey born and raised and have been involved in both local and national politics since I was 16 years old.

In 2011 I represented Jersey at the Commonwealth Youth Parliament where I got to play the role of an MP with others from around the Commonwealth, debate legislation and take part in committees. This gave me an opportunity to speak with likeminded people from around the world and UK politicians about politics. Since then I have been involved in campaigning for the Labour Party in London and have been writing a blog focused mostly on Jersey politics.

Preamble –

The word Democracy itself comes from the Greek words “demos” and “kratos” which mean “people” and “power”, respectively. Taking an etymological approach to the word democracy helps us arrive at an excellent definition that should be in the back of our minds when making decisions on how Jersey is run. The question we should always ask is “do the people have power?” And if any part of our electoral system produces a negative answer to this question, it has to be changed and reworked to empower the people.

When creating an electoral system fit for a 21st Century democracy in Jersey, it is also not always necessary to force links with the past systems for the sake of continuity and tradition if it detracts from the overall point of empowering the people of Jersey. The commission should thus effectively be starting with a blank canvas ready to form a States Assembly from scratch, only maintaining links with previous aspects if they are able to enhance the new system without distorting its context. Things should be kept for their merits, not for tradition.

So I shall seek to recommend a system that is in my opinion most democratic. For Jersey’s democratic system to be fit for purpose, at all costs it must be simple, fair and equal. These three criteria will make sure that as many people as possible are enthused to take part in our democracy as they will all be able to understand it and see the value in their taking part.

The current systems worst failing is that it produces abstention rates of up to 60% (75% in some constituencies) when our sister island Guernsey managed to get 70% turnout in their last election. Gibraltar (a jurisdiction that I believe the commission would do well to seek advice from) managed to get an 81.4% turn out at their last election. They did this because they have a system that makes their voters believe that their voice is heard and needed to make a difference. I do not believe that there is a single reason that Jersey could not achieve and even surpass this, so that we could be the jurisdiction that others envied.

As for getting a better calibre of States Member, that is up to the public to express their judgement at election time, but the process must be facilitated so as to make the result a genuine reflection of their views. I have read submissions including suggestions that candidates with criminal records should be banned from standing. I hope the commission will disregard such suggestions as they are undemocratic and unnecessary. If the people want someone with a criminal record to represent them, they should not be arbitrarily denied that opportunity.

Finally I note that it is not in the terms of reference of the Commission to examine the makeup of the executive or comment on the internal procedures of the States, which I believe is appropriate, so I shall not seek to comment on such things. Since the makeup of the States is a completely separate issue to the makeup of the executive, I would hope that the commission recommends that all of its recommendations are simply “rubber stamped” by the States, rather than cherry picked, before being put to referendum. After all, it should be the people whose opinions matter, not the States. The States cannot be allowed to cut up the proposals and it is important that the commission makes this clear to them. Perhaps if the same attitude had been adopted at the time of the Clothier Report, we would not have even needed this commission in the first place.

Classes of States Members -

In keeping with the aforementioned principles of simplicity, fairness and equality, I believe it is most democratic for there to be a single type of elected States Member, each of whom represents around the same amount of people. (I specifically use the word “elected” because I am unsure if it is within the terms of reference of this commission to talk about the unelected members).

The current system of having three types of member, each with different mandates and electoral bases is not good for democracy. Firstly, it complicates the system and has the capacity to confuse people at the ballot box. It can also skew the results of elections from being a true reflection of the views of the people, by some having more votes than others, some areas having more representation than others etc. If the system is completely equal across the whole island, the States of Jersey will be a true reflection of the views of the people.

So there should be one type of member. Call them what you will, Deputies, Senators, Members of Parliament etc that can be up to the discretion of the commission.

Of course, this means that the Constables will not be able to carry on being Ex Officio States Members. I understand that this means a break from the past in Jersey, but as I said in my preamble, it is absolutely necessary, because so long as the Constables remain as full voting members of the Assembly, Jersey’s democracy will be deficient. In the 21st Century it is simply anachronistic to have each Parish have an equally ranking representative when their populations vary so drastically. It means that not everyone’s vote is worth the same, and it goes completely against that idea of demos kratos. Leaving the Constables in the States is probably the worst mistake that this commission could make.

I completely reject the suggestion made by some that the Constables represent their Parishes views in the States. A Parish is not a homogenous group of people. In every Parish there will be a plurality of views which having one member to represent will not be able to do so. Also, many of the issues that the States debates are not issues that differ from Parish to Parish. For example, why is a Constable needed for Parish representation in a debate on the percentage of GST? For a decision like that, surely it is best for the representation across the island to be equal so that the States decision is representative of the views of the island?

The way things stand; a minority of the island, but a majority of the rural Parishes could end up winning a vote because of their overrepresentation with the Constables, even though the majority of the island might oppose it. This goes completely against the idea of demos kratos and in my opinion fuels much of the apathy about politics in Jersey because it makes many feel like their voices are not heard.

I accept that within the Parish, the role of the Constable is very important and I do not for a moment think that removing the Constables from the States would detract from that important position; in fact I think it would strengthen it. Running the Parish and being a States Member are two different types of job that could arguably require two different types of character.

At the last election, the defeat of the Constable of St Brelades was widely put down to the fact that he neglected his Parish because he was too busy with his ministerial role. This was rather sad, because had he not had a Parish to run, perhaps he could have been an excellent minister. Or perhaps even if he did not have a department to run, he could have run the Parish excellently! We will never know.

Many of the Constables end up being elected unopposed, which is not good for democracy for the people to not be offered a choice. If the roles of the Constable were separated, perhaps more candidates would put their names forward because as it stands, many people who would be good at running a Parish could be put off from the prospect of concurrently being a States Member, and vice versa. This would inevitably mean we would get more candidates come forward for the role and the electorate would have a richer choice. And if a Constable found themselves able to reconcile both roles, there would be nothing to stop them standing for the States on a separate mandate anyway.

But so long as they remain full voting members of the States of Jersey, Jersey cannot claim to be fully democratic, because it is completely against the idea of each person’s vote being equal. It means that those in the less densely populated Parishes have a representative whose voting power is disproportionate to their mandate.

If the commission found it impossible to consider their full removal from the Assembly (which I would be very disappointed by) then the only thing I could suggest would be a compromise that the Constables remain but without any of their voting rights. They should be in the same position as the Dean for example. Able to speak in debates and put forward a certain point of view, but not able to vote and take on positions of responsibility.

Constituencies and mandates –

So long as the principles I have mentioned before are adhered to, I do not think it is terribly important what the arrangement is, be it all island-wide or super constituencies. The important thing is that each constituency contains a similar number of people and each has the same number of States Members. I imagine that the easiest way to achieve this would be with several super constituencies (as they have in Guernsey), though I would be delighted if the Commission could devise a simple way of all members being elected island-wide (though I struggle to imagine a feasible way of doing this).

Though, of all the possible systems, I would much prefer that we avoided having lots of single member constituencies. The reason for this being that constituents could find themselves having a States Member that is unable to pursue their requests because of being too preoccupied with another role (e.g. a Minister) or some States Members could find themselves snowed under with constituent work because of a particular issue in one part of the island, whilst other members are less busy. Having multiple members in each constituency would mean no one would feel that their voice is being lost when their representative takes on a ministerial role and they would also be able to choose between several members to take on their work depending on their skills and interests.

It could also mean constituency boundaries are gerrymandered so certain points of view and political persuasions are not found in the States, simply because their electoral base is split between constituencies.

I note that voting systems was removed from the terms of reference for the Electoral Commission during a States debate, though I remember it being said in the debate that the commission could still consider it if it proved relevant. I consider it necessary that in multi member constituencies, it may be desirable to have a weighted voting system, whereby voters could place their chosen candidates in order of preference. At the last Senatorial election, I only used one of my four votes, because I had only one candidate whom I was desperate to be elected, and a few who I would be happy if they were elected, but I did not want to give them my votes, for fear that that one vote could push my first choice into fifth place. If votes were weighted, no one would have to worry about this dilemma.

Number of States Members -

This can be up to the discretion of the commission, so long as they reach their decision taking into account several things.

There should not be too few members so that members become overloaded with work, and there should also be room for a significant number of members to be able to act as an “opposition”. The role of an opposition is important in a parliamentary democracy to ensure legislation is scrutinised effectively. It is also important to offer the prospect of a government being able to be defeated on a particular vote so that they are unable to act dictatorially and have to earn the votes of the majority of the assembly by putting together good propositions.

That all being said, there should also not be too many members so as to render the government ineffective.

I do not think it is a good thing to just arbitrarily say the number should be cut down and pull a figure out of thin air as certain previous submitters appear to have done. Serious consideration and research must be done to find a number that would ensure all islanders are represented effectively and that all the functions of government and opposition can be carried out. For all we know, this might even mean the number has to be increased. So I recommend that the commission undertakes serious research to find out what the optimum number would be and stick to that.

Though that being said, it would be necessary to make the final number one that can be divided equally so that each constituency has an equal number of States Members. (This means no odd numbers!)

Lengths of term –

The people must have regular opportunities to pass a verdict on the performance of the States, but not so often as to distract the States from doing their work. Perhaps 3 years is too often to have an election (though this made sense with the rotating elections for Senators) and 6 years would be too long to allow the States to work without a public affirmation or declination.

Either 4 or 5 years would be suitable.

The one thing I would suggest to the commission is that it tries it’s best to avoid having a rotating terms of office system (as we used to have with half of the Senators being elected every 3 years). It is better for all States Members to be elected for the same terms on the same day. This empowers the people to be able to sweep away a government in one go if they are unpopular, rather than have to wait years for the process to be complete. A vital part of that demos kratos, is the people having the ability to get rid of a government they do not like, so a single election day for all States Members is vital.

I understand the argument that it can be good to have some continuity between the old house and the new, but I say that it does not matter how steady the ship is sailing if it is heading towards an iceberg. The democratic benefits outweigh the cons.

Conclusion –

In short, my recommendations are as follows:

· The States of Jersey should be made up of one single type of elected member,

· Every constituency should contain the same number of voters,

· The Constables should cease to be ex oficio members of the States,

· Each voter should have the same number of votes,

· If possible, there should be a weighted voting system,

· Terms of office should be either 4 or 5 years,

· The number of members should be sufficient for both government and opposition to be carried out effectively.

I thank the Commission for its time in reading my submission and I would be very much interested in expressing my views at a public hearing.

I am also happy for this submission to be published in its entirety.

Many thanks,
Samuel Mézec