Friday, 16 November 2012

The (Gerrymandering) Electoral Commission terminates in St Saviour – Senator Bailhache cracks a smile at mention of Barbados

The Electoral Commission held its final consultation meeting with the public on its Interim Report in St Saviour Parish Hall yesterday evening. The event had a more democratic tone and there was none of the baying “Keep-the-Constables” crowd that so marred the meeting in Grouville the previous night.

There was a moment of mirth and even a smile from Senator Bailhache, the chair of the meeting, when John Mills made a quip about his visit to Barbados and what he might have discovered there. In patrician style, Mr Mills praised the Interim Report as “pretty good” and remarked that “instinct tells me its time for the Constable to go”. What to do with them remained an issue and he suggested they be treated like Bishops in the House of Lords.

There were those that spoke in favour of retaining the Constables and for most speakers that was the limit of their contribution. Their reaction to the rest of the report was muted. There were also vocal critics of Constables too, including one elderly lady, whose voice would be familiar to all from the BBC phone-in programmes (when they existed) who managed to get in a cry of “they vote en bloc too often”. Her suggestion as to what should be done with them was like the Dean, to leave them in the States allowing them to speak but not vote. They presumably then could be living mummies of a distant glorious past.

“No housing estates in Trinity”

Whereas the meeting in Trinity last week had threatened immediate secession were the parish to be joined in a super constituency, one lone Trinity resident in attendance last night said he had no objection to his parish being twinned with St Saviour, provided, and here was the sting in the tail, the Constable was retained.

However, not all St Saviour residents were quite so happy and in particular the indomitable Nellie Pirouet, the mother of Deputy Jeremy Macon, smelt a rat. She noted “In the richer districts, more Establishment people get elected” and that there were “no housing estates in Trinity”. Although not directly expressed as such, here was sentiment that recognised the deep social divide that existed between those living in the islands wealthiest Northern Country parish and the urban South. The new District 4 would be sure to see the higher turnout in Trinity swamping the numerically superior but essentially abstaining St Saviour, resulting in the election of “Establishment” Deputies.

Peripatetic Democrats or “Hardy perennials who travel from Parish Hall to Parish Hall”

Nellie had a point; who would be left to represent the interest of the poor and the not so rich in the urban areas? So when my turn came round finally to speak from the floor (relegated to the tail end by the Chairman), I repeated the point I had been making throughout these series of meetings that “Option B” of the Interim Report, proposing the retention of Constables in the States, would perpetuate the country/urban divide, leaving the urban areas and St Helier in particular grossly under represented. St Helier with 26,860 eligible voters would have 11 representatives (10 Deputies and 1 Constable), whilst District 5 containing four Country parishes and half the eligible voters (11,100) of St Helier would have 9 representatives (5 Deputies and 4 Constables). Thus Country votes would be worth double those of a resident in St Helier.

Number of eligible voters per States representative:

District 1 and 2 (St Helier)                    - 2441
District 3 (St C, G, St M)                       - 1751
District 4 (St S, T)                                  - 1851
District 5 (St L, St J, St M, St O)          - 1233
District 6 (St B, St P)                             - 1800

We know that only 30% of the eligible electorate votes. Turnout in Country Parishes is much higher, almost double in some cases, that of the urban districts. When one factors in the social question to the electoral geometry there is a grave social injustice being perpetrated.


Neither Senator Bailhache nor Constable Gallichan would accept my point. They argued that the new districts would elect deputies and quite independently each parish would elect a Constable to the States.

What better way to ensure the interest of those living in the urban areas remained subordinate than retaining the Constables and pretend there was no injustice resulting. Gerrymandering one wonders?

The representative of the poor Sheitel of Havre des Pas

Media coverage of the series of meetings has been partial. The orchestration of a pro-Constables lobby was to be expected. The JEP carried in its reports photographs of parish grandees and notables all calling for the retention of Constables. Even unknown individuals would be shown provided they were asking the right question. Almost instinctively the photographer knew which questioner was about to make the vital point and up went the camera.

There was no photographer last night to record the contribution from a bald headed, muscle bound and hoodie wearing man who raised the question about high voter abstention and the poor organisation of voter registration – too proletarian perhaps?. There was no photograph of me either, although I spoke at every meeting to carry the democratic message, but then when did a Pan ever listen to a sheitel Jew?

Has the penny dropped?

For those that have not quite grasped the point, the recent Roadshow was really a given opportunity for the Pro-Constable lobby to organise and then allow the media to selectively amplify the message, whilst systematically ignoring or sidelining the Reform camp and its critique.

The real issue for those among the political class will not be the rowdy crowd in Grouville, but certain ticklish issues concerning Human Rights, international standards of democracy and the ultimate opinion of the UK government. The lawyers amongst them understand that. Domestic opinion is irrelevant and can be managed given the high level of depoliticisation and ignorance about the way government actually works.

Elsewhere, it is fully recognised that in terms of formal structure the Channel Island governments are archaic relics and an embarrassment to democracy in Europe. It is also an issue for international investors concerned about the respectability of the jurisdictions in which they keep safe their wealth.

Given the UK ultimately has responsibility for good government in the island, will they accept a States Assembly that uses grossly unequal constituencies in terms of size and numbers and one that openly favours wealthy social groups, to elect representatives? Twelve Constables out of 42 representatives will be elected from constituencies that are unequal.

The answer is yes, provided it can be shown that the most peculiar and undemocratic aspects have popular support and legitimacy – hence the referendum. This is why the feudal Seigneur has survived as part of the structure of Sark’s modernised legislature. Four hundreds years of attachment to government is deemed sufficient for retention to be acceptable, albeit with much reduced formal powers.

It will be argued that the new super constituencies are the very model of an equal and modern structure for constituencies. Effectively there will be six mini Senators elections all hopefully discussing issues with an island wide flavour. The Senatorial elections tend to see the more capable elements of the political class elected and it is hoped this will be replicated in the six new Districts.

There will be no “riff raff” elected, persons with unkempt hair, individuals “who could never earn the same salary in the private sector” or “no hopers” – the stereotype bogeymen about which the political class loves to express disdain. Nor will there be candidates elected in small constituencies that are “ghettos” (read “inner St Helier”) or by large housing estates (read Les Quennevais in St Brelade or southern St Saviour).

Money will buy elections.

Large constituencies with 11,000 to 14,000 electors spread over a wide geographical area and variable terrain will require campaigns that are well organised and funded. Money will buy elections. Individual candidates without significant resources will struggle. Only those prepared to co-operate and stand a slate of candidates might stand a chance. Currently only the political class has those resources, organisation and money. Democratic forces by contrast are disorganised and divided.

The citadel of power

The referendum will be used to show that there is popular sentiment in favour of retention of Constables in spite of obvious and gross democratic anomalies. The political class needs them as loyal voters in the legislature for the policies of the Council of Ministers. Nine of twelve consistently vote with the executive. In a reduced Assembly of 42 that means certain political control and the marginalisation of dissent and opposition, however popular. Distance is placed between Executive and People. The walls grow higher and the moat deeper around the citadel of power.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Electoral Commission – Grouville – “Dead rude”

I have to say I was shocked and genuinely saddened by the ignorance and intolerance of the audience in Grouville this evening attending the Electoral Commission parish roadshow to discuss its Interim Report on reform of the States Assembly.

It was quite clear the audience did not understand the proposals and were visceral in their opposition to any form of change. With that realisation in mind, I saved my rhetoric and sought to make my own contribution from the floor a gentle combination of enlightenment and reassurance, but I ended up getting shouted down nonetheless. Not that I cared; it was water off the ducks back. One man left saying I had ruined his evening and I naturally wished him a pleasant night of what remained. Clearly the audience did not wish to listen to any opinion that was not in defence of the status quo and retention of Constables.


Whilst rudeness and intolerance abounded, the meeting had its moments of comedy as when one speaker described the Vice Chairman Colin Storm as being of “immigrant stock”, even though he had been born in the island. The Vice Chairman must be regretting the return to his island of birth and its evident madness.

The petty parochialism came out in the great fear that the new super constituency of which the parish would form a part, along with St Martin and St Clement, could be represented by Deputies living entirely in a parish other than Grouville. Worse, without a restriction on residential requirements to stand in the new super constituency, there might be Deputies elected that lived in St Ouen.  On this point it was noticeable that Commission member James Baker remained silent about the fact that he lived in St Martin yet was Deputy for my own beloved District No.1 St Helier. His silence continued when a speaker from the floor alleged that the present proposals resulted in over representation of St Helier. He made no attempt to correct the man who clearly had no grasp of the statistics that were before him in the Interim Report leaflet he held in his hand during the speech.

Overall it was an evening of futility. The audience had made no effort to understand why change was necessary and were intolerant towards any suggestion otherwise.

There appeared to be little main stream media presence. The JEP photographer turned up late as did its journalist. One suspects the focus of attention in the newspaper report will be on St Mary, the parish where the other half of the Electoral Commission was presenting that evening. Since nothing intelligible came out of the meeting in Grouville, one has to hope there was more sense and sanity expressed in the smallest parish.

The Commission will have to mug up on the Single Transferable Vote as none of the three members present tonight could explain how it worked when asked from the floor.

Quote of the evening has to be the one suggesting that without Constables “Jersey won't be Jersey, it will be Hampshire”. That presumably is a fate on a par with being represented in the States by a Deputy living in St Ouen.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Electoral Commission – Redneck ambush in St Peter

This evening the Electoral Commission reached St Peter and, as I predicted, the Constable of the Parish, John Refaut, sought to keep control even though the meeting was not a parish event. Quite why the Vice Chairman, Colin Storm, allowed this is not clear. Being upstaged and loosing control of a meeting is not the sort of chairing one might expect of a veteran director of UK Plc’s. The Constable stood up throughout the meeting and tried to direct who was allowed to speak, including pointing out parishioners and the order in which they spoke. He even had the audacity to tell me to cut short my address and question from the floor; a suggestion duly ignored. His own contribution was delivered at the end of the meeting, not from the floor with a hand held microphone like everyone else, rather at a podium that had been used by the two Commission members to introduce their Interim Report.

Clearly all this was an attempt to repeat the tactics used to discredit the Clothier Report a decade ago when the pro-Constable lobby organised meetings in each parish. There were a number of well prepared interventions by speakers from the floor in favour of the retention of the Constables in the States.

One fairly long written speech sought to recite all the arguments being mustered in justification of retention. The absence of contested elections was presented as a veritable virtue and positive evidence of enduring legitimacy. The loss of Constables would lead to the downfall of the honorary system together with the ultimate fate of Jersey as an “offshore English Island” (it was from 1204 until the Union with Scotland in 1704 when it became presumably a “British” offshore island) and forced to elect an MP to Westminster (an offer made by Oliver Cromwell but never taken up).

The speaker ended by attributing all island woes to a handful of “financially illiterate” Deputies, none of whom would ever command a commensurate salary in the private sector. There was no intended irony as presumably he meant “the usual suspects” elected in St Helier, rather than the present Treasury Minister and his colleagues in the Council of Ministers, who actually form the government and decide the fateful policies of which he complained.

Sleeping Constables

Former long serving Deputy Tommy Du Feu, summed up the present proposals for reform as an “attempt to put the Constables to sleep once and for all”. He continued by suggesting the union of parishes into new constituencies might lead to Deputies being elected entirely with votes from one or other parish and possibly all Deputies living in one parish and not the other. I pointed out later that none of the Deputies currently elected in District No.1 St Helier actually lived in St Helier and historically the parish had been used as a means of getting elected by aspiring politicians at the start of their careers, who might never have any empathy with the people and social issues arising there given the 75% voter abstention.

The Town- Country divide.

Commission member Constable Juliette Gallichan would not accept that keeping Constables in any way led to the over-representation of the Northern Country Parishes. I pointed out that the new super constituency Number 5, comprising St Lawrence, St John, St Mary and St Ouen would have nine representatives (5 Deputies and 4 Constables) were “Option B” adopted, perpetuating the under representation of St Helier and the urban areas. This contrasted with the new District 2 in St Helier, in which I would live, having 5 Deputies and half a Constable. Which half of the St Helier Constable I could lay claim to was uncertain and raised a laugh. However, she remained adamant that the new super constituency simply elected 5 Deputies and each parish its Constable.

The meeting closed with Constable Refaut wishing all a safe drive home, meanwhile behind me sat two existing States Members who kept muttering "Its outrageous; he's electioneering, he's electioneering." So he was, presumably as one of the Deputies in the newly formed super constituency Number 6 of St Brelade and St Peter - or is that prejudging the Final Report, Referendum and ultimate structure of the States Assembly in 2014?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Electoral Commission – Muted REACTION in St Brelade

St Brelade has grown old and even the die hards that I remember from standing for election in 1996 have realised that defence of the status quo is no longer tenable. Reform is in the air, even if acceptance is reluctant. Conservatives have unconsciously realised the import of the old paradox “for things to remain the same, things must change”.


Hanging on to Constables may no longer be the way to retain power for the group around the Council of Ministers. Sacrifices may have to be made and Constables will be the ones to go, given their retention makes the system unworkable and unacceptable in terms of appearance. Whatever scheme is devised, it has to pass muster with the British Government through the Privy Council. Jersey remains a British possession and the UK government is ultimately responsible for good government. No one wants a repetition of the Sark fiasco with reluctant feudalists being dragged into 21st century standards of democratic government. Reduction in the numbers of Deputies, to a States of 42, will ensure the Center Right “trouble makers” are confined to a few in St Helier.

The Last Hurrah

The Parish Hall in St Brelade was reasonably full on Tuesday evening with the usual suspects. Most were elderly save for a few of the guilded youth, smart in their business coats acknowledging each other as they took their seats. Red poppies announced their membership of the club. The Old-Guard were there as well, but clearly age has tempered their ardor.

The Constable of St Brelade was ill with flu and could not introduce the meeting which was left to Deputy Power. That absence had significance. It was symbolic that the Constables cannot orchestrate the response to this Electoral Commission’s proposals, in the same way that they were able to organise parish roadshows to head off Clothier’s recommendations a decade ago.

That change in temperament was apparent when Enid Quenault, former Deputy of St Brelade and twelve years Constable of the Parish, sought an opportunity to address the meeting. We knew what she was going to say, that was inevitable, an unapologetic defence of Constables in the States and the Parish system. Despite persistent efforts she could not raise her arm sufficiently high to attract the attention of the Chairman of the Commission, Senator Bailhache, seated in the other corner of the room. Only following gesticulation by her entourage and pointing fingers did they catch the Senator’s eye.  He knew who she was of course and introduced her formally as “Mrs Quenault”. That frailty may not have been noticed by others, but it was a sign of political weakness; that an era was passing. What has changed? Why has the old order lost its confidence? Mrs Quenault’s speech appears below and is a tribute to what was once. As it was delivered, few will have realised that it represented the last hurrah of the old order.

The video is cut short for technical reasons and apologies are offered in advance.

My own 5 minutes of infamy

Tonight the Electoral Commission are in the parishes of Trinity and St Helier. It should be lively in the Town Hall this evening. The meeting starts at 7pm.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

We all need a pay rise and that includes States Members – 2% a “modest increase in basic pay of States Members” yet Chief Minister seeks 40% hike!

The issue with the present economic crisis is that demand is being sucked out of the economy through unemployment and stagnant wages. For that reason alone States Members should set an example and accept the modest 2% increase in salary. In doing so the government should also meet the wage demands of its civil service and other States employees. This might give encouragement to those in the private sector to demand pay rises.

“SMRRB” – States Members’ Remuneration Review Body

How the media and political class handled the proposed 2% increase suggested by the States Members’ Remuneration Review Body this week reflects a confused set of values and priorities.

Few will have been bothered to read the Report and recommendations. What we discover is that member’s basic pay increased by 4.6% since 2008 at a time when inflation over the period was 2.5%, so salaries stayed ahead of inflation. This amounted to an annual increase of around 1.1% and the current recommendation of 2% is, as they state, modest.

Being a States Member is a job, just like any other job and it deserves to be appropriately remunerated with the hope that those who get elected will perform. In stating that principle one has to overlook that the electorate continues to elect the undeserving, the incapable and a lot of dead wood.


The media concentrated on the £818 increase rather than the rather less dramatic 2% that the increase from £41,182 to £42,000 represents. Was the use of a figure rather than percentage mere populism to whip up public feeling? I am aware that employees in the private sector are not receiving pay rises or very modest ones and that new starters are facing lower pay. Meanwhile, government has imposed its own form of austerity on the civil servants through no increases in pay. Teachers and manual workers are readying themselves for industrial action over the issue. It is convenient therefore to blame the evil politicians who say one thing and do another.

The issue of States Members pay is divisive for the political class. In the public sector it seems certain employees will be taking industrial action and this is what frightens government. To damp down employee pay claims it is convenient to argue that States Members should not accept their recommended increase. To that end Constable Sadie Renard and Deputy John Le Bail, were wheeled out by the JEP and BBC Radio Jersey respectively to denounce the proposals.

Le Bail, interviewed by the BBC, was a mass of contradictions. The interviewer directed him and ensured he followed the script, coming out with a raft of shallow arguments designed to confuse the listener and play on prejudices. Le Bail gave the game away as to his true purpose when he said any pay rise would set a poor precedent for States employees whose salary demands the States Employment Board, on which he sat, was seeking to prevent. He personally was not going to accept any increase and would vote against it, albeit the decision is not within the power of the States. He then went on to support the idea of substantially higher differential pay for Ministers. They deserved such pay because they work he said "from 7am to 7pm" (and others dont?). The Chief Minister and Treasury Minister deserved double the salary as they could earn "triple in the private sector". Some salaries should be cut he suggested to the average wage in Jersey of £33,000 simply because these individuals are professional politicians "and do nothing but" (in other words commitment deserved to be penalised).


There are traditionalists and backwoodsmen who view States Members pay from the ideological mind set of honorary service. They hark back to the times 30 years ago and more when there was no remuneration and only those with sufficient rentier income or business activities, could contemplate election.

Excluding representatives of lower social groups and restricting membership of the States to a propertied elite was best achieved by the absence of a salary or other remuneration. There were individuals that slipped though in the post war period and survived against great adversity. Men like Norman Le Brocq had to seek 5s and half a crown donations from supporters in order to supplement a workers wage.

These conservatives like to blame the presence in the chamber of all those lower middle class types with a grudge and an increase in perceived “conflict” on the existence of a salary. That it is simply an ideological position since the gentlemen are gone with private fortunes willing and capable of performing a job that no longer consumes just a few days a week. Constables are supposed to personify this type, but even they do not conform, being entitled to a salary by virtue of being members of the States, that most if not all claim. If parishioners had to set the pay of a Constable in the States, one wonders if many would receive anything and what impact this might have on social background and personal wealth of those who entered the States as our representatives?


Then there is the managerial group among the political class that resent the idea of civil servants being paid considerably more than their political masters and aspires to a salary that reflects their status as a member of the executive as distinct from a simple member of the legislature. This has additional appeal to those seeking “independence” for Jersey as “the small island state”. They believe anyone forming the government should be appropriately rewarded in terms of status and money if they are to rub shoulders with representatives of other countries.

Inequality and Patronage

Whilst limiting pay rises for States Members may be government policy, this has not in any way diminished the appetite to introduce differential salaries for Ministers and other member of the Executive. Higher salaries would be a form of patronage that could easily be used to command loyalty around the government block and reprimand the disloyal.

Suggested salaries for Ministers have been mooted before at around £75,000. On Wednesday, BBC Radio Jersey invited Pierre Horsfall, a former Chief Minister as head of the Policy & Resources Committee of the day, to argue the case along with St Helier Deputy and government supporter, Rod Bryans. Although there was no salary in Horsfall's time and only a very modest form of income support for those without private incomes, no mention was made of remuneration through directorships, including one famous one with Bank Cantrade, that came as a result of holding political office.

Would any of the current States Members be prepared to do the job for a workers wage?

Monday, 22 October 2012

Electoral Commission – SPEECHES – Interim Report and provisional recommendations – Town Hall, Monday 22nd October 2012 @10 a.m.

The campaign for Real Democracy in Jersey has entered a new phase. The outcome is uncertain and those committed to seeing democracy implemented must recognise the level of commitment this now demands from each. The movement around Reform Jersey will play its part in winning the arguments.


For those unable to attend this morning’s meeting announcing the Interim Report and provisional recommendations of the Electoral Commission, here are the speeches from the Chairman, Senator Sir Philip Bailhache and the Vice Chairman, Colin Storm, followed by a short question and answer session from States Members and a few members of the public.

The last question to be asked was mine concerning the Town/Country divide and over representation of the rural areas being perpetuated to the disadvantage of the urban areas were the Constable to be retained.

The media received advanced copy of the Interim Report last Friday, but States Members and the public had to wait until this morning for details from the Chairman of the Electoral Commission. That is why the JEP was able to print before lunchtime with the recommendations as the lead story. Clearly the inner circle of States Members already knew and the Council of Ministers will have been informed. The non magic circle of States Members were a little later in finding out and Deputy Pitman was only able to leak details late last night on his blog.

Retention of the Constables will be the most contentious issue as it remains central to the establishment of a democratic structure for the States Assembly. Opinion is heavily polarised precisely because both sides realise its importance in the exercise of power. Retention of the Constables defeats the potential democratic extension implied by the other reform proposals. The existence of one category of States Member is complementary to a single election day and new larger electoral districts. This is essentially the Guernsey model and one that appears to work well given their high levels of voter turnout in contrast to our abysmal 60% voter abstention.

The rearguard defence of Constables will be fought hard and may well succeed given the deferential nature of the States and media influence over public opinion. The Council of Ministers needs Constables to assure its dominance of the Assembly and unquestioning support of government policy.

Given the levels of political ignorance amongst the public it is unlikely there will be anything other than a modest turnout for any referendum. Copies of the Interim Report are to be delivered to all households this week and I can predict that most of those put through the boxes in the block of flats where I live will end up on the floor unread and unwanted. If there won’t be much public enthusiasm, it is certain that States Members will be even less interested in real democratic reform given their consistent rejection of Clothier for a decade.

As an aside, it should be noted that a significant vote for the retention of Constables in any referendum, will be used to deflect criticism of the proposal that may be met in the Privy Council when any Law comes forward for approval. It will be possible to point to public support for retention as evidence of legitimacy for Constables continuing to sit ex officio in the States, even though it does not fit well with modern democratic standards. It will also get round the international requirement that constituencies should be of equal size. Standards supposed to be essential to emerging democracies like Bosnia and Kosovo need not apply in St Ouen or St Mary for reasons of tradition, in the same way that the Seigneur still plays a role in the Chief Pleas of Sark, even though it is a semi-feudal title that can be bought and sold like any other commodity.

The public consultation meetings next month are all to be held in Parish Halls where we can predict a rallying of Parish loyalists. In St Brelade the venue will be the Parish Hall rather than Communicare, where the parking is so much easier and the building larger. Expect to see certain Constables turning these public meetings into parish events. Will questions be restricted to parishioners only as is so often the case, leading to the exclusion of opinion (dissenting of course) from townies and those living elsewhere that may have decided to turn up out of curiosity?

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The toxic hills of La Collette – DEFRA(nce) to the UK

It has been argued here before that St Helier gets dumped on in more ways than one. Swimming each morning in Havre des Pas pool, occasions me to look over at the incinerator and wonder how much of its leachate and dust is together with me in the sea. Consequently, it was with something of a personal interest that I attended yesterday’s Environment Scrutiny panel on ash, its management and disposal, in the company of the Ministers of Planning and TTS. What TTS creates in terms of ash, Planning and Environment regulate under the waste management law.

The day was filled with acronyms which the Chairman of the panel, Deputy John Young kindly explained to all in attendance lest the public fall into ignorance. “AVI” was bottom ash from the incinerator and “APC” was the gasses it produced. Both required management and risk assessment.

Pollution was there in its toxic glory – mercury, cadmium and other heavy metals. As pit number 33 at La Collette reclamation site fills up with bottom ash from Jersey’s consumer society, uncertainty grows about its ultimate disposal. One certainty is that burying a problem is no solution. The geology of La Collette is not suitable for long term storage. Disposal of AVI is subject to regulations and as yet there is no strategy for processing it locally.

“Burning waste is burning waste”

The new Minister of Planning and Environment, Rob Du Hamel, takes a fairly idealist approach on environmental issues in contrast to the more engineered and technical solutions over at Transport and Technical Services. Disposal of AVI from an incinerator in open or closed pits was the bottom of the waste management hierarchy said the Minister. Indeed the idea of burning all rubbish, including metals, was the primary reason he had long been opposed to construction of the incinerator. As he said “Burning waste, is burning waste”.

We found out from a later meeting with TTS that the main culprit for heavy metals was the Bellozane scrapyard, as a result of their not separating the constituent parts of cars. This would improve after the beginning of next year when a new operator took over.

The Minister of Environment acknowledged immediately there was a conflict between his role as regulator of ash management and as the authority that would have to make a decision on any future planning applications at La Collette regarding removal or processing. He did not wish to prejudice any decision by expressing an opinion in advance. That should have made the meeting very brief, but the Minister overcame any reticence and spent the remainder of the two hours lamenting the burial of waste and stressing the necessity for modern technological treatment solutions.

“We are where we are”

At the very least an obvious solution to decrease the toxicity of AVI was to improve material before it entered the incinerator by increased sorting and recycling. This practice appears to have been forced upon Guernsey by necessity as they only have an in-fill site for disposal and it was filling up. If Guernsey could recycle more then why not Jersey?

It was clear that government policy has been and remains not to inconvenience consumer lifestyles on a small island with finite resources by requiring anyone to take better care with what and how they throw away rubbish. The Minister pointed out the irony of a wealthy island able to afford proper technological processes and treatments, pursuing a policy that literally buried the problem instead of accepting responsibility and associated costs. What became apparent was the reluctance to spend money on new techniques and management when burn and dump sufficed as it has done throughout the postwar era.

Improving the waste stream now was one solution to the quality of bottom ash in the future, yet there remained the legacy ash from the past. The Bellozane incinerator had continued to operate when other similar plants elsewhere had long closed, producing large quantities of legacy waste now lying untreated in pits beneath the hills of La Collette.

The Basel Convention

It was slightly surprising in a meeting dedicated to technical issues of waste management that the ticklish question of Jersey’s constitutional relationship with the UK should arise.

A possible solution to the AVI accumulation is for Jersey to export it for treatment elsewhere. However, this is somewhat problematic since waste being hazardous is subject to international regulation as to movement and disposal. Jersey is bound by the Basel Convention, which as its website notes is “to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes”.

The Basel convention was extended to Jersey by the UK in 2007, as the high contracting party, for whose international relations it is responsible, designating the Minister of Planning and Environment as the competent local authority.

The Minister was uncertain if Jersey had authority to export hazardous waste to the UK or another Basel signatory country, without the authority of the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). He noted that the Isle of Man, to whom the Convention had also been extended by the UK, had exported waste via the UK to another country for treatment and that this strengthened his opinion that Jersey could act independently likewise.

The Minister believed that under the Jersey waste management law there was capacity for the island to act independently. The sticking point would be objection by DEFRA under the terms of the Basel Convention that there should be no movement of waste if it can be processed locally. Since Jersey was not attempting to process waste the grant a of a licence or derogation (a Duly Reasoned Request (DRR) for export by DEFRA was unlikely.

The Minister wanted to negotiate a contract directly with a willing party prepared to import Jersey’s waste for treatment, however he had to admit he was uncertain if he had authority to do so and was seeking legal advice from the Crown Officers regarding the Basel Convention. He had in mind exporting to France “because it was closer” than the UK.

This talk of obligations under international conventions had the Scrutiny panel confused and irritated; they wanted a simple solution. There was some comedy when panel member Constable Phil Rondel cited Lord Coutanche’s memoirs to the effect that “the less we have to do with the UK the better” and generally the island should not be “kow-towering” (sic) to the UK. He later had to admit that his quote from Lord Countache might not be strictly accurate. Misunderstanding completely the functioning of international conventions, the Constable asserted that Jersey “should take charge of its own affairs” and not allow DEFRA to “pull our strings”.

In a similar vein, but less histrionic, the Minister saw acting independently of the UK as a conscious assertion of Jersey’s “international personality” as an “Independent Nation”. It should be said that P&E’s Chief Officer intimated his department was keen not to give offence to DEFRA, with whom they had good relations it was stressed. Slightly embarrassed by all this nationalist rhetoric and claims to sovereignty over rubbish, the Chairman of the Scrutiny panel indicated he was keen their discussion should avert a constitutional crisis.

Guernsey’s waste

The delicate subject of importing Guernsey’s waste for burning in the incinerator was considered by the meeting. Importing their waste would help out Guernsey who had no current strategy for long term disposal. The Minister indicated he was sceptical about the import of waste, even though it was better sorted than in Jersey, only to then burn it to produce yet more IVA. The Basel Convention had also been extended to Guernsey, so it was possible DEFRA would have an input into the decision on the various waste movements between the islands. Potentially DEFRA could object to the export/import. Would Guernsey want to take back its IVA for ultimate disposal? Importation would require a licence from the Minister of Environment and when asked if he would be inclined to grant one, he merely replied “I am completely neutral”. That could be taken as a “No”.

During the meeting with TTS it was revealed that half of any profit from handling Guernsey’s waste would go to the Treasury. The Treasury it seems has a habit of creating revenue schemes. It was left to Constable Rondel to reminded the panel of Guernsey’s perfidious nature when it came to pan island cooperation, given their track record on the lottery, sea routes and fishing rights. Clearly Guernsey had better be looking to its own Salt Mines for waste disposal.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Final Electoral Commission Hearing - Media complaints; Constables and faith

The final public hearing of the Electoral Commission was held yesterday. It was a remarkably relaxed affair, probably because the Chairman was absent. Not that it was an uncontentious morning – could it be otherwise as everyone seems to have their own preferred structure for the States Assembly, however Byzantine.

Arriving late, I missed the 9am contribution of a local advocate. One to watch I was told for a future political career. Of lateness more later.

The first contention was some fierce criticism by the Vice Chairman Colin Storm of a recent JEP report and an editorial intimating that the Commission had already reached some provisional conclusions, amongst which was keeping the Constables. Whether the JEP did this “maliciously or negligently” was unknown, but it imputed their collective and his personal honesty, he said. These comments as to the integrity of the Commission were triggered when Deputy Mike Higgins gave evidence in which he commenced by recording his scepticism, calling the enquiry “a farce” given the stated public position of certain States Members on the panel.

Deputy Higgins’s own credibility dropped somewhat when Colin Storm had to lend him his reading glasses before he could read his submission. He was reading aloud because none of the members had had time to consider it. The Greffier informed us this was because he had only submitted it at 9.27am that very morning. Nevertheless, his comments were a tour de horizon of current failings, kitchen cabinets and cronyism in the Council of Ministers.

What did emerge was that the head of the Constables’ Committee has a place as observer on all Council of Minister’s meetings and is a regular attendee. This permanent representation rather tarnishes the argument that Constables are essentially benign and apolitical patriarchs concerned only with their parishes.

Next on was Senator Lyndon Farnham who put the case for retaining the Senators as a category of States Member. He was followed by Sylvia Lagadu, a former Senatorial candidate in 2011, whose concerns seemed to be mainly with the Parish of St Helier and its parking policies.

No rubber stamp

The contention returned when Daniel Wimberly, appearing before the Commission for a second occasion, wanted to submit an additional out of time statement to rebut the work of academic Mr Lewis Baston on constituency sizes that formed part of Advocate Mark Renouf’s submission. The Vice Chairman indicated that all evidence would be weighed equally in due course and that none had precedence. This led to repetition of his criticism made earlier about the presumptious JEP editorial with its “malicious or misguided” comments. The Editor should be asked to retract his comments suggested Daniel Wimberly. Mr Storm was uncertain as it was a decision for the Chairman. In any event a sensational comment may have appeared on the front page but an apology only ever got a few column inches on page 7. The matter was left in abeyance.

The formed Deputy of St Mary seemed to be unaware of some important research conducted by the Commission and published on its website. This thorough research by Dr Alan Renwick of Reading University has some important observations for an objective analysis of the current set up including disparities in size of constituencies that breach the Vienna Commission Code, a set of standards for new democracies. 

Daniel Wimberly pointed out the conundrum in an IPSOS Mori poll conducted in 2006 to which 92% had responded that they were “interested in island issues”, yet when asked why then they did not vote cited poor quality candidates and the feeling that their vote would not make any difference. Panel member Deputy James Baker, having arrived two hour late and perhaps wishing to appear conversant with the issues, suggested a counter argument for voters not voting; it was because they were content.  Clearly the Deputy had not done much canvassing around No.1 district last year, as he would have discovered anything but complete contentment.

“The role of a States Member is to challenge, question and propose alternatives.”

Having served 18 years as a Deputy, Bob Hill recalled how he had welcomed the Clothier Report and was expectant of changes, only to be disillusioned by his colleagues self interest. He witnessed the implementation of ministerial government without the concomitant democratic changes to the Assembly and constituencies.

During his time in the States, which embraced the period of the Committee system, he could not recall any Constable having put forward a private proposition. He supported the idea of one category of States Member. The public had the right to expect their representatives to pay full attention to States business.

“Constablism”and revelation

Constable Steve Pallett told us of his conversion to belief in Constables when he joined the Honorary Police. He admitted he had been a sinner in the past. As a former Chairman of the Jersey Democratic Alliance, he confessed that his “views were tainted, because I was working within a political group”. As for the “vocal, vociferous minority” currently calling for removal of Constables from the States, they were wrong and out of touch with public opinion.

Deputy James Baker sought to encourage the Constable’s continued repentance with a number of leading questions. We learnt that the parish system was open to anyone in any walk of life and that it was not conservative. Were Constables to no longer sit in the States and be paid to do so, then the institution would become elitist and the preserve of only those with sufficient private income to stand. Not sitting in the States would demean the stature of anyone taking up the office in the future. However, Constables should not become Ministers as this would distract them from their Parish duties, as was the public perception of his predecessor in St Brelade.

I was not entirely convinced by Constable Pallett’s vision of this democratic and participatory institution, even if I admit it is not as High Church as it was in the nineteenth century. Certainly it contrasted with earlier witnesses lamenting the absence of contested elections for Constable (8 out of 12 in 2011) and the low numbers attending parish meetings.

This meeting in the Town Hall completed the series of public hearings as part of initial consultation. We await the provisional recommendations of the Commission which will be the subject of a further round of consultation this autumn. In the meantime expect plenty of media coverage of Constables and reasons for their retention – concrete and mystical.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Leading from the rear – Deputy James Baker and EDD in the land of Scrutiny

Insiders to the States know well how disillusioned District No1’s Deputy James Baker has become with life as a politician. There was no real humiliation therefore when he spoke for only 2 minutes out of 75 at a Scrutiny meeting he was supposed to be heading up in the absence of Economic Development Minister Alan MacClean. He did his best to contribute more it must be said, but neither civil servants nor Scrutiny Panel chairman Deputy Steve Luce, really had much expectation that the answers to questions would be coming from his mouth. Deputy Baker appeared in his role as Assistant Minister and for the first time was leading a team of four civil servants at a scheduled Scrutiny panel on the Medium Term Financial Plan ("MTFP" as insiders know the three year financial plan).

The lead in the meeting was taken by Chief Officer Mike King and his deputy Andrew Sugden, both of whom were well informed on policy and finance at the department. The seating arrangement was such that the Chief Officer sat in the centre with Deputy Baker to his side. Those more familiar with the style of Senator McClean, know how he tends to dominate matters and defers to civil servants only on issues of detail. Today, it was the Assistant Minister deferring to the civil servants, allowing them to take the lead and answer questions in a way that left him quietly on the sidelines.

Perhaps so that his presence was not entirely otiose, a few questions were directed specifically to the Assistant Minister by Deputy Luce. However, when on one occasion he sought to interject on a matter, the Chief Officer did not defer to his authority and continued a dialogue with Deputy Luce. Towards the end of the meeting, panel member Constable Pallet, slightly exasperated by the absence of any contribution by Deputy Baker, asked another direct question that allowed him the opportunity to deliver an acceptably fluent reply, making reference to his having been in the “hot seat” at EDD for ten months.

Most of the meeting was taken up with the minutiae of budgets and spending, however there were a couple of moments of contention when broader political issues arose. They were matters which it was acknowledged were essentially political, but were answered by the Chief Officer nevertheless. Deputy Baker did not object.

The new style Scrutiny is anything but contentious and tends to be deferential. Indeed Deputy Luce had been on BBC Radio Jersey this very morning extolling the virtues of being co-operative and “critical friends” to government. As a consequence the meeting was punctuated with remarks such as “I don’t imply any criticism…”, as the conversation sought to probe issues of concern. Exactly why certain retiring civil servants were being kept on as consultants was gently alluded to without causing offence to department or individuals concerned. How short exactly these short-term consultancy contracts might be was left somewhat open. Likewise, there was no criticism intended when discussion fell upon the existence of overseas offices representing Jersey finance in Abu Dhabi or the more than modest budget of Jersey Finance Limited.

The “ticklish question” of finance and its domination of the Jersey economy was referred to in positive fashion, its contribution to tax take and employment, both direct and indirect, warranted a disproportionate spend on marketing its interest, whilst tourism and agriculture came a struggling second. When it came to the issue of human rights in certain Middle East countries with whom the island did business, the chairman Deputy Luce, was quick to move rather than explore the finer moral issue. Engagement was surely the best way to effect change with regimes whose policies we might not seek to emulated domestically. Exactly where Deputy Baker’s war service had taken him was not explored as the Chief Officer had direct knowledge of the Middle East, having worked in the oil industry, and was more that capable of explaining the ethics of business in the region.

As I left the States Building and glanced through the widows, the BBC were filming an interview outside in the Royal Square about the Scrutiny meeting with – guess who – not the Assistant Minister, rather with the Chief Officer. Civil servants it seems are often better informed than their nominal political masters (no criticism implied).

Thursday, 30 August 2012

It's been a long, a long time coming But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.

Sitting through a day of hearings with the Electoral Commission engenders only one emotion – despair. One of those giving evidence today, a member of the original Clothier Panel quoted a fellow colleague who cautioned him “John, what we are doing now could take 50 years to realise.” I am not sure how much patience readers have, but on that time scale, waiting for democratic reforms, we will all be dead. 

There was one glimmer of hope today when the Chairman mentioned the figure 10%. It came out of the blue, but it was clear the penny had dropped. The specific reference was to an international standard that said a variation in population between electoral districts of more that 10% was unacceptable. The point is that those who dream of tinkering with the edges of the ancien régime, so that everything remains exactly the same, need to think again. There are international standards that expose Jersey's States Assembly and electoral system as having serious democratic deficits. That thought had the Chairman worrying and rightly so.

So here is a song from Sam Cooke to give us some more hope. One has to understand it is sung in the context of four hundred years of colonial slavery, the consequences of which are with us today.

I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I've been running ever since
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

It's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die
Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

I go to the movie and I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me don't hang around
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Then I go to my brother
And I say brother help me please
But he winds up knocking me
Back down on my knees

There been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Day of the Democrats?

My submission to the Electoral Commission can be read on their website here. I shall be attending an oral hearing with the Commission tomorrow Friday 17th August 2012 @ 2pm. 


I have attempted in my submission to give a certain historical explanation of why we are where we are now and how the States Assembly arrived at its present structure. More importantly I have sought to explain why a democratic structure was never implemented after the Second World War. I mention that in 1943 the Jersey Democratic Movement issued an illegal leaflet with demands for a reformed States Assembly that essentially prefigured Clothier by sixty years. We are still waiting.

There is a woeful ignorance among politicians and public alike about the development of the States Assembly. The books on the subject are now long out of print and collectors’ items. As far as I know Roy Le Herissier’s seminal 1972 “The Development of the Government of Jersey, 1771-1972” is not on line. Dr John Kelleher’s “The Triumph of the Country” is also difficult to obtain. We have no historical knowledge of the franchise and who was entitled to vote and what percentage of the population had the vote at various times.

I am stunned, but perhaps I should not, that a Constable or should I say Connétable, can write in a submission the following:
There must have been a good reason to give Parish political officers the title of Deputy however, today it is more confusing as I often get the question asked “are they your Deputy” and I reply that it is just a title for their political role."

Could I venture to suggest that Deputy as a title is an anglicization of the French député; the sort of representative that sat in the various French legislatures from the time of the Revolution. The Loi (1856) sur l'augmentation du nombre des membres des etats, introduced the first directly elected members of the States. The numbers in the States was increased by fourteen Deputies, three for St Helier and one each for the other parishes.

We have an interesting line up for tomorrow with hopefully some strong voices in favour of real reform. We also have the die hard reactionaries who will no doubt be advocating a Second Chamber. The idea of a Second Chamber has become the party line for all loyalists, never ever having been mooted prior to now. It is utter folie de grandeur that the parish council should have an upper house. The intention is entirely anti-democratic.

Ultimately the UK government has responsibility for good government and if our elites are unable to deliver, then the Sark precedent of intervention is evident for all.
The running order for tomorrow’s oral hearings at St Pauls Centre is as follows:

10 am: Deputy Sean Power
10.30 am: Mr. Daniel Wimberley
11 am: Deputy Trevor Pitman
11.30 am: Mr. Reg Jeune, CBE
12 noon: Mr. Mike Dun
1.30 pm: Deputy Geoff Southern
2 pm: Mr. Nick Le Cornu
2.30 pm: Senator Alan Breckon

The public are welcome to attend. Full report in due course.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Is it time to stop defending the indefensible? - The Chief Minister at the Electoral Commission

The 1948 Constitution crumbles

The question has to be asked. Exactly why was the Chief Minister giving evidence to the Electoral Commission out of Season just before the holidays? The especially arranged meeting, called on one day’s notice, without the Chief Minister having made a written submission, was all together rather peculiar.

One can only speculate, but perhaps all is not going well with the “well laid plans” of the Electoral Commission for a coup d’etat on States reform. The written submissions on the web site are displaying a marked unanimity that it is time for the Constables to go. Reform Jersey had a very successful meeting in the Town Hall and has taken the moral high ground with its emphasis on democratic concerns

It may also be that some of the members of the Commission are thinking a little too independently and perhaps even a little too democratically. Like Napoleon at Waterloo, sending in the Old Guard to save the day, the Chairman of the Commission had to call in the Chief Minister in order to discipline other members and set out the party line.


The Clothier Report of 2000 had justifiably condemned the 1948 constitutional arrangement as no longer fit for purpose in a democratic age. It also offered a viable political alternative. Reform without dramatic change a la mode anglaise.

Clothier proposed a simple and logical solution. The States would be reformed with the creation of one category of member, all elected on the same day and in large constituencies of equal population. Senators and Constables would go.

Ten years later and there has been little progress. Clothier was and remains anathema to entrenched vested interests, traditionalists and the forces of conservatism. The Chief Minister did allude to vested interest being a barrier to any form of change.

The forces of conservatism are preparing a last rearguard battle to secure their position in the hope of hanging on for another few decades. Time is running out as the crisis has arrived in Jersey and the public mood is growing impatient with intransigent attitudes.

Arrangements that delivered stability and continuity immediately after the Second World War, entrenching power in the hands of the new business elite fearful of popular discontent built up during the Occupation, are no longer tenable in an age of Human Rights. Hanging on to the old ways is no longer acceptable or viable.

What currently exists is illogical; the accretion of history, now unpruned and grown rank.

A second Chamber? – “knowledge, expertise and wisdom”
The Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst clearly had not thought through the mechanics of what he was there to propose. Clothier has a certain beauty because its proposals are simple and logical. What we heard from the Chief Minister were suggestions that on their own might be plausible, but taken together were contradictory and unworkable.

Defense of the status quo is hard when what is being defended is not properly analysed or comprehended. Many of the written submissions to the Commission suffer from the absence of any real grasp of the current system of government. Much of what is written is more a hankering for the past when there was no dissent or conflict and the economy was buoyant.

Senators in a Senate – elected or appointed?

One of the themes being pushed today was that there should be a second chamber. A bi-cameral system would solve in one fell swoop the problem of what to do with the Senators, if they cannot be abolished. The answer is to stick them in an upper house.

Putting the Constables in the upper house was touched upon, but not really embraced. The thought itself is bizarre given the impracticalities of country bumpkins scrutinizing complex financial legislation of which they knew nothing and cared little. Their primary function in the States is to push the button and vote the way that supports the government.

The Chief Minister then introduced a new theme to the debate on an upper house. Should these new Senators be elected or appointed? For conservatives the idea of appointment has an innate attraction. The practical problem is that who would appoint them? There was no answer to that issue and inevitable fears of political patronage. Furthermore, appointment would do away with the “all island mandate” which so many appear to favour. It’s not possible to elect Senators and appoint them at the same time.

A second chamber is by its very nature “aristocratic”, the very antithesis of democratic. To then propose that these Senators could be appointed speaks volumes about the undemocratic thinking behind the scheme. Senators are loved, we are told, because of their all island mandate. That is to say they are chosen by the electorate throughout the island and have as their legitimacy thousands of votes. So, what crazy idea is it to start appointing and removing the democratic aspect of an election?

The Chief Minister would not be drawn on the point of election or appointment; he left it open. Clearly this is what the Chairman of the Commission is thinking and explains why he went on holiday to Barbados, which has such a bi-cameral system. Quite why such coyness is not clear since the Chief Minister was there to express opinion. Indeed so much of what he said was with reservations, partly no doubt not to pre-empt the findings of the Electoral Commission, which as we all know are pretty much decided. Perhaps today’s appearance was to give benediction to the predictable outcome.

Second chambers are also notorious for generating conflict with the lower Assembly. One can well imagine further paralysis and delay in a States noted for its indecisiveness over contentious matters.

The end of Scrutiny

It was not entirely clear from the Chief Ministers evidence, but he seemed to imply that the new Senate would take over the role of the current Scrutiny. The new Senators would presumably play no role in the Executive, but this was not clear.

Deputies and Super Constituencies

Having put Senators in a Senate, the position of Deputies became clearer. Reduction in the size of the States could be achieved by reducing the number of Deputies and electing those that remain in new large constituencies that need not follow parish boundaries.

Reducing the number of Deputies is a mechanism for removing dissent or eliminating those elected in urban constituencies and expressing the interests of the popular classes in general. Basically it’s a way to get rid of what the right see as “the lefties”.

The idea of larger constituencies was designed to deal with the so called “democratic deficit” or the disparity in Senators being elected with thousands of votes, whilst Deputies can get elected with a few hundred votes, given low turnout at elections. Larger constituencies would end tiny parish constituencies and, presumably, give Deputies a greater legitimacy.

The logic of legitimacy from large number of votes was not extended by the Chief Minister to Constables in their parishes, nor to the fact that 8 out of 12 at the last election did not face a contested election - uncontested elections being a common phenomena in Constables elections.

Senators would be elected island wide or even appointed; fewer Deputies in new constituencies and Constables in their parishes. Clear but confusing and certainly not democratic or any real advance of what exists.

Independent boundary commission

Ed Sallis, one of the more democratically minded of the “lay” member on the Commission, bowled the Chief Minister a bit of a googely by asking if there should be an independent boundary commission to determine these new Deputy constituencies. Back came the answer “God, not if we can avoid it” said Gorst. Once again there was hesitancy  over a suggestion with democratic implications.

Needless to say there was no discussion of the over representation of the Country parishes, each with its own Constable.

Holy cows and Constables

The Chief Minister recognised that the position of Constable was what he described as “the most divisive office”. His own official position was made clear when he told us parishes are the very bed rock of Jersey society; the Constables a vital link between the parish system and central government. This is traditionalist ideological pap. Whether the Chief Minister really believes this stuff was ambiguous. It is certainly realpolitik. He is surrounded by so many traditionalists that there is no space for a democratic moderniser, not that he is one. However what he is defending was condemned long ago, just like Sark’s feudalism.

An Englishman rooted in Jersey soil

It is sad to see that the Chief Minister has no clear thoughts on reform of the States Assembly and electoral system. Without Executive support the type of reforms that are essential cannot be implemented. Instead the crisis will deepen.

There was no understanding that the electorate cannot structure the States and has no policy choice. “Is a single election day more about turnout?” mused the Chief Minister, oblivious to the crisis of legitimacy that a 60% voter abstention represents. Of course a single election day is already agreed for 2014, so how exactly can anyone dream of going back to the bad old ways of staggered elections?

The Chief Minister in his own mind understands the issues and contradiction. He alluded to Clothier having succinctly analysed the problem, but could not admit that its proposals are the only sensible solution. He is an Englishman rooted in Jersey soil and the local prejudices are hard to overcome. The elite do not want change. They cannot admit there is a problem. They will hang on to the bitter end and it is ordinary citizens of Jersey that will suffer in the meantime.

Party Line.

It will be interesting to see what the official media make of this morning’s events. They will be looking for the correct stear to communicate to the population. The JEP and CTV both sent journalists. Will they have been as confused and bemused as were citizen’s media and most of the public in the audience?


If the Chief Minister achieved anything yesterday it was to confirm that there will be no significant democratic breakthrough. The Electoral Commission will come up with a scheme that is basically Plan Bailhache; the one expected all along. Quite how this will be translated into a clear referendum for the public to give a clear answer is virtually impossible. Illogical and undemocratic schemes are inherently untenable.

The next task is to expose in the eyes of the public how unsatisfactory are the so called reforms being planned by the Electoral Commission and Chief Minister. The demand must remain for real democratic reforms to the States Assembly and electoral system. Clothier has set them out already.