Following a speech the Chief Minister Ian Gorst gave today to the Institute of Directors, Channel TV have reported on a few of the things he has said -
"Jersey's Chief Minister is keen to push through a raft of changes to the format of government early in the new year.
Senator Ian Gorst wants his position to have more power, and to be able to freely shuffle Ministers and portfolios around.
He also said if Senator Philip Ozouf's proposition - to cut the number of States members to 44 and scrap Senators - isn't voted through, further action will need to be taken.
"If that [Senator Ozouf's proposition] is not approved, then we need to consider how we're going to deliver electoral reform. It becomes apparent to me that actually, this is one of those times when we need to call for a Royal Commission."
Senator Gorst also said he is "undecided" as to whether he will stand for election next year.
But, he said, if he does and is voted in, he will stand for Chief Minister once again."
I feel that these statements cannot be left without comment.
So let's go through them one at a time -
"Senator Ian Gorst wants his position to have more power, and to be able to freely shuffle Ministers and portfolios around."
In theory an excellent idea. If we want an effective cabinet style government, we need cabinets where all Ministers are on the same page as each and all put into the best positions to match their expertise, working towards a common goal that they all believe in.
A conglomeration cabinet (which is what we have now) will inevitably end up with certain members trying to pull in one direction where others go another.
When each Minister is elected individually, it's entirely possible for two Ministers to get elected who hold opposite views on a particular subject. The obvious example is a Housing Minister who wants to build houses in one particular place on the island to tackle a shortage there, and a Planning and Environment Minister who absolutely opposes houses being built there.
But hang on, who picked the Chief Minister? The States did. Not the people of Jersey. No Chief Minister we have ever had has also been the poll-topper in a Senatorial election, and Senators are likely to be abolished sometime son. So the electorate are entirely powerless when it comes to deciding who the Chief Minister is.
If the Chief Minister is to head a government of his or her choosing, to take the island in a direction in line with a particular vision, they absolutely must be endorsed by the public.
I cannot accept any enhancement of the Chief Minister's powers, without also an enhancement of his or her democratic mandate.
I'm suggesting that if the Chief Minister is to gain more power, it should be a directly elected position.
After the general election, the States Members should nominate their preferred candidates for Chief Minister, which then goes to a public vote after a month of campaigning. To get on the ballot, the States Member must be nominated by a majority of States Members, with States Members allowed to nominate more than once. That way the public will not be able to vote in a candidate who will not be able to command the support of the States Assembly and just lose a vote of no confidence at the first hurdle, leading to a constitutional crisis.
Ideally, I believe in a party system, whereby the leader of the biggest party after an election becomes Chief Minister. At the election, the public would vote for their local party candidate, knowing that it is not just a vote for the candidate, but also a vote for that party's leader to become Chief Minister.
But we don't have parties yet, so in the meantime I think that there should be a cabinet government, led by a Chief Minister elected in a sort of presidential style election.
"He also said if Senator Philip Ozouf's proposition - to cut the number of States members to 44 and scrap Senators - isn't voted through, further action will need to be taken."
Yes, very true. That action will be a referendum on the Clothier recommendations, as the States has already decided. Is his amnesia on this an indication that he will vote against the enabling legislation for the referendum? That's genuinely something to worry about.
" "If that [Senator Ozouf's proposition] is not approved, then we need to consider how we're going to deliver electoral reform. It becomes apparent to me that actually, this is one of those times when we need to call for a Royal Commission." "
You just couldn't make this sort of thing up.
Does he really think that a Royal Commission will come up with anything other than what has already been suggested in the past?
Any independent commission will just come up with either what the Clothier report suggested, or Option A.
On both occasions, the powers that be have rejected those. What will be different from a Royal Commission?
Senator Gorst supports keeping the Constables in the States. No Royal Commission would ever suggest keeping the Constables in the States. What will he do when a commission comes back with a suggestion that doesn't include the Constables? If he says he'll accept their findings, well why not just accept the findings we have already had from the Clothier commission?
Also, no Royal Commission will ever suggest anything that isn't in line with the Venice Commission's criteria. So whatever they suggest will not retain the overwhelming bias of the current system (and the proposed Option B) to the country Parishes at the expense of the urban ones. But if he is happy to accept their findings if they include this principle, why does he persistently vote against any proposition that tries to achieve fairness for St Helier? It's sheer hypocrisy, nothing less.
"Senator Gorst also said he is "undecided" as to whether he will stand for election next year. But, he said, if he does and is voted in, he will stand for Chief Minister once again."
It's a bit annoying that Jersey politicians always seem to be "undecided" about whether they will stand again. But I hope he does stand again. We've never had the chance to pass a verdict on the performance of a Chief Minister, and we need that opportunity.
I think Ian Gorst's premiership can be summed up in one word - weak.
Perhaps I'll go into more depth on why I think that in another blog post.
In the meantime, perhaps readers could leave comments with their verdict on Ian Gorst as a Chief Minister so far in this term?