Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The State of Democracy in Jersey

Yesterday the States Assembly voted 17 to 26 (with 2 abstentions) to reject the proposition lodged by Reform Jersey's Deputy Montfort Tadier to hold off on beginning to construct the first building for the International Finance Centre (IFC) on the Esplanade car park until the scrutiny review being conducted into the schemes viability had concluded so the States could make a final decision based on the facts.

Regardless of anyone's views on whether we need to build these offices or not, it is completely reasonable to say that when it would only take a few weeks to finish that review, things could stand to be put on hold so we know all questions are answered before the public takes on potentially tens of millions of pounds of risk.

It was a terrible day for environmental campaigners as well as those who care about fiscal prudence and good government.

I won't rehearse the arguments which were made, but instead will commend the excellent work done by various campaigners and Save Our Shoreline Jersey who did an absolutely sterling job.

What I want to talk about is the state of democracy in Jersey today.

The 2013 Annual Social Survey showed that 75% of the public did not have faith in the States of Jersey. At the last election 70% of eligible voters did not vote. We have a gerrymandered electoral system which gives voters in the countryside more power than voters in urban areas. Anyone who tells you that none of this is a problem is either a liar or a fool. Jersey has a perpetual crisis of democracy.

It is that crisis which inspired me to get into politics so that I could play my part in working towards a system which gives all voters equality and provides accountability to those in government.

Yesterday has demonstrated exactly why democratic reform is desperately needed and why the current system is intellectually and morally bankrupt.

It was claimed by Constable Crowcroft in the run up to the debate that going ahead with the IFC was the result of democracy because the ministers who supported it all won re-election in October.

The Chief Minister was re-elected last year with the support of 18% of eligible voters. That's 82% of the public who did not back him. He receives staunch political support from the 12 Constables, 11 of whom were elected uncontested.

But here are the clinchers -

Check the election manifestos of our most senior ministers at, and and you will find not one single word about the IFC. Not one.

How anyone can patronise the public by calling this process democratic is beyond me.

But it gets worse.

Here is the list of which members voted against Deputy Tadier's proposition -

Of these, many are not particularly surprising.

But two will be a surprise if you are one of those who voted for them based on what they told SOS Jersey before they were elected.

Both Deputy Murray Norton and Deputy Peter McLinton when asked if they supported offices being built on the Esplanade said "no". 

And here it is -

They couldn't have been more unambiguous and, it transpires, they couldn't have been more insincere.

Not only did Deputy Norton vote against the proposal, but he actually gave a very passionate speech about how we absolutely MUST build the IFC and even slagged off the protesters (never a smart move).

When I go round knocking on doors at election time I am confronted by so many people who say "what's the point? Politicians say anything to get elected then just do what they want anyway." I try and explain that we aren't all the same and that I will vote exactly how I say I will in my manifesto (and my record shows that I have done exactly that).

I now have this to contend with. Two Deputies who portrayed themselves as not being part of the club and as being people who would be a breath of fresh air, then at the first sniff of power they vote exactly how the Chief Minister tells them to. How can I claim any member of the public is wrong to be cynical when I'm on the doorstep trying to tell them voting is worth it?

All of the assistant ministers where whipped into force (although Deputy Vallois abstained, but that's even worse frankly...). These so-called "independents" vote how the Chief Minister tells them to.

Never has it been more clear that we have a party political system in Jersey. The only difference is that Reform Jersey does what it says it will do at election time, the Jersey Tories lie their way into power and betray the public at every chance they can get.

Only slightly less annoying than the ministers/ assistant ministers abusing democratic process like this is the non-executive States Members who don't seem to even realise what their job is.

Deputy Richard Renouf of St Ouen, who is an Advocate by trade, said of the States of Jersey "we are the government of this Island". He is wrong. The States of Jersey is NOT the government of this Island, it is the parliament of this Island. It is the Council of Ministers which is the government, where the parliament appoints them and then holds them to account.

The fact a lawyer doesn't understand what his job is is utterly damning on the caliber of our parliamentarians.

If the purpose of the States Assembly is to simply rubber stamp whatever the Council of Ministers decides and to ignore any Scrutiny, then frankly it may as well be disbanded. It serves no purpose if it isn't capable of holding the government to account.

The next three years are going to be hell for ordinary Islanders.

Despite lying to the public during the election, Ian Gorst and his cohorts are hell bent on raising taxes on all of us at the same time as cutting back public services to the bare bones.

There is little to be done because our so-called politicians are probably the least capable we have ever had.

The challenge now is to build up a true democratic movement which can attempt to challenge their hegemony in 2018.

Reform Jersey are having our AGM on the 25th June. Sign up for free as a member and join the only political party in the Island which gives a damn what the public think.