Monday, 14 April 2014

Letter to the JEP Re: Party Politics

This latest letter follows my previous blog post explaining how, if the States will not accept my proposition to see a directly elected Chief Minister, the only viable way forward will be party politics.

The JEP then published an editorial column on Thursday 10th April which described my proposition as "an interesting idea" (I'll take that compliment!) but then went on to say -

"Unfortunately though, the only realistic way to address the deficit in accountability is through some version of party politics, which would enable electors to vote for candidates with a clear set of achievable policies and a clear candidate for Chief Minister. Until that happens, the reformers are doing little but tinkering around the edges."

I could not agree more.

Wonder if the Editor has been reading my blog? Certainly hope so!


Dear editor,

I read with great interest the editorial column published on the 10th April titled "Are party politics the answer?" and was delighted to see that your answer to that question is the same as mine - Yes.

I have lodged my proposition to have a directly elected Chief Minister in response to a proposition that Senator Gorst himself has lodged, which would see certain powers taken away from the States Assembly and given to the Chief Minister.

Democracy is meant to be about how a society allocates power and balances it with accountability. I worry that if the powers of the Chief Minister are enhanced, we will be selling away power without asking for an increase in accountability for the public.

Everybody in Jersey knows that our electoral system and machinery of government leave much to be desired. Something has to change.

There is currently a vacuum of accountability in Jersey politics. I believe that there are only two possible ways to fill it. The first would be by adopting my proposition so the people of Jersey could directly choose the Chief Minister. The second would be to have a party political system, where islanders would be electing teams who formulate policy before the elections, rather than individuals who form policies after the elections.

Should the States reject my proposition for a directly elected Chief Minister, then the only option left will be party politics.

When I stand for re-election in October it will be as a member of a political party. I hope others, including Senator Gorst, will do the same so that the public will finally know what they are getting for their vote.

Deputy Sam Mezec, St Helier No. 2


  1. This begs the question that I have been asking since my days in the JDM. If party politics is the way forward for Jersey then how come it never works? I agree with you in principle, I even have my own notion of a broad centre-left local party, although I'm not around at the moment to do anything with it. But after the JDA fiasco I rather think a degree of civility and tolerance (dare I say maturity?) amongst our elected members is a prerequisite that is currently lacking.

    I may well be missing something (being in UK Purdah) but I don't see how a Chief Minister elected as you suggest would change much. For a start I doubt that an island-wide poll would afford any surprises and even if it did then (s)he would still be only one card in the deck (including the six jokers).

    I always get it in the neck when I stick up for the JEP but I think you may find there will be changes. Yes, I /know/ that it's traditionally an organ of the establishment but it's one that has been evolving over the years and as local rags go it can be quite progressive on occasions. I'm old enough to remember what it was like under Mike Rumfitt... Chris Bright was like a breath of fresh air when he took over.

    Good luck,


    1. Hi Will. The JDM was before my time but I've been trying to do some research on it to find out what went on along with lessons to be learnt for future attempts at party politics.

      I'd be grateful if you could drop me a line on with any info you might want to share about it all.

      Unfortunately there aren't many people around here anymore with memories to share.


  2. Sam,

    There was a quote famously made (by a Jerseyman) in a study of how it was that French immigrant labourers managed to get themselves onto the property ladder - the article is in a bulletin of the Societe Jersiaise. It runs:

    ...the Frenchman is more thrifty, harder working and closer living. Moreover he will work for a master, while a Jerseyman, as a rule, will work only for himself.

    My emphasis added, but it would appear to be true.

    1. Maybe it's my French blood in me that is making it feel like this attempt is different to past ones.

  3. Can you please explain what change to our legislation you would propose which would enable party politics ? As far as I am aware, there is nothing under our present constitution which prevents anybody forming a party, or indeed candidates standing for that party at election time ?

    Additionally, what difference there would be between the powers being sought under Gorst's proposition, and the powers attributed to a ruling party leader under a party system ?


    1. None is the answer to both of those questions.

    2. I may be missing something here, but if you believe there is no difference between the powers sought by Gorst's proposition, and the powers bestowed in the leader of a ruling party, how does party politics get us away from the concentration of power in one individual your counter proposal is seeking to avoid ?

    3. My proposition isn't seeking to avoid a concentration of power. It's seeking to balance power with accountability.

    4. Ok, I didn't immediately understand that distinction.

      I hope you will permit me another supplementary question. Assuming Gorst's proposition fails, and party politics achieves greater acceptance, how does the concentration of powers (which is exactly what Gorst is seeking to achieve) in the ruling party's leader also engender greater accountability ? Are you suggesting that the party leader could be removed by their own party membership, and this creates the accountability ?

    5. For the record, I'm going to oppose Senator Gorst's proposition for more power regardless of the outcome of my proposition and I hope the majority of States Members do too. My proposition is simply there to create some sort of safety net to mitigate the worst of the concentration of power.

      If Gorst was Chief Minister as the leader of the Jersey Conservative Party, if the public decide they don't like how he is performing they can vote at the next election to throw his party out and replace it with the Jersey Labour Party etc.

      The public would be able to command a greater accountability at election time than currently.

      Gorst is entirely capable of coming 2nd/ 3rd/ 4th/ 5th in Octobers Senatorial election, and still end up being elected Chief Minister. Parties would end that.

      A party could still theoretically get rid of it's leader in between elections, but it would be to replace them with someone from the same party, so the distinction would be less important. Also, the party would ultimately be accountable to it's members who would have a vote on who their leader is.

  4. Sam, dear boy, I'm only 50! There are plenty of us still around with such memories, although I'll grant you I was a teenage JDM member.

    I'll mail you later.


    1. Thanks Will!

      I was actually lucky enough on my election day to be greeted at the polling station by a very frail Chris Wakeham, who I had never met but had heard all about her involvement with the JDM. Despite not being very well, she made sure she came out to say hi then went up and voted for me. That was probably one of my proudest moments of the campaign!

  5. Chris is a wonderful woman, though I haven't seen her in years.

  6. Sam, Since you are in favour of the public electing the CM, do you also support Senator Bailhache's proposal that the public have a right to vote in relation to the role of the Bailiff?

    1. As I've said on Twitter, I would normally relish a referendum on this issue (I even once wrote to PPC asking if they'd consider suggesting one).

      But we're already having a referendum on the 15th October. Having two will just complicate things. Those who don't learn the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.

      And also the clock is ticking on Michael Birts retirement.

      And even if the public vote for an undemocratic lack of separation of powers, it doesn't make it less undemocratic.

      When things are as objective as this, I think referendums are a waste of money really.

  7. Thanks to the not for publication comment from an anonymous.

    Funnily enough the comments you've referred to have disappeared! If you could send that screenshot that would be great (

    We've had a IT expert look at it all and we've got him nailed very soon.