As the October general election looms, States Members appear to be in a state of frenzy.
The media has reported anouncements of candidates (some sitting members) intention to stand for (re)election, with many of them announcing not a single policy of theirs, but simply who they are. Personality politics is obviously far more important than the vacuous inanity of policy debates.
Some States Members who are frustrated with how things have gone over the past electoral term have formed a political alliance (definitely not a party). They're meeting regularly, discussing policy positions, potential ministerial posts to aspire to and scope for collaboration. But, as I've said, it's definitely not a party, that would be ridiculous. Such an alliance sees members on the left of Jersey politics siding with others on the libertarian far-right in a very confused conglomeration. Oh, by the way, it's definitely not a party! (Get the point yet?)
Most curiously, the Treasury Minister, Senator Philip Ozouf, has been out of the island since the Budget revealed a potential deficit of £95m over 3 years, and barely a peep has been heard from him since. He's gone to France, presumably to get some economics lessons from the Francois Hollande government.
They're even turning on each other in St Mary, where Deputy Le Bailly (who can't seem to workout whether he is a parliamentarian or a glorified councillor) has announced he is to challenge Constable Juliette Gallichan for her job.
Rumours are being shared every day in the States building and there is certainly a tension in the air.
Throughout all of this, Reform Jersey are ploughing along and things couldn't be better for us.
Our Equality Parade was a humongous success. At it's peak around 500 people coming together, in one of the largest demonstrations in years, to support a cause that is at the heart of what most decent ordinary Jersey men and women want for their island.
By running stalls in town and knocking on doors in our constituencies we've signed up hundreds of people to the electoral register. St Helier, I am told, has never had more people registered to vote.
We are currently organising our candidates for an announcement in the next few weeks. We have a really interesting and diverse bunch with a variety of backgrounds, but all of whom are committed to making Jersey politics work better for the people of Jersey and with the passion for principles of social and economic justice that has been sorely missing from government policy for too long.
As a result of being the most overtly organised force in Jersey politics (there are more organised groupings, but they do so covertly, and therefore undemocratically) Reform Jersey is now facing further scrutiny. Some of which is justified, some of which is motivated by fear and some is just to antagonise us.
We have not produced a manifesto yet, as we haven't hit the election yet, but our first leaflet has announced some of our key policies -
- Ending abuse of zero-hours contracts
- Introduction of a 'living wage'
- Free GP visits
- Updating out employment protection law to a 21st Century standard
- Ending rampant population growth
- Fairer Income Tax system where high earners contribute more
- Lifting the Social Security cap on high earners so they pay the same rate as everyone else
- Opposing increases in GST
- Reforming the States electoral system to have one type of elected member in equal sized constituencies.
- Reforming the justice system to improve access to legal aid and introduce an independent prosecution service.
Is this as comprehensive as it needs to be? Absolutely not. But it's not a manifesto. More detail will be published closer to the election.
A criticism we have gotten by the usual right-wing detractors is that we're typical barking mad Trotskyites who promise outragous things (like saying sick people shouldn't have to pay to see a doctor like 65m people get in the UK) without a word on how to pay for it. I've even been accused of being a Communist by Grouville's John Dix twice, which I take as a sign we are doing something right.
This, of course, disregards two of our bullet points that very clearly show that we have targeted areas to raise revenue.
The meat is not on the bones yet, but it will be.
Our members have demonstrated that they have the initiative to put together packages to achieve this end. An example of a previous attempt by Deputy Southern can be read here - http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyPropositions/2011/28055-14746-1422011.pdf#search=p.23/2011
(Note - this is simply what has been suggested before as a way forward and will not necessarily be exactly the figures that Reform Jersey suggests)
The exact figures aren't on the table right now, but when have voters ever been given a fully costed and comprehensive policy guide at all, let alone over two months before the election?
As a geeky politico, I read every election manifesto in 2011 and our leaflet (which isn't a manifesto remember) contains more substance than probably 70% of those and certainly far more substance than anything put out by declared candidates in the upcoming election so far, who are simply hoping to bank on their name counting for something. So of all declared candidates so far, Reform Jersey has clearly demonstrated itself to be the most credible and it is the other candidates that should be interrogated hardest.
It has never been clearer that something in Jersey politics needs to change and a different approach to government is needed.
Despite the current state of our finances, Senator Ozouf was able to magic up £3.5m to buy Plémont. This proves something I have said in the States several times now that many of the things we do not get in Jersey, that citizens of other civilised countries are given as of right, is not out of finantial necessity but out of political choice.
We have a government that does not have as it's top priority to provide services to islanders to make their quality of life better.
Whilst the Chamber of Commerce and some business commentators want the government to slash public spending (despite the fact that this wil do nothing to help the economy grow and may actually cause greater unemployment) and offer fewer services to Islanders, there is another way.
In today's JEP, Peter Body made the point very well -
Well said Peter!
A fews day ago myself and Deputy Tadier wondered into the Farmers Inn in St Ouen for a couple of drinks (as one must do from time to time to discover the new and innovative ways the St Ouennais are driving the island forward).
After we'd managed to convince one local there that we aren't gay (apparently if you stand up for gay rights, that must make you gay), we had a really good conversation with the other locals there who were actualy quite excited about Reform Jersey and the different ideas we are putting forward.
I felt quite bad for them that they won't have a choice for a local Reform Jersey candidate in St Ouen because we aren't targetting that constituency, but they will still have their Senatorial candidates.
Jersey is not the conservative society that some suggest. We are broadly a progressive and social democratic comunity, but without a government that reflects it.
In October the people of this island have a choice - it's Reform Jersey or the Business As Usual Party.
The choice could not be more obvious.