Friday, 7 June 2013

Food for thought on reform

So PPC have finally lodged the draft legislation to implement Option B into law in time for the next elections.

It is due to be debated in the States on the 16th July and can be read here -

There are a few important things to note.

Firstly, this proposed law does maintain the Troy Rule. The draft law specifically limits the number of ministers and assistant ministers to 18 so that they will continue to be a minority administration, capable of being defeated by a vote in the assembly. This was of fundamental importance and it is obviously very regrettable that PPC couldn't have made some statement about their intention to keep the Troy Rule before the referendum so we wouldn't have had to waste time debating whether it would stay or not and it wouldn't have put off some democrats from voting for Option A because of their fears about losing the Troy Rule.

However, the Troy Rule only really counts for anything in a chamber without the Constables. The purpose of the Troy Rule is to allow the executive to be held to account and to have to fight for every vote to be won. The Constables, more often than not, don't contribute at all to debates and just vote "pour" to whatever the Council of Ministers propose. Under Option B, the Constables will likely carry on not being ministers, meaning that close to half of the 24 members dedicated to scrutiny/ opposition/ backbench roles, are going to be of that category that is really least fit to be carrying out that role.

So fat lot of good that does us.

Secondly, the law is also specifically changing the Constables from being "ex officio" members of the States, to full members in their own right. This presumably fits in with the recommendation by the Electoral Commission that all States Members consider their primary duty to be as States Members rather than anything else.

However this change will only be de jure. De facto, Constables will still be elected to run their Parishes, and it will be their attitude to that that determines their electoral prospects and their Parishioners will carry on primarily judging them on that basis.

It is also a change that the other campaign groups totally failed to address in the big debate. In fact, I remember at the St Mary debate I pointed out this proposed change to the role of Constable, only to see at the back of the hall two Constables (Gallichan and Mezbourian) shaking their heads. I had to point out to them that I was simply reading from the report and they can't shake their heads as if it isn't a fact (but then again, facts weren't Option B's strong point).

It is a change that changes the nature of Constable and in my opinion totally undermines it. If they are full States Members, then they have to focus on that, rather than their Parishes. But then when they are in the States, the questions will still be there about their mandates and how they all have an equal vote to the Deputies who will be the real heavy weights, doing all the work and fighting much tougher elections. It will create a tension that will be bad for both the States and the Parishes.

Thirdly, the report alongside the draft law makes a lot of assumptions that I think are not safe to make.

The report says that because most voters backed either Options A or B, that is evidence that most voters wanted a smaller States Assembly.

Well, how can they be in the minds of those that voted and decide what they thought?

I know many people (and if I'm honest myself included) that voted for a reform option in spite of the fact that it would lead to fewer members. Many actually thought that 42 was too few, but that after a few years that would be realised and the number could be increased.

They were voting for reform because they agreed with the package of reforms on balance. Just because you vote for something, doesn't mean you unequivocally agree with all of it.

I simply make this point, because it isn't right to presume to know why people voted the way they did. False presumptions could lead to making mistakes in the future.

It's like those that say that the majority of those that voted wanted to keep the Constables in. Well how do they know that? Many people may have wanted to get rid of the Constables, but voted for Option C because they were adamant that we had to keep the Senators and thought it was worth paying that price. Or take for example Constable Norman who supported Option B, even though he doesn't believe the Constables should be in the States automatically, because he believes that should only be done if the Parishes are retained as the primary form of constituency (basically the Clothier reforms).

It is not safe to assume any particular fact when the question was on a package of reforms than people had to work out on balance what they liked.

So the new system will be voted in the States on the 16th July, but because it is a constitutional amendment, it will require a majority of all States Members to vote for it (not just a majority of States Members present for the debate). So that is 26 votes it needs. I can count 25 I think are likely to vote for it, so it's going to be close.

Senator Le Marquand said before the referendum that he would oppose Option B for the rest of his life. And in a bizarre change of tradition, that particular politician is sticking to his word! He has lodged this proposition which is due to be debated after the reform law -

Since it is debated after the reform law it is a total waste of time. But further to that, the report along side the proposition says nothing on the issue of Option B being an unfair system. Surely that is the whole point in rejecting Option B? Because it is unfair. The fact that it was endorsed by a tiny number of people is just ammunition in that argument, not the basis for it in itself.

Option B should be rejected on the basis that it is unfair, and I hope that the States see sense and make that point.

Frankly, the politicians we have that are wanting to make the States less accountable should be ashamed of themselves. This is the 21st Century and those wanting to run away from accountability and democracy should find other careers, because politics is about democracy and we need people that understand that simple point.


  1. Sam

    Senator Le Marquand stuck to his guns over exemptions from GST as well despite being on the COM. It was a manifesto committment. And he kept to it, unlike certain Deputies!

  2. Unless an A team supporter tables an amendmmnt the debate will be between B and C options. The tactical thinking has to be bewteen sticking to your guns, and probably getting sunk, or putting up a compromise that might swing over enough to have a chance. If I were able I should go for this compromise.

    1. I think the terms "A/ C Team supporter" etc are redundant now. I supported Option A, but Option A is dead now, so I think we're better grouping as democrats together, regardless of which option we originally supported.

      I said in my original submission to the Electoral Commission that it would be a tolerable compromise to keep the Constables but without their vote. I hope someone puts forward an amendment doing that. I've never thought the idea of Constables being allowed to speak in the States but not vote is undemocratic, so why not?

      But of course the problem is that at the moment Constables vote and don't speak, whereas this would force them to speak and not vote, pretty much the opposite of what they do now. I suspect most wouldn't bother turning up and it would be very quick before someone asks why we are paying them so much do to do little. So there is very little chance that the amendment would be passed.

      It's a good idea though. I might canvass some States Members to make that amendment. After all, a true democrat couldn't possibly oppose it.

  3. It's just a rearrangement of the deckchairs on the deck of the sinking ship. Our form of representative government will always produce the same calibre of politico-plonkers, so nothing will really change! Jersey is an isolated, insular, parochial, artificial goldfish bowl of entitled, privileged, selfish, self-interested, ignorant, oblivious fools with no idea how the world works, utterly uncaring for any interests other than their own.

    I applaud anyone who bothers to try to change this, but I'm struggling to find it worth the fight.

  4. Why bother Sam, you should just forget about politics now and concentrate on your Law degree.

    Let's face it , you've played your planned part in the referendum charade and you have played the part well.

    For your act im sure Maybe Bailache will reward you in years to come when you are ready, maybe a you are guaranteed a states seat ,or maybe assistant foreign minister.

    You can then carry on with a further complete waste of time like you have spent in the last 6 months by playing the part again.

    1. Oh dear, I've been rumbled! You've outted me Anonymous. It is true that I am nothing more than a puppet to Senator Bailhache just after a safe seat in politics so I can press "pour" every time the Council of Ministers proposes something. Hey, maybe I'll even get elected Constable!

      And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for those pesky kids...

  5. Anon- @ 10.20a.m. - I just love your line-
    'Jersey is an isolated, insular, parochial, artificial goldfish bowl of entitled, privileged, selfish, self-interested, ignorant, oblivious fools with no idea how the world works, utterly uncaring for any interests other than their own.'

    Sums it up perfectly, well done.

  6. I can see why that poster has got annoyed with your post Sam, and to be honest, i am also annoyed with your position.

    Do you realsie that you now sound like you have no backbone, you have actually come across like you have abandoned your purpose of fronting Option A and now want to play games by creating a new group!

    I mean, how does someone turn around after months of pleading equal voting but for then to turn around and say " ummm, well we can forget that now , its dead " .

    OPTION A is not dead. There were alot of people who put alot of belief into Option A so dont act like you are representing those people with flippant comments like that.

    Think about what you say before you say it. NEVER COMPROMISE when it comes to equal rights.

    1. There is a difference between compromising and playing the hand you have been dealt with.

      Option A lost the referendum and is not going to become the new system for Jersey. The States can't reject Option B and implement Option A instead, so we just have to accept that fact and work around it.

      I never supported Option A for any reason other than that I support equality and democracy and Option A happened to be the system that best represented that. If the EC had come up with another option that fitted those principles I would have gone for that with just as much enthusiasm.

      The anti-democrats are pushing ahead trying to pass Option B, and that will be a huge step backwards for Jersey. Our priority needs to be to stop that move because it will damage this islands political system. Once we have stopped it, then we can talk about how to progress democracy and equality, but that will mean having to propose something more tolerable to those that weren't keen on Option A. (Maybe that will be Option A but with 8 Senators and let the Constables speak in the States if they want etc).

      What new group? No new group is being created (at least that I'm aware of). I haven't got a clue what you're talking about.

      Reform Jersey still exists and is having very productive discussions, welcoming new people into the fold who have good ideas and we are working with States Members to try and lobby them not to vote for Option B.

  7. "You can then carry on with a further complete waste of time like you have spent in the last 6 months by playing the part again."

    Sam, it cannot possibly be a waste of time when you attract such comments from someone who uses their time to read your Blog and post.

    I could not help reading the above and thinking, you must be a real pain to some! nothing quite like an intelligent young person to challenge the inferior judgements of other so called Deputies.

    1. Thanks Anonymous!

      I think the biggest problem we have in Jersey is that there are a lot people whose hearts are in the right place, but who have no concept of strategy whatsoever.

      At the end of the day, you can have principles that you refuse to compromise on, but if you aren't actually achieving anything in making the island a better place, then what's the point?

  8. With a proposed States of only 42 members, the Constables surely won't vote for Plan B now that they have had a chance to chew it over.
    After all, they are most likely to keep their 12 seats more or less intact but there will just be too much work to be done under slave driver Bailhache's efficiency scheme. Pallett has already jumped out of scrutiny to concentrate on his Parish and St Helier's Constable has a full-time job so 42 become 40 even before the reality of the country cousins is taken into account and several are clearly incapable of sustained political thinking - or work. So 42 become 35 and there will surely be the usual walking dead among the new style Deputies plus a few injured, absent de l'ile, attending funerals or the latest G8 conference for small territories in Hawaii...
    Besides which, the Parish Deputies as now organised are a part of the Constables' friendly fiefdoms. They and many country parishioners want to keep that relationship and won't let go of their "parish" lobbyists under their own dominion for a risky, anonymous super constituency 5 reps.
    The "parish" system is not just about the Constables and now that the decision to preserve them has been taken the Constables will surely realise thay they will have to cut the grass and weed the flower boxes too under this new scheme - and that won't suit most.

    Much simpler to opt to leave things as they are surely - and that will satisfy enough other ranks too - now that the future of the Constables is assured either way.