Friday, 3 June 2011

"They don’t do anything for people like us” - overcoming voter abstention and cynicism.

Distribution of the June District No.1 Newletter to all households in District No.1 is nearly completed. If you have come to the blog having followed the link, then thank you. There may have been something in the leaflet that stirred some interest, so let me know what it was.

As I and supporters have been going around delivering those leaflets, we have sought to engage residents in political discussion with a view to winning a vote in the October elections. There have been some fruitful discussions and many have appreciated that I gave them the courtesy of a personal visit, even this early in the electoral campaign. Thanks to the two gentlemen in Pier Road who gave me an ice cold lager one hot June Thursday.

One couple were off to Canada on holiday from August through to October (yes, lucky them!) and I advised how they could download a Postal Vote request from the St Helier Parish internet site soon after the nominations for Deputy on 7th September. The request for a postal ballot will have to be sent signed, direct to the Judicial Greffe in the Royal Square, and for them to send out the ballot form. The six weeks between the nominations on 7th September and election on 19th October should be enough for them to complete the process. The completed ballot must arrive a few days before the election date to be valid. Cut-off dates and times will, no doubt, be printed on the form.

The big enemy in this election is not other candidates – I don’t take them too seriously – it’s the fact that eighty percent of the electorate abstain from voting. Everywhere I go, I encounter the same cry about the political class – “They don’t listen to us”; “They don’t do anything for people like us”; “They say one thing at election time and once elected do the opposite”. I hear all these comments and then set about trying to sort out the complexity and confusion that lies hidden in these sentiments. Most of the time, I do not succeed, but at least I try. I tell them I follow an old Socialist slogan, yes remember Socialism, and  that slogan is “Pessimism of the mind, optimism of the will”. What does it mean? It means even though the task may seem impossible, it is human action that can find a solution through the very act of doing. Even though so few vote, I do not give up on trying to engage everyone. Essentially its a political issue that I cannot address on my own. It will require sustained education by those committed to democracy and social justice.

Voter abstention is not because the electorate is somehow basically content. Quite the contrary, there is deep anger at the conduct of the government, as personified by Senators Le Sueur and Ozouf. That sullen resentment is not as yet mobilised into political action. I try to explain that disengagement of the individual voter is precisely what the Establishment want. They have no desire for working people to get out and vote for candidates that express their social and economic interests. Better they stay at home on election day and remain frustrated and passive. I see my task as giving potential voters sufficient confidence that change is possible.

Voter abstention is ignored by government, politicians and the media. Both government and elected politicians got there with the existing electorate and for them that is enough. Over the coming weeks I hope to do some video blogs and examine the arguments that are used. They will be familiar ones and I want to deconstruct the malaise that affects potential voters. I work from the basic premise that bad governments are elected because good people don’t vote.


  1. This advice might help

  2. I viewed the video and consider it to be highly pertinant to our situation here in Jersey.

    I particularly noted the line on leadership; "a heroic effort is a collective effort."

  3. Nick, you say on your blog that you don't take other candidates too seriously- is this view overarching?

  4. Once again the usual negativity and doom and gloom.You refuse to believe the reason of low voter turnout is that the silent majority do not see Jersey as the currupt dictatorship you seem to think it is.If Jersey was half as bad as you and the puerile populist Tadier make it out to be people would crawl over broken glass to vote.

  5. Somebody votes for the Ozoufs and Le Sueurs at elections so they must suit some voters Mr Le Cornu.
    You have a Jersey name too so nothing different there but perhaps you could try to explain who benefits from voting for the establishment people or if they are being misled?

    There are plenty of fancy cars on the roads so lots of people are doing ok. They also seem to take expensive holidays whenever they want so can you match that or offer more.

  6. Good luck to you. I hope you are voted in.


    I thought as I wrote my comment about the "other candidates" that it would provoke a response and I was correct.

    If the Deputies of St Helier were to act collectively for the Town, then the interests of the Country Parishes would have been blunted. St Helier is the dumping ground for so much that the Northern Parishes do not want in their charming Green Fields, yet are essential to a civilised existence – Incinerator to name but one.

    I have complete respect for everyone who puts themselves forward for election - its hard work and requires lots of diplomacy and tact not to offend potential voters. I am still learning the art of remaining principled without giving offence to those that might not be in total agreement.

    We do not yet know who all the candidates will be. Some will be individuals without any political track record or achievements in a political sense. Those I despise, because they expect the electorate to suddenly put them into a position of representation without having shown any commitment. Some will be coming from a secure career and safe pension, to which a seat in the States will be an fine sinecure in official retirement. I have a long history of political engagement and campaigning. I bear the scars but have no medals and neither do I expect any.

    Historically District No 1, St Helier has been a back door to the States for a number of Establishment candidates cutting their teeth. The residents as a whole have been poorly served by the Deputies, concerned more about their careers and status than promoting and protecting the interests of the working people who form the majority. I certainly recall one whose only slogan was “Law and Order” and then promptly went back to sleep for another three years having achieved nothing, let alone address the issues around crime and security - its called right-wing populism.

    As a result of electors having three votes, which they seem to use indiscriminately (i.e. absence of tactical voting, the system not allowing any form of preference) it generates a culture of candidates not engaging or criticising others, for fear of offending a staunch supporter of another candidate and losing that second or third vote. Perhaps we can open a discussion on this issue and advance our shared understanding of political culture in the island.

    I certainly will not refrain from engaging with other candidates and producing a critique of their policies. I suspect most will not be producing a manifesto with any substance, relying on the “vote for me, I am a nice guy/woman” or here is a photograph of my dog. Incidentally I like dogs, but that does not have too much to do with social and economic issues and really should not appear in a manifesto. It is probably wanting to appear human and not give offence.

  8. The more policies you declare the more reasons you will give for somebody not to vote for you.
    In other words, if you give "law and order" as your total manifesto then nobody can deny you a vote for that.
    It's a dilemma of democracy. If potential voters agree with 19 of your 20 policies but disagree with just one - what should they do?

    The electorate need to be trusted too just as much as they must have faith in their representative. With so much personal sniping around in Jersey it is especially difficult.

    All the more reason to have the structural support of "parties". At least (virtually) all candidates are in the same boat.

  9. Clearly the existence of parties would give electors some sort of choice of policy direction that is currently lacking. “They say one thing and do another” is the weary and cynical reason that many give for their not voting. Precisely; candidates of the Right and of the Establishment are indifferent and unprincipled. They will say anything to get elected.

    Candidates of Parties are accountable to that party. They would not be chosen again if they did not meet the criteria required by the party. It is the issue of accountability that existing States Members hate so much. They do not wish to be accountable to anyone. Every three years they come back to an electorate that is wholly uninformed as to the true merits and success of that individual in the States. If the candidate has had enough coverage in the Jersey Evening Post, then that is sufficient for the electorate to believe someone has been doing a good job. Putting in propositions in the six months before the election ensures coverage – photograph (not of their dog but the candidate) and name mentioned. The Proposition will be about some banal triviality which is then soundly defeated in the States and lost without trace; the public none the wiser.

    There are regular elections but no significant change. The current structure ensures it and that is why whenever the issue of States Reform, Clothier and Carswell arise it is ignored. Establishment members are all parroting together that Clothier was eleven years ago, as though it were a document of Medieval origin and without relevance. Clothier and Carswell remain highly pertinent. The recently proposed Electoral Commission will just be going over old ground and inevitably, if it is to have any credibility, reach the same conclusion. It will report and be ignored for another decade. That is precisely why REFORM is urgent.

  10. On Trevor Pitman's blog I have posed a question about the indentity of those who make up the "government party" as opposed to the "progressives" or those who are neither.
    Nobody has offered to prepare a list so far but since you are participating in the electoral parade what do you think?
    Obviously the voters have only a rather blunt pencil to thrust with but their aim might be more assured if the targets were more clearly defined.

    TOM GRUCHY says