Monday, 22 September 2014

Jersey's Elections (1) ------Apathy Ahoy??

Well that “was the Election Nomination Week that was” and the dust has now settled. However it is evident that the dust was not disturbed in several parishes as 17 candidates were “elected” unopposed. Whilst I accept it is not the fault of those successful and indeed lucky candidates that no-one opposed them, however they must take some responsibility for supporting a system which is archaic and undemocratic.  

My blog is read world wide and some readers from outside the Island and for that many on Island will marvel how an Island’s democracy can still operate where there is no party system, no formal opposition, has three types of elected States Member and where the unelected Dean, Solicitor and Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, Bailiff and his Deputy all sit in the same Assembly and have the right to speak.

It is now some 14 years since the late Sir Cecil Clothier published his report and one of my regrets during my 18 years in the States is that I supported the change to ministerial government based on the promise that we would immediately address the other Clothier reform recommendations. It is a fact that States Members, with the support of the Council of Ministers have reneged on the promises made some 12 years go.

We now have a parliamentary system that is controlled by members with vested interests and an old boy net work that even old Etonians would envy. Thanks to the States allowing itself to be ambushed by Senator Bailhache’s throttling of the Electoral Commission, the electorate is left floundering and with little or no say in who will be elected to the States and ultimately to the Council of Ministers.

At the last referendum the electorate were given the opportunity of voting for “Option A” which would have allowed for the Island to be divided into 6 electoral districts whereby the electorate in each district would be given the opportunity of voting for 7 members to the States Assembly which would be reduced to 42 members. The system would have removed the Connétables/Constables automatic seat in the States but would permit them to stand shoulder to shoulder with other candidates seeking election to the States.

“Option A” would have ensured that no member would be elected or re-elected unopposed and every member including Ministers and Connétables/Constables would be held accountable to a wider electorate. However it was not to be and we have a situation where 11 Connétables/Constables have either been elected or re-elected unopposed. Even more bizarre is that 6 Deputies have been elected/re-elected unopposed some of whom are hoping to become Ministers.

We also have a situation where Ministers would rather stand in their relatively safe parish or district seat than seek an Island mandate. It is a pity that they did not display the example of Deputies Green and Young and Dr Zoe Cameron who are seeking an Island mandate in their endeavours to become Minister. They will receive one of my votes not just because of their example but they have the credentials to be Ministers.

I hope to publish other blogs before the election on 15th October which is not only to elect members to the States but includes a referendum where the electorate will be asked “should the Constables remain as members of the States as an automatic right?” It might be a simple question but it requires an informed answer and I very much regret that votes will be cast on sentiment rather than knowledge.

I respect the role of Connétable/Constable and know most of the post holders however as sensible and mature people why were they sitting as a body at the Senatorial Nomination evening. Why were they there, who asked them and how could they justify being there?

Now that 11 of the Connétables/Constables will not have to knock at doors it is hoped that they will find time to upload their manifestos on to Vote.je  and also organise Parish Assemblies to arrange for independent speakers to discuss the merits of voting “Yes” or “No” before the forthcoming Referendum.


14 comments:

  1. Bob.

    "why were they sitting as a body at the Senatorial Nomination evening. Why were they there, who asked them and how could they justify being there?"

    It is my understanding that the unelected, and unaccountable, Attorney Generals Office told them to be there.

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    1. I don't know who advised them and perhaps a reader might know the answer.

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  2. Right on the money as usual Mr. Hill.

    Just a couple of points regarding "...where the unelected Dean, Solicitor and Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, Bailiff and his Deputy all sit in the same Assembly and have the right to speak."

    The Bailiff apparently also has the "right" to decide who speaks and even what questions can be asked.
    During his time as Bailiff Philip Bailhache apparently awarded himself the right to switch off member's microphones in extreme circumstances such as a member expressing regret and concern for Jersey's many victims of decades of institutional child abuse.

    I believe the Bailiff also has the casting vote?

    I am not sure if the Lieutenant Governor generally has the right to speak or whether they can only do so in particular circumstances or upon invitation?

    The Attorney General may have a right to speak but it has become clear that even though he is there to advise the house, the other members do NOT have a right to answers to clear questions put to him. It seems he can answer if, and to what extent he pleases, perhaps at the discretion of the unelected Bailiff.

    A long tradition of toytown politics.

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    1. You are correct about the Bailiff/Speaker deciding who can speak and I found it frustrating not being called to speak, this was particularly annoying during Question Time.

      The Bailiff/Speaker no longer has the casting vote. If a vote is tied, it is lost.

      The Governor does have the right but generally only exercises that right to speak at the start and end of their posting.

      I am afraid that both the Solicitor and Attorney Generals are no better or worse than most of the Ministers when it comes to answering questions.

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  3. The Referendum Question is simply "Should Constables remain as members of the States as an automatic right?" and the answer options are just Yes or No. So not much scope for expressing concerns about wider issues. The voting public must respond with a "NO" and allow the full consideration of reforming the whole system for another day but to vote yes can only condemn the Island to future decades of democracy denied.
    The Vote No campaign is doing its best to present some of the issues and the 11 Constables returned without even a contest at the polls should speak volumes - but with a population that has not grasped (to a large extent) that Constables are paid £46,000 from central funds to sit in the States having been elected by their Parishes only - it is a very difficult path.
    That CM Gorst has failed to deliver the Independent Election Monitors as promised in the States must also be significant. This is the very first General Election held in Jersey and it has a Referendum on top too so the need for inspection and reporting was never greater from the first nominations to the final count...we have it within our own hands to change things just as Jersey people did on 28 September 1769 - Jersey Reform Day - but we have to be prepared and brave enough to demand change.

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    1. Thanks for your comment and you are right to say that a No vote could shut the door for reform. It is an issue of sentiment rather than logic and I fear that unless enough thinkers who come out the Connetables and as a consequence the position of the Senators will remain.

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    2. I read Tom as saying a NO vote might open the way to reform whereas a YES vote would just enshrine the status quo?

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    3. Unfortunately because the Electoral Commission was hijacked we now have a half cocked referendum which if the Yes vote wins will stifle any reform for years to come.

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  4. Bob,
    I wont hold my breath waiting for the Connetables to arrange referendum meetings.

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  5. If readers would like to view the Hustings thet can do so by clicking on to the Vote.je link above

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  6. Blog encantador,gostei do que vi e li,e desde já lhe dou os parabéns, também agradeço por partilhar o seu saber, se achar que merece a pena visitar o Peregrino E Servo, também se desejar faça parte dos meus amigos virtuais faça-o de maneira a que possa encontrar o seu blog,para que possa seguir também o seu blog. Paz. António Batalha.

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    1. Good Evening Antonio, thank you for comment which thanks to Google I publish the English version below but where is the "Pilgrim and Servant"

      Lovely blog, liked what I saw and read, and already give you kudos, also thank you for sharing your knowledge, if you think it is worth visiting the Pilgrim And Servant, also if you want part of my virtual friends do it so that can find your blog, so you can also follow your blog. Peace. António Batalha. on Jersey's Elections (1

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  7. Bob.

    Deputy Sam Mezec unelected States Members part two. CONSTABLES.

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  8. Bob

    Another storm on the horizon ?

    http://planetjersey.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,3921.msg59498/topicseen.html#msg59498

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