Sunday, 22 June 2014

Electoral Reform - a chance to take a huge step forward

Here we have the proposed referendum that the people of Jersey should have been asked 10 years ago.

We are finally being offered our say on whether the recommendations of the Clothier Report on the composition of the States of Jersey should be implemented.

The review into the machinery of government in Jersey, led by Sir Cecil Clothier in 2000, proposed many far reaching reforms into how Jersey is governed. Since then, the States of Jersey has accepted all of it's proposals that concentrated power further into the hands of the senior elite in the States, without accepting the parts that proposed enhancing the democratic accountability of all politicians to the public that elect them.

Self interest prevailed, and I think that the majority of the public now lament that decision greatly.

Last years referendum did not help.

The moment the States decided to backtrack on it's decision that States Members should not be on the Electoral Commission, the outcome was doomed.

Self-interest took over once more and we all know how that turned out!

Here we have an opportunity for a legitimate referendum, with a legitimate question on a legitimate electoral system. Last time round, we had nothing but illegitimacy in the process.

If the States agree to put this question to the public (as they have tentatively already agreed to do so, however there is still one final vote to be had), then I, and Reform Jersey, will be campaigning hard for a "yes" vote on the 15th October, alongside our own personal elections.

The distribution of seats would be -

An independent boundary commission would be established to decide on the exact distribution, as well as setting the boundaries for the internal Parish districts in the larger Parishes.

It isn't perfect, but it's a heck of a step in the right direction.

Compared to what we have now, this is how it works out. The bars going down demonstrate over-representation, and the bars going up show under-representation -
This will eliminate the historic under-representation of the town. I would be committing treason against my electorate if I did anything other than support more representation for St Helier.

But the States still has a final vote coming up at the end of July to accept this referendum question, and I can already see the anti-democrats amongst my colleagues desperately scrambling for straws to clutch at, to find reasons why they should chicken out of asking the people for their say.

In the meantime, Reform Jersey presses on and is well on the road to preparing for this years elections.

If you want to find out more about the party and get involved, please contact me on


  1. Deputy Mezec,

    I wish you all the best with Reform Jersey and agree with a great deal of the philosophy of what you are doing for Jersey. My main concern, and what I see as the only (albeit substantial risk), is that in voting for RJ, the risk to the finance industry to me is quite large. I have a great concern that this could cause problems for the majority of ordinary workers in Jersey. Deputy Tadier is against the finance industry, and there are many in Jersey who don't realise that all countries have access to low or zero taxing jurisdictions (Singapore, Delaware, Caribbean, Switzerland, Norfolk Island) - Jersey is no different, and calling it a tax haven is incorrect. Jersey doesn't have high taxes simply because we have a low cost per capita for politicians, hardly any major cost for infrastructure relative to say the mainland, and a good Parish system which encourages landowners to look after their own properties (ie: branchage).

    How will you convince voters that Reform Jersey that there are candidates with anti-finance industry sentiments who associate with the TJN (Richard Murphy as an accountant was refused a J-Category many years ago, and has raged a war with Jersey ever since! Before he was involved in the TJN).

    Further, there was a great report uncovered by the Sydney Morning Herald which showed how the Australian Government used jurisdictions in Jersey and the Caribbean to reduce tax. The article showed that the Government had robbed itself of tax revenue in the vicinity of several hundred million AUD - when asked about this, they pointed out they had saved billions from paying taxes to other governments. So, this is also about governments, and as such there will never be an appetite to stop it, when they do it themselves (though not publicly).

    My concern is that some people (including some RJ politicians) don't understand the finance industry, and how governments around the world use different jurisdictions to achieve their ends. Australia has a mining industry which drives their economy - we have a low tax jurisdiction. Everyone specialises in something, and personally would rather employment from the finance industry, than gas fracking, or raping the earth for minerals...

    Is RJ a supporter of the finance industry?

    1. Reform Jersey's policy on the finance industry summed up into one sentence would probably be - we support a forward thinking, prosperous and ethical finance industry.

      The debate is then to what extent is the industry already those three things, and our answer would be that there is room for improvement.

      The government of Jersey should be a critical ally of the finance industry, as well as all of our industries. That doesn't mean we simply bow down to the first sign of pressure from an industry leader, but means we do listen to the industries concerns, but we have a wider duty to all industries in Jersey and to society as a whole, and when the interests of finance conflict with the interests of others, it should not be assumed that finance will always take precedence.

      A strong finance industry means a strong Jersey.

      We want an industry that is forward looking and sustainable, not one that simply buries its head in the sand and hopes to make as much money in the short term without caring much for the longterm.

      That is why all four Reform Jersey States Members very enthusiastically backed Jersey ratifying the FATCA agreement, because we think it shows a commitment to making sure our finance industry swims with the tide, not against it. Sadly in that debate Senator Bailhache took the opposite view and, in my opinion, showed that it is actually those that want to bury their heads in the sand that represent the biggest threat to the longterm prosperity of finance, rather than those on the left of politics like Reform Jersey who want to see a Jersey that leads the way in tackling aggressive tax avoidance.

      Deputy Tadier is not against the finance industry. That is definitely a misrepresentation of his position. He is against aggressive tax avoidance, which he (and Reform Jersey) considers to be immoral. We want the government to do more to work with the UK government to shut down schemes that facilitate very rich people avoiding paying legitimate taxes.

      There is a legitimate place for tax avoidance when it is about preventing double taxation. Jersey has a role to play in that, and should be shouting it from the roof that we are best place to register to prevent transactions being taxed twice. That is not morally questionable (so long as it's done properly) and actually helps investment into third world countries because many of them do not have tax echange agreements with richer economies.

      Whether Richard Murphy was refused a J-Cat or not, I couldn't care less. I'm not interested in that sort of character assassination. I'm interested in what comments he makes about Jersey and whether they are legitimate concerns we need to address. Sometimes he'll be right, sometimes he'll be wrong. I think to suggest that he is bitter about not getting a job and therefore everything he says must be wrong, is not helpful and it's not the sort of politics I believe in.

      I hope that helps.


  2. Certainly does - appreciate the reply and effort and agree with most of what you say.

    What I would like to have clarified however is the use of Jersey for tax avoidance. Is it the responsibility of Jersey government to involve itself in the failings of other countries legislation? For example, the vehicles used by the likes of Jimmy Carr had nothing to do with Jersey, other than a structure was created here like any other corporate entity. It was the UK laws which 'failed' by allowing such a structure to exist. My concern here (if you believe that we should make up for these failings), is that Jersey then create a law for another country, for which there is a possible valid reason for the tax avoidance (remember a legal use of a countries tax laws) - some jurisdictions as I outlined also make use of tax laws to benefit their own country.

    In terms of Richard Murphy, it was not a character assassination - I don't know the man, however I believe it important to ensure that there is background perspective to behaviour. Just as in a Court case, diminished responsibility can come into play based on historical events - as long as people are aware of them, then at least they can judge if RJ do associate with individuals who may (or may not) be influenced from previous events. Just saying...

  3. Off topic slightly, but can you please explain what you hope to gain by publishing your forthcoming States questions on Twitter ?

    1. To keep people up to date with what I'm up to.

  4. I commend you proposition to reorganise the number of representatives to make them democratically proportional. However I have a concern as the situation in St. Helier. Despite it being the 'capital' and having the largest number of the electorate this could with 17 Deputies leader to a 'tyranny of the majority' situation where all the laws are dominated by those of the St. Helier (which would be urban and quintessentially center-left supporters, I see your secondary motive here) but this would lead to them effectively running Jersey while the other 11 of the 12 parishes being powerless to oppose them. With 17 of the 49 seats this would lead to them and the other urban parishes (mainly in the South East) to not effectively take into account for the significant rural issues.

    Would it not be better to just ever so slightly boost the other parishes like Grouville, St. Peter and St. John with another Deputy each from Savoiur, Clement and Helier? Thus making it more representative and pluralistic?

  5. For the record, it is a proposition by the Privileges and Procedures Committee based on a report by a committee of locals and experts 14 years ago. It doesn't represent my ideal solution, but one I'm happy to endorse as a huge step forward.

    The point I begin with is that everybody must have a vote of equal value. That is an objective and immovable position from enlightened principles of democracy, from which democrats should accept no deviation from.

    If problems arise from that, then so be it, we'll have to find imaginative and (crucially) democratic ways of solving it, rather than just leave the town under-represented because some people don't like how they perceive the town to vote.

    But I don't see the town as being quintessentially left wing. The poll toppers of St Helier No 1 and 2 districts are both right wingers. Some of our star right-wingers of the past were elected in St Helier constituencies (Senator Ozouf was originally 3/4, as was Terry Le Sueur and Frank Walker. Reg Juene was elected in my district etc etc). St Clement is urban, yet has two right wing Deputies. Some of our most left wing politicians have been elected in country Parishes, like Daniel Wimberley in St Mary.

    If all constituencies are equal, it means that the left and right will have a fair fight over who gets to form the government of Jersey, rather than the current situation where the right is handed it on a plate because the system is weighed in their favour.

    The current distribution set out in the information above isn't final. It's just a guideline. An independent boundary commission would decide the final distribution and it would be guided by a principle of equal representation. I suspect that they will give St John an extra Deputy and take away a Deputy from St Clement in their final decision.

  6. 'rather than the current situation where the right is handed it on a plate because the system is weighed in their favour'

    Could you please explain why electing all members on an island wide mandate would be less democratic than these proposed reforms ?

    1. Because it's completely impractical in a non-party system.

  7. Thanks, but that wasn't the question. The question was why it would be less democratic ?

    1. Practicality is fundamental to democracy.

      It doesn't matter how theologically consistent an system is if it's completely impractical to implement.

      All members elected island wide in a non-party system is completely unworkable and therefore not a solution worth considering.

  8. The most serious issue of practicality is that the voter is physically able to vote for who they want. Admittedly selecting 49 members at one time would be a problem, but there are solutions to that. I would contend that on the basis that all new members would seek to represent and legislate for the entire population, that the most democratic approach would be that they be selected by the entire population.

    Reform's (and others who seek electoral change) position seems to be that you would rather sacrifice the people's ability to choose any or all of those who would seek to govern them, for reasons of practicality ?

    Thanks for engaging

    1. Island wide elections are not going to happen because they are completely unworkable.

      Nobody has yet proposed one that would work.

      To suggest that any reformers are fake democrats because we acknowledge it's not a viable option (incidentally, so do virtually all democracies across the world that you're ignoring) is just not a sensible argument.

      Democrats that persist with this delusion simply split the cause and make it longer until we have a representative system.

  9. Slow down. This is supposed to be good natured. I didn't realise that we weren't able to question you as chairman, on the party's stance on degrees of the democratic electoral process.

    I can't see that I have accused anybody of being a 'fake democrat', and I would hope that you would apologise for that accusation. I've merely stated my contention that a democratic electoral system (even given practical limitations) is for those who govern be elected by those who they govern.

    We have a system at present called rolling Senatorial elections which do exactly what I am talking about, and if the population should vote 'no' on the ballot paper you have published, that would appear to be a viable democratic alternative.

    Rolling Senatorial elections would obviate the argument over proportional representation by population, which would appear to be the basic tenet of your argument for electoral reform. I fully realise the drawbacks of this system, and perhaps you would care to refute that these would not favour representatives who have traditionally entered our government, to govern for the entire population, on a minimal percentage of the population's votes ?

    1. Island wide elections will end any sort of meaningful election campaign.

      Senators are the most out of touch of our politicians and they can get elected without knocking on a single door. They just have to have a well known name and satisfy some powerful interest groups.

      Constituency based politics means actually interacting with the people that you're meant to represent.

      All island wide members would, I suspect, mean that more people will actually not even realise an election is going on because they won't have had any interaction with it or contact by candidates.

      Another thing is the sheer cost of a island wide campaign. It will be totally prohibitive to less well off candidates. I don't want a system that gives in a built in advantage to wealthy candidates.

      In constituencies you will get elected by meeting people and convincing them you're the right person for the job and you'll get reelected by developing a reputation as being hard working. In island wide elections, it will be irrelevant.

      And even if all of that is wrong, it's still practically impossible. So it fails on all counts.

      Jersey does not need it's own unique principles of democracy. We aren't better than the rest of the world. The principles that are considered standard everywhere else are fine here.

      Party politics and equal sized constituencies. There is nothing wrong with that. Refusing to drop a flawed idea that, I can promise you, will never happen, is just an unnecessary side argument that will hold us back.

  10. I asked a follow up question to get a better idea to why I shoudl vote for RJ, particularly since I agree with RJ policies, however VERY worried about the perspective they have of the finance industry.

    I was not convinced by your reply Deupty, and you ignore my follow-up, and you take to o personally when you get queried.

    Us voters are legitimately asking you valid questions, this attitude by yourselfs seems as though unless we agree wholeheartedly with you, then we are the antagonists!

    As a potential RJ voter, your approach isn't working to secure my and my family's vote.

    1. I apologise for being too busy to reply to every single question that is posed to me by an anonymous person on the internet. I think the fact I gave you (and have given others) a very detailed response shows that my approach is actually very generous. How many other States Members have dedicated that time to your questions?

    2. Several - I have long (hours at a time) with some deputies, and one Senator. At least I gave you the opportunity and using a simpler method than having to sit down with me over a coffee at periods - far more effort than you give me simply typing a message.

    3. I much prefer meeting over coffee to discuss politics. Online isn't as interactive and all sorts of misinterpretations etc can happen.

      My email is Happy to meet. But bear in mind the next 3 weeks are heavy sessions of States sittings, so would need to arrange a time outside of that.

  11. 'Senators are the most out of touch of our politicians' - Wow, I'm amazed an elected representative would be willing to publicly denigrate a whole elected class of his fellow members. You seem to forget that you were elected by a few hundred votes, but get to legislate for the whole island. How 'in touch' does that make you with anybody outside of your constituency ?

    'So it (island wide elections) fails on all counts' - Really ? It fails on ALL counts ? What about the fact that the people being governed actually getting to elect the people who govern them ? It fails on that count ?

    'Another thing is the sheer cost of a island wide campaign. It will be totally prohibitive to less well off candidates. I don't want a system that gives in a built in advantage to wealthy candidates' - I thought there was a cap on election expenses ? How would that favour 'wealthy' candidates ?

    'In constituencies you will get elected by meeting people and convincing them you're the right person for the job and you'll get re-elected by developing a reputation as being hard working. In island wide elections, it will be irrelevant' - Are you suggesting that all Senators elected during our history have:

    1) Been elected irrespective of whether they met their electors or not ?
    2) Were re-elected simply because they were a 'recognisable name', and hadn't convinced people they were worthy of re-election ?

    1. "Wow, I'm amazed an elected representative would be willing to publicly denigrate a whole elected class of his fellow members." Come on, be serious. No you're not. I'm on record dozens of times as saying we have a terrible electoral system that needs abolishing in it's entirety. My statement cannot surprise you unless you've missed my position, which you evidently haven't.

      "You seem to forget that you were elected by a few hundred votes, but get to legislate for the whole island. How 'in touch' does that make you with anybody outside of your constituency ?" Well I did recently go and knock on thousands of doors in my area and talk politics with them. That's a hell of a lot more than our most recently elected Senators did.

      "What about the fact that the people being governed actually getting to elect the people who govern them ? It fails on that count ?" yes, I've already explained why.

      "I thought there was a cap on election expenses ? How would that favour 'wealthy' candidates ?" The cap is around £10k if I remember rightly. That is a lot of money and poorer candidates would struggle to raise even a small portion of that. Wealthy candidates could raise it with one single signature on a cheque.

      Yes, to both of your final points. I doubt many islanders would be surprised by such a point. This is Jersey.

  12. Thank you for your interesting reply. For reasons of clarity, and please correct me if I'm wrong, let me summarise your position:

    1) You believe it is appropriate to describe senior members of our government, many of whom have served our community for years, if not decades, as 'out of touch', simply because they have been elected on an island wide mandate

    2) You believe that those same members have been elected without having direct contact with their electors

    3) You believe that contacting thousands of electors, and receiving a few hundred votes on the back of this work, makes you a more democratic representative than Senators who you claim have not done this, but have polled thousands of votes ?

    4) Being elected on an island wide mandate represents a less democratic result than being elected by a few hundred voters on a parochial mandate

    5) The cap on election expenses is around £ 10K (I may be incorrect, but Regulation 4 of the Public Elections (Expenditure and Donations Jersey 2011) seems to indicate that a Senatorial candidate's expenses shall not exceed £ 2,700 or 11 pence per person entitled to vote)

    6) That Senators have been elected without needing to meet their electors

    7) That voters do not take into account a Senators performance in their role when considering their re-election ?

    As you will appreciate, as a potential voter, I am very interested in the views of many candidates, but I would hate to mis-represent your position on certain key factors.

    1. 1) Yes to the first part, no to the second. In a democracy we are allowed to criticise our government. There is nothing unparliamentary about accusing politicians on the other side as being out of touch. But I didn't say they were out of touch because they have an islandwide mandate. I think they are out of touch for a myriad of reasons, many of which related to the poor way they are elected and lack of contact with a manageable electorate.

      2) Yes to any notable degree. I would be amazed if any of our Senators (except Alan Breckon) did any door-knocking during their elections.

      3) Democracy is about far more than just numbers of votes.

      4) See above.

      5) You are incorrect. It's says "in aggregate", meaning that it is £2,700 and 11p for every registered voter.

      6) Yes. It's entirely possible to get elected on the back of a reputation and favourable media coverage.

      7) Not in the way they do with Deputies. No.

  13. Why were you not present for the vote on the granting of money for the NT to buy Plemont ?

    The States have given away £ 3 1/2 Million of our money to a private landowner, and in return have been given no stake in the ownership of the land. That is appalling.

    Bravo to Geoff and Nick for voting against the proposition. I take it that Reform had no whip on this, as I note that Montfort voted for, however I would have expected the party Chairman to have voted with the majority of his colleagues.

    1. Correct that there was no whip.

      When there is a free vote, the Chairman also has a free vote and isn't obliged to vote with the majority of other party members. An example there is David Cameron who voted for gay marriage when the majority of his party voted against, on a free vote.

      I had to leave the Chamber early yesterday due to a long standing commitment. I had been there all day and was just unlucky that the vote was when it was. It's normally impossible to predict when the vote will be on debates like this because it all depends on how many speakers there are. Senator Ozouf had thought it would be done by morning.

  14. Deputy Mezec, I didn't hear any comments of RJ in relation to the Sunday Trading proposition (I must admit I thought it was on later this week). I am surprised you did the bidding of the God-botherers! In fact VERY disappointed that you didn't vote for it. If it was related to working conditions, then it is hardly an argument to join the God-lot to argue for keeping the Sabbath free. There is already legislation which ensures employees cannot force people to work 7 day weeks already in place (I have used this myself with my employer to great success). In fact you shoudl argue that we allow Sunday trading AND overtime for work over X hours per week. I though you woudl represent workers, but so far it isn't happening!!!

    Also, in relation to the Plemont debate - I believe the Solicitor General is wrong in relaiton to use of funds for the Police Headquarters. It has to have a DIRECT relation tounder drug confiscation - a Judicial Review shoudl be held on his incompetence.

    1. Reform Jersey opposed and will continue to oppose Sunday trading exactly because we believe in standing up for workers.

      On today's culture of zero-hours contracts, I don't believe for a moment that workers would be safeguarded from the effects of it. I also believe that it would cause unemployment in the retail sector when smaller businesses were having to try and compete with the larger ones.

      In the States debate not a single word of religious influence was said. In fact Senator Gorst I believe voted for it, despite being religious.

      Agree with you on Plémont funding.

  15. VERY DISAPPOINTED with Plemont, but even more disappointed that RJ didn't vote as a party. I was hoping we would have party politics, and the caucus would get together, argue the principles, and then vote according to the party determined position. If you are going to have these conscious voting patterns, particularly something as important as spending £3.5m of our money, then what is the point in RJ? I give up on you lot already.

    1. Parties often have free votes. There is nothing unusual about that. I have the utmost respect for Monty's position despite not agreeing with all of it. Plémont was a very divisive issue. Arguably, Reform Jersey actually uniquely represented all of the views of the public.

      If your faith is so easily shaken, I'm inclined to doubt you were ever really on side.

    2. If you are unable to agree on this issue, then fine - don't go and make out you have introduced party politics - you don't even have a whip. It is only coincidence that you vote the same way on SOME things.

  16. Can you please explain why you are avoiding answering questions on your own and Reform's voting performance in yesterdays debate on Plemont ? We can see from your Twitter use that you are using social media at present

    1. I'm not and wasn't. Moderating and responding to comments on my blog is difficult on a mobile phone, whereas tweeting is much easier.

  17. "All members elected island wide in a non-party system is completely unworkable and therefore not a solution worth considering."
    It could work with overlapping 5 years terms, and fifth of them up for election each year. Annual elections would keep issues in the spotlight. At least we'd all get a say in ALL the members in the house.
    As it is at the moment, and with the proposed "improvement", I barely see the point in turning out to the polls. I only do it out of a sense of duty, not in the hope that it will achieve anything. When the vast majority of members are totally beyond my voting powers, it's hard to see what power I have to contribute towards effecting any meaningful change in any way.