Sunday, 18 November 2012

A rebuttal to JEP propaganda 2 Re: the Electoral Commission meeting

It appears that I may be starting up an irregular series of blog posts essentially disseminating individual articles in the Jersey Evening Post. It's no secret here that I'm not a fan of the Jersey Evening Post (but then again, I'm not a fan of any printed newspaper to be honest) because I regularly attend events, meet people, listen to the States etc and then end up reading an article in the paper about it that doesn't even vaguely come close to what I witnessed.

It ranges from silly little things like seeing JEP journalists on twitter, tweeting the exact opposite of what has just happened in the States, to opinion articles like the one I tackled here which were based on things that were just plain untrue (in that case that Senator Bailhache had leaked details of the Electoral Commissions report to him). Call it conspiracy, call it just laziness, whatever it is, it's incredibly annoying.

Thankfully there are lots of good Jersey blogs out there (some partisan, some balanced) that often do a very good job at countering this and putting forward another way of looking at things or doing full reports on events that are often far more comprehensive and reliable than the JEP.

So today I'd like to draw the readers attention to this article here -

It's a report from the Electoral Commissions public meeting at Grouville. It starts out by naming and shaming someone for launching an anti-immigrant tirade against the Vice-chair Colin Storm, on the basis that his views were irrelevant because he is not a proper Jersey person. His definition of "Jersey person" being one that was not only born in the island (as Storm was) but had Jersey roots too. So I suppose I'm not a real Jersey person either given that my roots are Breton.

Some might say it was irresponsible to actually name the person, but I find myself actually quite glad. Simply because I think bigoted views like those that this man was expressing need to be attacked as being unacceptable. I think racism needs to be challenged for it to be overcome, not just ignored out of politeness.

What is either funny or sad (can't make up my mind which) is seeing the people queuing up on the JEPs website to celebrate his petulant contribution. He called Mr Storm an "immigrant" even though he was born in Jersey. I wonder if these people realise how ridiculous they look.

But anyway, the part of the article I wish to focus on is this bit -

"The heated meeting was also effectively hijacked at a number of points by two failed Senatorial candidates and St Helier residents, Nick Le Cornu and Gino Risoli, who gave long-winded speeches that led to several people walking out."

This is a typical case of JEP bias.

Firstly, the fact they are both failed Senatorial candidates is not relevant to anything. In a democracy every single person is entitled to hold views and to express them (even the bigoted views the JEP reported on). The fact those people have not been elected before is not a reason to belittle them and make it out that somehow their views are not important because of their past failures.

In fact, Winston Churchill, the greatest Prime Minister we have ever had (and I have no problem as a Socialist saying that), failed on several occasions to get elected as an MP. He failed in by-elections in 1899 and 1908. He lost his seat in the October 1922 general election where he famously said that he left Dundee "without an office, without a seat, without a party and without an appendix". He then lost again in the 1923 general election and another by-election in 1924. Though he kept his seat, as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister he lost the 1945 general election in the biggest landslide of British parliamentary history.

My point is that failing to win an election does not de-legitimise someone. Why did the JEP choose to describe them as that? Would it not have been better to say "local businessman" and "local social justice and human rights campaigner"?

How about also pointing out they are St Helier residents? How is that relevant either? It was not a Grouville Parish Assembly, it was an Electoral Commission meeting. The Electoral Commission is holding these meetings to find out more views from the public about their report. If people from outside the Parish wish to go and speak, the meetings chairperson has the discretion of whether the person speaking is offering something they find useful to hear. I attended three meetings, none of which were in my Parish, and was allowed to speak at all of them (and even being quoted in the JEP, though it didn't make a point of me not being a Parishioner!), presumably because the commission thought there was some value in letting me put my views across because it was more that they could take into account when they come up with their final report.

But the worst part is them using the phrase "effectively hijacked". I think it can be objectively decided if a meeting was hijacked or not. The best way to work that out would be to ask the chairperson, who has the responsibility to make sure the meeting stays on topic, and can judge if individuals did their best to take it in another direction. But using the word "effectively" makes it subjective, and when reporting the news being subjective like that isn't really appropriate.

Gino (whom I have no personal problems with, he is a nice guy) attended the St Helier meeting I was at and started banging on about "financial accountability" in States departments and gave a passionate speech on it. But he had to be stopped by the vice-chair (which he did his best to ignore and carry on, under the guise of "freedom of speech") because what he was talking about was totally irrelevant to what the meeting was about. I think this could objectively be called hijacking. It was irrelevant and he refused to be silenced by the chair. If he did the same at the Grouville meeting, then the JEP was probably right to have said he tried to hijack it.

However Nick Le Cornu, on the other hand, has been to many of the meetings and actually made excellent contributions that the commission were evidently interested to hear. His submission to the commission (which can be read here) is one of, if not the, best one they received. His speeches are well thought out, relevant, often cover things that other people have not thought of and he uses historical and legal examples to back up what he is saying. The only criticism that could be made of him is that his speeches are often very long, but when he is asked to sum up, he does so. Whether you agree or disagree with Nicks politics, you cannot deny that he makes very important contributions to public debate that are certainly worth hearing.

To put Nick's contributions on the same page as Gino's is just frankly ridiculous. Turning up to a meeting to make a speech concisely on the topic in question cannot under any stretch of the English language be called "hijacking".

But there was an example of hijacking that the JEP didn't cover. At the St Peters meeting, the meeting was hijacked by the Constable, who ran the meeting as if it were a Parish meeting (which it isn't) and then proceeded to try and decide who could and couldn't speak, and even went up to the podium to deliver his views at the end of the meeting. At an Electoral Commission meeting, the Constable is just an ordinary member of the public like anyone else and should act like it. How he took control of that meeting was well out of order (though some blame must lie with the commission for not having the backbone to steer the meeting back to how it should be). But the JEP did not report a word of it. In fact we only know it happened because of Nick Le Cornu's blog on it!

I could also mention how the commission itself was hijacked by States Members after it was originally going to be totally independent, but that would just be repeating myself. But no mention in the JEP of that either.

This whole reform debate is going to lead to a referendum, and with a referendum you need a proper public debate and proper media coverage allowing the public to accurately hear both sides in a balanced way. Little things like the JEPs attempt to belittle Nick Le Cornu go completely against the spirit of a democratic debate.

We need and deserve better than this. Rest assured, as the debate goes on, I'll be doing my bit to hold them to account.


P.S. My Electoral Commission submission will be posted in a few days. It's taking longer than I thought it would because I'm being fairly comprehensive (about 8 pages so far) and using charts and calculations to back my points up.


  1. Nick's major flaw is that he thinks he is in favour of democracy, whereas what he is actually in favour of is his version of democracy.

    He acknowledges that the referendum will likely show popular support for the retention of the constables, but believes that this outcome will be undemocratic

    He believes that it is undemocratic that, if the current political class retain control through winning election, that this will be invalid because the left will not be able to afford, or to organise, their own effective election campaigns (I might be wrong, but isn't there a limit on election expenses)

    He believes that because of the reorganisation of districts, that no riff raff or persons from ghetto areas will be elected.

    I could go on, but people need only read his latest blog posting to learn about the real Nick. He believes that some sort of glorious democratic revolution could occur if only the injustices and imbalances in society didn't exist. He is by turns paranoid, conspiratorial, deluded, overbearing and goes off on some strange tangents such as feeling compelled to play some sort Semitic card. What that, and most of his postings are about is nick trying to justify to himself and others how, with all his knowledge, education, oratory abilities and apparent understanding of how the system 'really' works, has still failed to get elected.

    He sees his having managed to lecture the audience at every single electoral meeting as a great success. Perhaps with a little humility and self awareness, he might realise that this was perhaps his biggest failing.

    To be fair to him however, he has the courage to publish these type go criticisms on his own blog, which shows a certain integrity

    1. I have to disagree with your last comment. I find that however politely I disagree with points that Nick makes on his blog my comments often don't see the light of day.

    2. I'm not sure Nick would say the referendum would show "public support" for the Constables. A victory for one side in a referendum wouldn't necessarily mean "public support" if the turn out was very low, for example. I think he would more mean that it would be lost because of the organisation of the pro-Constable lobby.

      I think the idea of bigger districts meaning no representation from "ghettos" is actually something legitimate to worry about. If a bigger district takes an urban population and outnumbers it with a country population, they can end up being out voted and without representation. Though I think hopefully with the STV voting system that might not be the case.

    3. On that last point on publishing criticisms, I think that's something that the left in Jersey needs to get really good at.

      It's not a good idea for a blog to just be a place where one figure preaches to the converted and doesn't actually use it as a forum for trying to bring people in, include them and then eventually win them over.

      I keep banging on about them, but in Gibraltar, they have party politics that is left v right, but they seem to conduct their debates far more maturely than we do in Jersey and it just seems a much better political culture because of that.

    4. Nicks words were 'The referendum will be used to show there is popular sentiment in favour of retention of the constables.....' if that is not the same as saying 'public support' then I am obviously mistaken.

      Do you not believe that a victory in the referendum for retaining the constables would not be democratic support for the decision to do so ? If nick's assertion that the victory would not be democratic because the opponents were unable to properly organise their own campaign, then his interpretation of a democracy is very skewed. He would seem to be implying that the only democratic victory is one where the losers were happy with the manner in which they were able to conduct their campaign. I'm sorry but that is madness.

      There is unfortunately no simple answers on the size and location of voting districts. It is difficult to have a combination of 'smaller urban' and larger 'rural' districts without one of the sides feeling their particular constituency is being unfairly discriminated against. I'm also not certain that transferable votes would resolve this.

      Jersey's left/right political debate has unfortunately been contaminated with the hdlg issues, and a particularly confrontational approach from certain blogs who are not so much left wing as 'anti ruling establishment', merely offering virulent and highly personal criticism than offering constructive political debate. Trevor pitman's blog, which had potential, has merely descended into an inappropriate farce, where any disagreement is characterised as trolling from one individual.

      It is little wonder that the right can be equally inappropriate when offered the opportunity to participate?

      It is a little worrying below that you are following one of mr pitman's earlier tactics in requesting that people provide their names if they wish to disagree in a certain manner on certain issues.

    5. Yeah, I think the operative words there wre "be used" rather than "actually prove that". I think he's saying that they will spin the result. Obviously if there is a high turn out and overwhelming majority in favour, then it can't really be spun, but this is Jersey so it's probably more likely to be a low turnout.

      But no, I don't believe that a referendum on the Constables is a democratic way of sorting it out (regardless of how well organised either side of the campaign is). I don't believe that democracy is about just doing what the majority wants, I believe it's about much broader principles of equality, freedom and choice. If there was a referendum on disenfranchising left handed people and it was won, it would not be democratic just because the majority had endorsed it in a vote.

      My view is that the Constables being automatically in the States is undemocratic (for all the reasons that are well rehearsed), a vote to endorse it doesn't change that. What if 5 Parishes don't want their Constables in the States? Just because the other 7 do, doesn't mean they should be arbitrarily forced to. The only democratic way to solve it, is to end their automatic right to be in the States, and let them stand as Deputies as well as Constables. That way each Constable can be judged one by one, rather than as a block.

      On that last note about comments, I should clarify that previously on this blog I refused to publish any comment that was just needlessly offensive or abusive without any merit. I've decided (after a couple of maliciously intended comments) to make it more open that if people want to post those sorts of comments they can, so long as they don't do it anonymously. Just my way of trying to keep the debate like what we are having here which is a proper well spirited discussion, rather than idiots just trying to detract from the whole thing.

      I'm perfectly happy for people that disagree with me to post under whatever pseudonym so long as they aren't being abusive. I'm certain that the guy below was about to go down that road.

    6. Sir,

      I hope this blog does not get corrupted by malicious posters. In my experience this is one of the most open blogs in the Island at the moment. I have been highly critical of your views on many occasions and you have always published my comments - without exception. On some occasions I have even changed my views based on your replies.

      Well done.

  2. Are you sure JEP didn't cover the St Peters meeting?

    1. Not sure if it was covered, but I haven't heard anything about any coverage of the Constables hijacking of it.

  3. Unfortunately, Nick comes across as very bitter and twisted with several big chips on both shoulders. He may be well intentioned but he is his own worst enemy. His election strategy is basically along the lines of alienating 90% of the electorate and hoping the remaining 10% will vote him in.

  4. Sir,

    You seem to expect the JEP to be perfect. It's not Hansard. It is a small paper that rushes with limited resources to produce 6 issues a week. Their main objective is advertising revenue. For every example of apparent bias in one direction there is an example of bias the other way. Your use of the word 'propaganda' implies that their bias is orchestrated in some way. I would expect such conspiracy theories from Nick and Gino but I am really disappointed that you are going down that road.

    1. I accept that because of their nature, every newspaper is going to mess up every now and then. But I don't think my criticisms are unfair. I've never denied that their objective is to make money, but I don't accept it as an excuse for occasional poor journalism. I think the JEP often does a very good job when it comes to cultural and sports stuff (they've always been ridiculously helpful when I've organised the Jersey Dead rock concert).

      Propaganda doesn't have to be orchestrated in any broad sense. The two times I've called it propoaganda has been when the editor wrote an article that said there had been leaks from the Electoral Commission when there hadn't been any, and this time they are unjustifiably hostile to Nick.

      I don't think it's a conspiracy theory. But you might find it interesting that a couple of weeks ago in the States when I was there to watch, Senator Ozouf actually had a big rant against the JEP. So at least I'm in his company too.

    2. Would you describe your own blog as propaganda?

    3. Possibly, but I am open that I'm partisan towards a socialist perspective and I don't claim to be an impartial news reporter. (I also don't charge anyone for the honour of reading it haha).

      But most important I encourage debate in the comments and let people criticise me and others as much as they like (so long as they avoid abuse), which is certainly more than the JEP can say.

    4. I think your criticisms are a bit unfair as the JEP is simply a daily rag and is entitled to behave like one. They could have been a lot harsher about Nick and Gino but on the whole they choose to behave responsibly. Maybe we need a rag of the standard of the NOTW over here to compare them with. Sadly, I think if we did the JEP would loose a lot of business to it as that is actually the type of 'journalism' that many people want to read.

    5. Or if there was NOTW style paper, maybe the JEP would stoop to that level and become more sensationalist to try and keep it's market share? Who knows. Would be nice if we had a Guardian style paper or something like that.

      I think as time goes on, newspapers are becoming increasingly irrelevant because of the internet. The only good thing about papers is that they are quick and easy to get on your lunch break.

  5. Intolerance, political intransigence and an unwillingness to admit when you are wrong. It seems you are being exposed a little on thisisjersey Sam.

    1. If you could point out to me where anything I said was factually inaccurate I'll happily apologise and correct myself.

      But if you'd like to carry on the childish arguing that is being done on the JEP site you will have to ditch the anonymity to do so.

    2. Nick seems to have gone to as many meetings as he could get to. The object was for the commission to get feedback. Nick could have done this at one meeting. This leads me to suspect that he was in fact on his own roadshow to preach his views, not to the commission, but to the other attendees. I think it is therefore fair for a local rag to report this as a failed politician attempting to hijack the meetings to preach his views.

    3. I don't necessarily think there's anything wrong with intending your remarks to be aimed at the audience as well as panel. At the meetings I saw Nick speak he gave different speeches. Unlike Senator Farnham who I saw deliver exactly the same speech several times, but no one is accusing him of hijacking.

      But as I've said, they were Electoral Commission meetings, not Parish Assemblies, so Nick only had the rights to speak that the chair or vice-chair afforded him. If they let him speak every time he went, then they obviously thought there was value in it. The only person I saw them trying to silence was Gino.

      I spoke at three meetings, made different speeches at each one and when I stood I was intending to address both the audience and the panel (I shifted my eye contact between them pretty evenly).

    4. Let’s stick to the issues and not be sidetracked by personalities.

      Having attended a few meetings it is clear that the public do not really understand what is being proposed by the Commission. They seem to mistakenly believe that the Parish system and Constables are being abolished. Not so. The parishes will continue to deliver public services at a local level and Constables will be able to concentrate entirely on their local duties. If a few politically ambitious Constables want the wider role in the States then let them stand as a Deputy as well

      If we are to choose representatives for an island assembly it should be on a basis of equality. Larger constituencies will hopefully up-the-game of candidates requiring them to discuss island wide issues rather than minor parochial matters of no larger consequence. What is being proposed is six Senatorial elections and the Establishment are very good at winning those, so why retain Constables? The answer may be that the Council of Ministers can rely on 9 out of 12 votes consistently. In a States of 42 this would be a guaranteed voting majority. In other words there would be no policy debate.

      If Constables remain as a category of representative then the basis of election is grossly unequal. It goes against all the admirable principles that the Commission claim to have embraced by distorting who gets represented and they know it. European standards of democracy dictate that constituencies should be roughly equal in size and no more than 10% larger and never more than 15%. St Mary would constitute one constituency with 1700 eligible voters, whilst each of the St Helier Districts has around 13,000.

      The new District 5 with 11,100 eligible voters, combining the parishes of St John, St Mary, St Lawrence and St Ouen, would have 5 Deputies and 4 Constables representing some of the wealthiest in the island. St Helier by contrast with over double the population of 26,800 eligible voters, would have 10 Deputies and 1 Constable. The Commission’s proposals merely replicate the Town/Country divide that has been around for a Century and more.

      This illogicality is what one gets in allowing States Members on the Electoral Commission to be swayed by prejudice and realpolitik in a way that Clothier was not.

      The media are simply never going to carry this critique and even if they do it will never be heard over the orchestrated din of the Keep-the-Constables lobby. We need rational decision making not emotional reaction.

    5. I think most of the public are clever enough to work out the maths. It's not that hard and every household has received the information it needs. The problem is that many people simply do not care about how democratic the options are as much as they care about keeping their parish constable in the States.

      Any argument based on democracy and numbers will mostly fall on deaf ears.

  6. "Firstly, the fact they are both failed Senatorial candidates is not relevant to anything."

    I disagree. This is a fact. It is relevant because it defines a big part of their recent past. This is how most people will know these individuals.

    1. But it wasn't being used to identify who they are. The first guy they quoted had no explanation offered as to who he was. I was mentioned in the paper last week and nothing was mentioned other than my name not what I'm known for (despite my chairmanship of Reform Jersey being totally relevant).

      It's the fact it was used to belittle them, not identifying them, that is the problem.

  7. Sam,

    You contradict yourself. You accuse the JEP of belittling them for failing to get elected then you mention Churchill. If "failing to win an election does not de-legitimise someone." then why can't the JEP mention this?

    1. Because it was being used to belittle them. To make people think that because they've lost an election before that their views are therefore illegitimate, because that's a much easier point to make than actually taking the points they made and arguing against them.

      They could have also pointed out that at the last election, Nick Le Cornu actually got more votes than 14 current members of the States (that's over a quarter) including two ministers.

    2. Aren't you comparing his senatorial votes with their deputy/constable votes? Shame on you trying to mislead! You're worse than the JEP!

    3. There's lot's of things they 'could' have pointed out but the most relevant to me is the fact that they failed to achieve a legitimate platform for their political views. I find that far more relevant than the fact than one is a businessman and the other is a solicitor.

      You say it was being used to belittle them. They are what they are. Its a fact.

    4. To the first anon - Read the post again before you get so excited, I clearly said "at the last election". The last election was 2011 where he stood as a Deputy, not Senator.

      To the second anon - there is no such thing as "legitimate platform for their political views". In a democracy everyone has the right to freedom of expression regardless of losing any elections. But I think you've now admitted my point. It's relevant to you because to you it suggests their views are worthless.

    5. I stand corrected.

    6. "It's relevant to you because to you it suggests their views are worthless."

      Bit unfair. To me a persons background does not affect the validity of their views but I'm still interested in that background.

  8. If you are worried about the media's coverage of the forthcoming referendum then surely you should be taking the lead and engaging with them in a mature way to influence their plans rather than just slagging them off on-line.

    1. If you wish to contact me privately through email ( I could share with you my correspondence with the JEP and you would very quickly and easily be able to make up your mind who is more mature in that dialogue.

      Conversely, I have a fantastic relationship with both the BBC and Channel TV and have never felt compelled to write publicly criticising them. I have though made two complaints to the BBC before, both of which were dealt with excellently.


    Well done Sam for standing up and being counted. You have dignity and courage.

    The anonymous posters here are entirely disingenuous. They hide behind their anonymity because they are not the weak seeking to speak candidly without retribution; rather they are powerful abusing a privilege. More precisely they are the lackeys of the powerful, who pay them to praise those that hold power.

    You are generous in allowing them such freedom. They would never allow you to write in their newspaper with such freedom. Yes, we do know where they come from.

    Let’s be clear the Jersey Establishment operates by denigrating any individual that tries to speak out on behalf of those that do not hold power. It is easy to humiliate. Alas, there is a gullible audience for such commentary. No doubt it gives them satisfaction as little people themselves to see other little people squashed.

    You a quite right to exercise editorial control. Note how the abusers seek to denigrate individuals with impunity. These are the same ones that allowed HDLG to happen, deny it ever occurred and humiliate the victims. There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequals.

    There is no need to publish gratuitously abusive comments. Remember they are not writing openly and can make their comments without responsibility. In their professional public lives they would never write in such a style of denigration. Do they treat their wives and children in such a manner? One suspects they do.

    They are frightened people. Frightened small people.

  10. The Editor of the JEP spoke at the Trinity meeting but somebody else will have to determine for me the relevance of that information.
    Presumably all this discussion here and in the JEP about the messengers rather than the message must be satisfying somebody's needs but it suggests to me that the real subject matter is actually too complicated for some to analyse.
    Of course this is a basic problem with so many political issues. Without accurate information and data it is often pointlesss trying to have a meaninful discussion.
    I have tried to stimulate that and the result is posted on
    for those who are interested.
    For those who are not, just carry on prattling here.

  11. Let me get this right. You honestly believe:

    1) posters on this site are paid by 'the powerful' to disagree
    2) you know where these posters 'come from' ?
    3) people who post opposing views are doing so to 'squash the little man'?
    4) that people who post opposing views are the 'ones who allowed hdlg to happen' are are seeking to 'humiliate the victims'?
    5) that people who post opposing views 'denigrate their wives and children'?

    You need to spend some time away from the blogs because your worldview has obviously been manipulated by their bitterness and irresponsible claims. I actually pity you, and whilst everyone is absolutely entitled to their say, could i politely ask that you do not try to pollute this blog with their and your own bile. Whether we agree with Sam's views or not, we value a blog which is uncontaminated by the nonsense which as ruined so many others.

    1. Precisely what are your views on electoral reform and the Interim Report? As Tom suggests we crave informed discussion.