Saturday, 22 October 2011

Jersey lurches to the Right – so stop whinging and get organised to fight back

ESTABLISHMENT GRANDEES AND CANDIDATES -  Town Hall, Oct 19th 2011.Pierre Horsfal, James Baker, Sir Philip Bailhache and Mary O'Keefe Burgher (left to right).
The October 2011 elections saw the Jersey electorate lurch to the political Right. It was a repetition of 2008 when economic uncertainty saw a flight to safety and toward those that offered a modicum of stability. With the economy in deeper recession than 2008 that feature was repeated.

Frightened by the social polarization that was impelling forward a number of vocal and capable critics as States Members, the business class and wealthy organised a political revaunche.

The need by the Elite for a saviour saw the election of Philip Bailhache on an agenda of cleansing the States of representatives of the working classes and anyone else that challenged their interest. Under the banner of pseudo Reform a series of measures will be implemented to block the further entry of dissent

Deputy Bob Hill in St Martin, a moderate, capable and essentially straight politician fell to the fear factor, being replaced by an unthreatening traditionalist. Elsewhere the organisation factor saw the election of Rod Bryans and Phil Rondel, both loyalists of the Ozouf Right. A well run campaign mobilised the vote, with behind the scenes use of networks.

St Helier District No.1 – “The very model of a modern Ozoufite candidate”

The success of organisation propelled the official Ozoufite candidate James Baker into top position in St Helier District No.1 to the surprise of all except his backers.

Minimum wage labour erected posters and delivered leaflets and letters. Having no previous political credentials and living in a Country Parish was little impediment to a business candidate. At the Hustings there was no evident oratorical skill. Measured and rehearsed opinions echoed the official party line of the Establishment with an audacious and telling assertion of Bailhache for Chief Minister.

The election literature was slick and deceptive. Many of the gullible might even have believed that he was against GST, so well drafted were the statements of intent. Clearly this was a product designed by others. Image triumphed.

I have yet to meet anyone that claims to have had James Baker nock on their door, whereas I acquired the reputation for having made up to three visits in certain areas. Since no one has actually had a conversation with James Baker, it must remain open how he will perform when not managed. Mastering the intricacies of the Social Security System and Income support may prove challenging. Perhaps requests for help in those areas will be redirected to the other two Deputies in the District.

It is to be feared that District No.1 will be ill served by James Baker during the next three years. No real commitment will be demonstrated. If there are skills of use to the Elite, there might be a fast tracking to the position of Senator, otherwise the function of “blocking pawn” will suffice to keep out a third non-Establishment Deputy in 2014.

A consequences of the success of James Baker was to displace one of the three non-Establishment sitting Deputies. It happened to be Paul Le Claire, but it could easily have been Judy Martin. Le Claire was already demoralized by an absence of preferment to minor office, based primarily on a perceived absence of ability. The Establishment will shed no tears at the loss and they probably hope it is the end of his political career, most of which has been spent as a mild but annoying irritant.

Trevor Pitman showed that valiant and principled politics can meet with success. He was only four votes less than James Baker. A socially polarised island is reflected in the two to one split of Deputies in District No1.

1,810 vote out of 5,059 – improvement?

Jersey is blighted by low voter turnout in the urban areas; St Helier in particular. At the Senatorial by-election in 2010, 872 voted out of an electorate of 4324, a 20.16% turnout or shocking 80% abstention!

Compared with the Deputy election in 2008 voter abstention fell in 2011 from 75% to 64%. The usual and abysmal 25.5% turnout on that previous occasion experienced a dramatic improvement to 36.09% this time. In 2008 1172 voted out of a registered electorate of 4,413. An additional 600 people voted in 2011.

With low worker turnout, District No.1 is always vulnerable to the success of a business class candidate. Albeit numerically inferior in absolute terms, their voters are more motivated to present at elections.

Who were the extra 600 people; why and how did they vote?

As I canvassed, I discovered a lot of intended first time voters and a number of returnees who had given up expecting anything to change. Deteriorating economic circumstances and a number of government scandals aroused sufficient anxiety to seek an honest and transparent government responsive to the interests of working people. I think I can claim credit for part of the succees in having canvassed widely. Judy Martin, Trevor Pitman and Keith Shaw all got out on the knocker to win support.

"Try again, fail again, fail better"

What of my own achievement? My 571 votes put me in 5th position and significantly 100 votes below the fourth position candidate. Four months of active campaigning amongst “the Third Estate” was not enough to overcome the inertia that sitting candidates retain. Low turnouts at election time reflect the disconnectedness of the working people that live in the district.

Many workers remain “voting virgins” even after having been in the island thirty or forty years, as do the indigenous. Amongst immigrant groups, such as the Portuguese, living as a community within a community, the levels of abstention are very high. Social exclusion is compounded by poor education and abysmal English language skills, even after decades of residence. By contrast, motivated Polish immigrants perfect their language skills quite quickly.

The reason given for not voting is that “nothing changes in Jersey” or that the system is “rotten and corrupt”. It is perceived that participation would render legitimacy and that somehow by not being involved the system is punished in so doing. Encrypted in these words is the acknowledgement that little is done for their interests by governing elites. With voter disengagement so high, it compounds the fact that they play no part in their own destiny. The Establishment has always had an unacknowledged slogan in respect of electoral participation -“the fewer, the better”.

Workers are resigned to their lot; content with the conventional solace afforded by nominal but regular wages. This is changing as wages fall though competition and growing unemployment. Resentment at increased exploitation has yet to find a political expression, other than the xenophobia that blames “immigrants” for all their ills.

I am always amazed by official media journalists who fail to understand my motivation for standing in elections. They cannot comprehend what it is to be a political activist. They are used to political butterflies whose ambition is driven by ego rather than ideology. The absence of immediate electoral success puts off these egoists, who then go away and never return.

As I watched the counters count the ballots, I was particularly gratified that my campaigning had produced a significant number of single votes for me rather than as one of three. This reflects the growing understanding amongst those voters that if qualitatively different politics are to prevail then something has to be done differently. Clearly I had persuaded a number of individuals that my politics was superior. This loyalty is something upon which to build. It is the beginning of a new consciousness. The next step will be organisation. If the Establishment can do it and succeed so can we. The time for bickering has surely passed.

As a final word, can I thank the 571 individuals who showed me their support with their votes - it was not misplaced. There will be battles in the future and they can be certain of my continued commitment to a democratic Jersey and honest government that does not ignore working people.


Thursday, 13 October 2011

Hustings Speech - Nick Le Cornu

Here is the speech I gave at the Hustings for District No1 St Helier last night in the Town Hall. Overall I was pleased with the delivery, albeit I ran out of time to communicate in full everything that I had prepared.

The emphasis of the speech, as intended, was to reflect the reality and issues of those that live in this part of St Helier. It is diverse sociologically. There can be and Advocate (voting for me he says) in one street and in the next, minimum wage workers and the unemployed (also voting for me). As far as I can determine the issues are low wages, no pay rises, unemployment, arbitrary social benefits delivery and poor housing. Speeding and parking do come up but most discussions have ended up with the iniquities of GST.

The eight candidates were serenaded for the first half hour before the Hustings began by an Irish Folk Band provided by Gino Risoli.

I suspect that had we taken a poll there would have been very few people in the hall that actually lived in District No.1 and even fewer, if any, who were not attached to one or other candidate. All in all I would suggest it was an unrepresentative audience of the real sociology of the area. Present were the “political class”; insiders and professionals of politics. That said it was an excellent opportunity to see the candidates perform in battle conditions.

There were a number of big guns from the Establishment present, presumably to see perform their darlings Mary O’Keefe Burgher and James Baker. They can hope that perhaps Castle Quay will fill up with multi millionaires and new arrival “One One K’s” who might provide a few extra votes for Establishment candidates, which might get one elected. Vain optimism I would suggest in the ever polarising society that it Jersey. My impression was that, apart from the Marina side penthouses, the inhabitants of that complex were all respectable middle class people worried, like everyone else, about job security, rising prices and GST. I got a good reception when I canvassed and had some delightful and enlightening discussions with Asian accountants, some of whom had been colleagues in the past.

Senator Philip Ozouf was present in the audience and I did notice that Pierre Horsfall kept giving me looks that would kill. Perhaps those looks were equally aimed at Trevor Pitman. Trevor and I shared a few jokes. Decorum prevented us from laughing out loud at some of the more absurd or outrageous comments of other candidates. I suspect others were equally laughing at us.

I had one heckler who came out with “Rubbish” or words to that effect, when I was discussing the failures of the 0/10 policy. He did not make specific what it was that exasperated him. That I annoyed him gives me exquisite pleasure. I must have hit the spot with a bull’s-eye. Naturally, I stick by what I said.

I have to say I was disappointed that Judy Martin’s speech mentioned immigration in a negative context with such frequency. It’s an issue, but surely anyone with a concern for social justice would have put forward solutions that were not limited to closing the border and beginning the deportations ( I parody here for effect).

Immigration is a real issue on the lips of many working people who experience competition for the few low paid jobs that remain and even those ever more casualised. Immigrants have served business well by providing a source of skilled cheap labour. What is needed is that the minimum wage be increased along with improvements of terms and conditions for ALL workers, indigenous and immigrant. We cannot allow this issue to divide working people.

The open border policy is a legacy of New Labour. Jersey is a part of the UK immigration policies that opened the labour market to immigrants from Eastern Europe before they became full members of the EU. We live with the consequences and must now fight to improve the conditions of all working people.

With fulfilment about to collapse in the very near future, this will mean increased unemployment. Many immigrants will leave the island for better opportunities elswhere in Europe. This will leave a large number of unskilled indigenous workers with no work and the indignity of seeking social security support.

Here are the speeches of two other candidates Keith Shaw and Gino Risolli.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Single Mothers - Scroungers on benefits - debunking the stereotypes

Single mums on benefits are stereotyped as scroungers who are unable to control their fertility and prefer a life of indolence. Here Rebecca, a single mother on benefits, refutes the prejudices of society and states the case for mothers who genuinely wish their circumstances were other than they are.

I have been attempting to reflect the social reality in contemporary Jersey for working people.  I am particularly pleased to have met Rebecca and thank her for such forthright views. It takes courage to speak out and many are now finding that courage. 

I will be using her case in my Hustings speech tomorrow at the Town Hall at 7.30. If you are free come along and hear the candidates and see how they perform in a pressurised situation. I am looking forward to the event.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Pre-Poll irregularities? First time voters confused and influenced by Judicial Greffe staff.

How can six unconnected individuals intending to vote for a single candidate in the Deputy election come away from polling having voted for four candidates as Senator and three candidates as Deputy? The answer has to be undue influence on the frail and inexperienced.

I consider that I have been unduly prejudiced by Pre-Poll polling methods used by the Judicial Greffe at the Pre-Poll office at St Paul’s Gate, New Street. My competitors have gained votes at my expense through their behaviour. Is this policy or incompetence?

Here is an interview with Rebecca. She is a highly credible and self confident woman. I will be running a separate interview with her on the stereotyping of single mums surviving on welfare benefits. She explains exactly what is wrong with the current pre-poll system, which serves only to intimidate and confuse first time voters. Is it any wonder that vast numbers of working class people do not vote when this is what they have to contend with?

Set out beneath is my letter of complaint sent to the Assistant Judicial Greffier, Advocate Paul Matthews and copied to Constable Julliet Gallichan, chair of the Policies and Procedures Committee.

I fully expect the Jersey media to ignore this issue. I advised BBC Radio Jersey some time ago of the potential problems and to date it has not been mentioned. A short report on today’s morning news programme covering pre-polling merely reported “all was well”. I wait to see if this issue is now taken seriously.

“Dear Paul,

Further to our various meetings you have asked me to submit in writing the nature of my concerns as to the advice being given to voters that seek to pre-poll.

I have since spoken with the Constable of St Mary, the chair of PPC and have copied her in to this correspondence.

I had to reflect before sending this letter. I had hoped that our informal meeting and discussion would have resulted in new instructions being issued to the staff sufficient to prevent a repetition. Clearly nothing has changed and no new procedures have been implemented. I now have two further examples of individuals that voted last Friday and this morning that have been influenced and confused by the staff at the pre poll vote.

My concern is based on several unconnected examples which tend to suggest there is a systemic problem. These cases suggest that influence by the staff at the poll and those collecting votes by home visits, are inducing voters to:

  1. cast more votes than they might otherwise and/or
  2. vote in an election (Senators) of which they have no knowledge and/or
  3. vote for candidates about which they know nothing

In particular I would refer you to the interview with Miss Rebecca [A] on my blogsite She lives at [ ]  and is an elector in District No.1 St Helier. Here she explains in most lucid terms the nature of the influence of which I complain.

I canvassed Rebecca on Sunday 9th October. She agreed to be interviewed on the treatment of single mothers and stereotyping, which can also be viewed on my blog. I interviewed her this Monday. Having finished the interview and as I was in the process of leaving her flat, she declared she had voted that morning. She explains how she went to St Paul’s centre with the intention of voting exclusively for me. She left having cast votes for four candidates in the Senatorial election and three for Deputy in St Helier No.1. This was all brought about by the influence and confusion caused by the staff in dealing with a first time voter.

On Friday, Mrs [B] of [ ]  went to vote exclusively for me in the Deputy elections and left having voted in both Senatorial elections for four candidates and three candidates in the St Helier District No.1 Mrs [B] freely volunteered all information to me and agrees that it be divulged.

Mrs [B] is a Russian. English is her second language but she has a good command. She is a British citizen.

She states that she voted for four Senatorial candidates and three Deputy candidates because she felt pressurized by the pre-poll staff.

She cast her four votes in the Senatorial election in a random fashion, precisely because she knows none of the candidates. She picked four names at random. She voted for four because she felt under pressure to do so. Prior to attending she had no idea about the Senatorial election or the maximum number of candidates she might vote for. Likewise in the Deputy election she did not know the maximum number of votes that might be cast.

When it came to voting in the Deputy election she says she agonized to find three people to vote for. She voted for me as that was her intention at inception. She interpreted the instructions of the staff as a command that she must vote for three candidates. She therefore felt she had to find another two names. She chose Paul Le Claire because she knows he has a Russian wife, albeit she had no intention to vote for him and does not agree with the policies he has expressed as reported in the Jersey Evening Post newspaper. Her third vote was for James Baker. She chose him because he was “a handsome young man”. Apparently there is a board in the Pre Poll rooms with pictures of the candidates and some information.

Directional advice

In question is the directional advice by staff that voters may “vote for up to 4 candidates” in the Senatorial and “up to 3 candidates” in the Deputy Election in District No.1 St Helier. The voters in my three examples set out below all took this language of direction or instruction to mean that they MUST vote for four or three candidates respectively. Even those who understood they need not vote for the maximum but could vote for fewer, still felt under an obligation to vote for a least one candidate.

The issue here is a psychological one. Some people with no experience of voting are susceptible to influence by staff members as they represent “authority” figures. In an unfamiliar environment people tend to obey or at least be deferential to those that exercise power. It is therefore extremely important for electors not to be disadvantaged and/or prejudiced and to understand the precise meaning of the Instructions/Directions given to voters.

Example 1: First time voter; single mother and Portuguese

Miss [C] and Mrs [D] live in [District No.1 St Helier]. Following canvassing and having convinced both that I would assist single mothers and the Portuguese community, they determined they would vote for me. Neither have voted either in Jersey or their native Portugal. I arranged a time and date to drive them to the pre-poll.

Before they polled I ascertained that neither wished to vote in the Senatorial election and that they knew none of the candidates. One woman had vaguely heard of Stuart Syvret. I did not wish to trouble them with explaining about the Senatorial election. They were content to vote for me. One wrote my name on the back of her hand to ensure she did not forget my name.

I drove both to St Paul’s gate and indicated where they should go. They returned to the car and freely volunteered how they voted in both the Deputy election and that for Senators.

They say that they were given the ballot for both Senatorial and Deputy elections. They cast their votes in the booth set aside for private voting. They found the name “Le Cornu” on the Deputy ballot and duly cast a vote. However, when it came to the Senatorial ballot they were expecting to find my name but it was not there. They then became perplexed and confused. This is not surprising as I am not a candidate for Senator.

Miss [C] cast four votes in the Senatorial election putting crosses in the top four boxes on the ballot and Mrs [D] cast only one vote in the Senatorial by placing a cross in the third box from the bottom. Neither have any knowledge of the candidates for whom they voted in the Senatorial election. Neither realised that there was such a thing as a Senatorial election.

Mrs [D] indicates to me that she felt under a certain unacceptable/unreasonable degree of pressure to cast a vote on the Senatorial ballot. She realised that my name did not appear and that there was no one who she knew to vote for. However, she had the presence of mind to put one cross in a box as she realised this would satisfy the staff and she could then leave. Had the electoral staff not given instructions to her to vote for the Senatorial elections – she would not have felt under a sense of duress and thus seeming intimidation.

The most important point was that at NO point whilst the electors at the Polling Station was it explained by the staff that they did not have to vote for anyone in the Senatorial election and that they could simply strike through the part in relation to Senators.

Both intelligent electors told me that they were confused by the white Senatorial ballot as they expected to find my name and did not. The electoral staff were telling them as in INSTRUCTING them very firmly “You may vote for up to 4 (four) candidates in the Senatorial election and up to 3 (three) in the Deputy election.” Both felt under severe pressure to cast a vote.  Mrs [D] understood that she did not know any of the candidates and simply put one cross randomly on the ballot and thus, as she perceived it, satisfying the electoral staff that they had completed the ballot. Ms [C] says that she likewise did not know any of the candidates, but because she was expected to do something with the ballot, she put four crosses randomly starting at the top of the form. [As if she was completing some form in a Sovereign State Lottery!]

Clearly, based on the evidence, both electors were induced and felt compelled to vote in an election of which they did not realise existed and for candidates of which they knew nothing.

Example 4: Neighbour and first time voter

[Mr E] is a neighbour in the block of flats where I live. […..].

I asked [Mr E]  to vote for me at the commencement of the campaign and advised him about pre-polling facilities. He indicated he was happy to vote for me alone, as I was a neighbour and had helped him in the past. [Mr E]  is a first time voter.

On Monday 19th September 2011, he went independently to St Paul’s Gate to pre-poll. He did not have photo ID and was denied the right to vote. He was told he would be sent “a postal vote”. He told me this on Tuesday. Hearing me in the corridor of our flat he came out especially to tell me the news of his abortive voting attempt. I do not understand why he was simply not told to return with the correct ID. You may wish to investigate this issue.

In the afternoon of Wednesday 20th September I happened to be riding my bicycle through the car park at the back of my block of flats when I saw a small black Mercedes car parked awkwardly in the middle of the area. I spotted my neighbour [Mr E] who hailed me. He was in the process of casting his vote.

He told me later that he had been telephoned by a woman taking pre-poll votes and drove her motor car into the car park, in which she waited. She had checked his driving licence which he proffered as identity.

I rode up on my bicycle at the very moment she was passing through the open car window a clip board and the ballot for Deputy Elections in St Helier No.1. [Mr E]  engaged me in conversation and I was able to see and hear all that transpired. I did not in any way seek to influence the outcome and only later introduced myself to the woman.

As the clip board and ballot were passed through the window of the car, the woman asked [Mr E]  “You didn’t want to vote in the Senatorial election, you only asked for the Deputy election?” This was said in a way that had he indicated he wished to vote in the Senatorial election, he would have been there and then provided with the Senatorial Ballot. [Mr E]  said firmly that he only wanted the ballot for Deputy.

I saw [Mr E] complete the ballot for Deputy, but did not see who he voted for. I suspected he had voted for one candidate only, as he completed the action very rapidly and with the confidence and certainty that he knew exactly for whom he was voting. The woman saw him vote for only one candidate and said to him “you may vote for up to 3 (three) candidates”. At this point [Mr E]  began struggling mentally. He hesitated and from his reactions it was clear to me that he was obliged to start thinking deeply as to what this meant. The question clearly caused him some confusion. He could not understand why he was being asked to vote for more candidates. He paused and said to the woman that he only wanted to vote for one person and handed back the clip board. I think I recall the woman asking him to put the ballot in the envelope provided.

Had [Mr E]  been less resolute, he might have accepted a ballot for the Senatorial election and he might have voted for more than one candidate for Deputy. He clearly felt under some sort of obligation to do as he was commanded by the woman. In my opinion, although jolly and polite, she spoke with authority, dominant as if her voice was communicating words of command.

Example 5: Elderly experienced voters

On my way to canvas Maison La Corderie, a residential home for the elderly in Rope Walk in the electoral constituency of St Helier No. 1, I met two residents aged at what I estimated to be in their seventies sitting outside, enjoying the sun. I engaged them in conversation and ascertained that one [Mrs F] had applied for a pre-poll sick visit, but had missed out in casting her vote the previous day when 10 (ten) others in the home had been polled, by virtue of she being off the premises at the time. The second woman [Mrs G] had not applied to pre-poll. Both had voted in the past and were keen to vote. I offered to take them to St Pauls Gate to vote and they readily agreed.

Before we left, I sought to ascertain their level of political awareness. I asked if they would be voting in the Senatorial election. They said firmly “No”. I asked them if they had ever heard of Stuart Syvret; neither had. I presumed that they would not be voting in the Senatorial election if they had never heard of this famous Jersey politician.

As regards the Deputy election in St Helier No.1, I ascertained that both were registered at Maison La Corderie and both were eligible to vote. I explained the essence of my politics and they were broadly in agreement, sufficient to vote for me. I handed them an enlarged version of the ballot paper listing the names of the eight candidates so that they might see who was standing. They both scrutinized the list to see if there was anyone they knew. [Mrs F] had vaguely heard of Mr Pitman, but on further enquiry the person she knew was a former senior civil servant, now deceased. Essentially, they had no preferred candidate for Deputy other than me.

We duly arrived at St Paul’s Gate where they made their way to the polling office on the first floor. Having voted, they returned to my car and freely recounted their voting adventure. Both had voted in the Senatorial election for four candidates and for three candidates in the Deputy election.

On arrival in the voting office they had been asked “Do you wish to vote in both the senatorial and deputy election?” They said yes. What they should have said was that they wished to vote only in the Deputy election. They probably did not realise that by answering in the affirmative to the specific question they would receive both ballots.

The staff advised them that they could vote for “up to four candidates” in the Senatorial and “up to three” in the Deputy elections. This advice was repeated several times by various people including a male member of electoral staff.

When I asked them subsequently why they had voted in the Senatorial election, they replied that they did not know why. I asked them if they knew who they had voted for. Neither could remember, but they had voted for four candidates each. They were not being coy or reticent. Nor were they being secretive, as is their prerogative. They did not remember because the candidate’s names meant nothing.

When I asked them why they had voted for three candidates in the Deputy election [Mrs G] said that she had voted for three candidates but had only really wanted to vote for one and that person was me. When I pressed her as to why if she only wished to vote for one person she had in fact voted for three, she could not explain. She continued to repeat, “I wish I had only voted for one”.

Both women were placed in a situation where they felt obliged to follow the authoritative command of the staff and vote for three and four candidates respectively in Senatorial and Deputy elections. They knew nothing of the candidates for Senator yet voted for four. They only knew about myself and [Mrs F] had vaguely heard of Mr Pitman, yet both voted for three candidates for Deputy. They did not comprehend the words “you may vote for up to …” as simple non-directional advice; they perceived it as a command, an order they must obey.


I feel convinced that based on the directional instructional form of words communicated to several electors within the constituency in which I am standing, St Helier No. 1, that I was personally disadvantaged, prejudiced, discriminated against, so that electors who had previously declared a clear and unequivocal intention to support me and no other candidates found themselves swayed to change their voting intention by the electoral staff who misrepresented and/or misdirected the electorate by not communicating the fact that it was possible to vote for one person in the Deputy or Senator elections or none at all. I consider that votes cast exclusively for my candidature were thereby diluted by the votes for other candidates – thereby prejudicing and discriminating against the number of votes returned for my candidacy in these elections for Deputy within my constituency.   

I reserve my position in relation to these above mentioned votes should it become an issue in the final count.”

Friday, 7 October 2011

Jersey’s Overseas Aid – the Mongolian Office

There are those who would cut Jersey’s Overseas Aid budget. There have been voices to that effect during the Senatorial Hustings. They are misguided. Jersey is not the centre of the universe. There are poor people in Jersey, but not half as poor as those that live in the sewers of Mongolia’s capital. These are the forgotten ones in the post Soviet space.

Whilst Jersey Finance Limited sets up new offices in the Far East to cater for the former Communist Bureaucrats and new rulers of countries like Mongolia dispose of the proceeds of mineral asset sales, another part of the Jersey state is assisting the poor to buy bricks and build schools, which those same rulers care not to provide.

Here we interview Jersey women Jilly Spruyt  and Ann Dove about their activities in Mongolia assisting the poor in projects funded by Jersey’s Overseas Aid budget.

This is the interview and another video made by Jilly in Mongolia.

Life expectancy for men in Mongolia is low primarily because of cigarettes and vodka.

For photographs by Richard Wainright taken in Mongolia see

I forgot to ask Jilly about elections and voter registration in Mongolia, but such democratic niceties can no doubt the enquired about on another occasion.  Interestingly the 2008 Legislative elections in Mongolia achieved a 74% turnout. This is impressive. It almost matches inversely Jersey's voter abstention. I wonder which one is the corrupt, oligarchic and authoritarian state?

Sandra's District No.1 Kitchen - "It's the squeaky wheel that gets oiled"

Sandra's kitchen is much improved now that the refurb is finished. She is grateful - but it's not perfect by a long way.

What can we expect from "social housing" and public provision for those in need? It's certainly a theme that occurs all the time at the hustings and on the doorstep.

This is a nice kitchen that many would be only too happy to have but it does not suit Sandra's disabled needs entirely and the new fan is very noisy and so far from the cooker. Why should this be? Whether the window is to be replaced is not clear and Sandra says that somebody tried to break in from the street through this one.

Some people would manage without a dishwasher and so will Sandra if necessary but her life would be so much easier if one was fitted. However she has only £67 spending money per week to buy food and pay her bills. What is it reasonable to expect in the circumstances?

She would like to move to a more accessible flat on the ground floor somewhere. We watched her climb the steps from the road to the front door - they are extremely dangerous for any user but especially so with her lack of mobility. Is it right to complain or should Sandra just put up with this until she or somebody falls and sustains a serious injury?

She has been promised a mobility scooter but how to use this here and where to store it? A full OT audit is needed of Sandra's needs. Will this be done? Shall the bathroom be upgraded?

Sandra's daughter complains that her bedroom is damp through condensation. We looked for defects but the ceiling light keeps fusing and we were in the dark - but the flank wall with the hallway is solid block and very cool. This could well be improved through insulation at minimal cost by the housing maintenance team. How should this flat be heated in the winter and at what cost?

There is no man here in this family. Sandra feels very frustrated at not being able herself to patch up paintwork and fix things. Her daughter provides care for her and attends college but there are severe income shortages.

We are in touch with the Ministers for Social Security, Housing and Education. There are also Health Dept implications but who should really coordinate all the services that are needed here?

How many others are in a similar position in Jersey? It does not require much to make Sandra's lilfe so much better. How can that be achieved?

Missing from the electoral roll? Did the Town Hall “lose” the form you never really sent?

I am getting exasperated! I have been acting for a number of residents in St Helier No.1 District who “swear blind” as the expression goes, that they filled in their voter registration form and returned it to the Town Hall in person, yet are not currently registered to vote. If the Town Hall says they did not receive one’s voter registration form what does one do?

The answer is not very much. How can one prove that a form was delivered? I am not talking here about something lost in the post. This is hand delivered and passed across the counter to the clerk. The answer remains, not very much.

I have a personal anecdote from my own canvassing back in June of this year when I visited a housing estate and received a very sympathetic hearing from one man who said that both he and his daughters would be completing their pink coloured voter registration form (i.e. the one sent by the Parish to the occupier of each unit of accommodation) that very night, with a view to voting in October. When I checked the register of voters in late August I noted that this gentleman and his daughters were not registered. I found it so odd, especially as I had such positive indications from the man that he would be registering, that I went back his home. I arrived just as he was pulling up into the drive in his van. I questioned him and he confirmed that he had indeed filled the form in, got the daughters to sign and returned it to the Town Hall in person himself the following day or at least a few days later.

I told him he was not registered and naturally he was perplexed. I told him not to get furious but to complete a new form, get the daughters to sign it and that I would return it to the Town Hall for processing. That is precisely what happened and he and his daughters are registered to vote.

I also have several examples of cases where forms I submitted on behalf of those registered as part of general voter registration drives were simply not processed. Fortunately, I had retained photocopies as evidence. These copies were then duly processed.

So what is the lesson to be learnt? There must be a fundamental review of the process by which parishes register individuals to vote. If they cannot do the job efficiently then the States must centralise the process and appoint an island wide electoral registrar with adequate resources. That organ could then run democracy awareness programmes amongst islanders, including the mass registration of 16 year olds at school.

In St Helier No.1 District there are around 5000 registered to vote. I know from canvassing that at least a further 20% to 30% are not registered. This means between one or two thousand people are missing from the electoral roll. Working class housing estates, especially social housing, suffer most. Some households may well be ineligible, not having the requisite two years residence, but my experience indicates these are few. Examples would be those occupying premises under “J” category licences. The majority are working class people for whom politics and politicians is a matter of indifference or total exasperation. The latter category is by far the largest.

I spoke to the Portuguese lady who runs a nearby newsagents and she just exploded when I mentioned voting in elections in Jersey. Having been in the island for 36 years she was angry beyond discussion. I did not get a chance to ask her if she was registered to vote as she had no intention of legitimising by her vote something she considered a cesspit of excrement. The indifference of government and long unmet needs of the working class leads to disaffection.

No one takes seriously the high levels of voter abstention in the island and the implications this has for the legitimacy of governments and democracy generally. The decrepit and ancient methods must be reformed root and branch. It must be a priority for the immediate post election period. It might be my first Proposition to the States!