Monday, 20 February 2012

Push back against PPC coup – Coordinated Meetings defend independence of Electoral Commission

Those genuinely concerned about the fate of constitutional and political Reform in Jersey would be well to attend a series of meetings organised to raise public awareness of the dangers posed to the Electoral Commission by the Privileges and Procedures Committee (PPC) Proposition P5/2012, due to be debated by the States on 6th March.


PPC were supposed to be implementing a decision of the States taken in 2011 to establish an independent Electoral Commission. Following what amounts to a coup,  the forces of conservativism on PPC have produced a Proposition that will subvert the independence of the Electoral Commission by packing it with States Members and limiting the remit of its enquiry. Were this to succeed, Reform, in its broadest democratic sense, would be derailed for another generation.

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings
The first meeting begins this week with a Parish Assembly in St Clements on Tuesday 21st February at 7.00pm.
Residents in District No.1 St Helier have called a Parish Assembly for Wednesday 29th February at 7.30pm.  The Electoral Commission will be the first item on the agenda.

Deputy Roy Le Herissier will be speaking in both St Clement and St Helier in support of his amendments to the PPC Propostion (P5/2012) to restore the independence of the Commission. Others speakers may be invited.

The Jersey Rights Association had also planned to hold a meeting in the form of a public debate however this has been cancelled as they were unable to secure speakers in favour of the PPC proposition. Alas, disdain is the usual modus operandi of those on the Right and a refusal to engage with opponents was to be expected. It is understood the JRA may hold a meeting at a later date.


The Parish Assembly will debate and vote on the following resolution:

To consider the merits of the proposition of the Privileges and Procedures Committee (Projet 5 of 2012, Electoral Commission: composition and terms of reference) and further to consider the amendments thereto lodged by Deputy R. G. Le Herissier and to decide whether or not to express support for those amendments and advise the Connétable, the ten Deputies and the ten Senators accordingly.”

Reform delayed

Reform of the States has been an issue for at least a decade and longer, with the landmark Clothier Report in 2000 setting out concrete proposals for a modernised structure. Changing the “1948 Constitution” has met stiff resistance from power holders and vested interests opposed to democratisation. It is no surprise to see Senator Philip Bailhache, a former Crown Officer and Bailiff, leading the forces of privilege. This issue is often presented as “turkeys not voting for Christmas”, yet it is more complex than simply vested interest resisting change, it a very conscious refusal to take steps that would open up the political system to broader democratic participation.

The States has been incapable of reforming itself in any meaningful way, in spite of the important Clothier and Carswell reports. Positive models and sound principles have been ignored in favour of pragmatism. The only positive step forward has been a single election day for all members. The arbitrary removal of two Senators was a gesture towards reducing the number of States Members without any intellectual case having been made for what is the optimum number. The fault lies not with the reports but with the reluctance of the States.

The magic number “42”

During the elections Sir Philip Bailhache outlined his view of “reform”. This amounted to no more than the retention of the 12 Constables and reduction of the others to 30 members. Retaining the Constables is justified ideologically as “maintaining the Parish link”. The reality is more prosaic; the Constables provide a voting block that can be relied upon to support political leaders comprised mainly of senior Senators. A passive bloc sustains an active leadership group.

Kicking the can down the road

The States agreed to the creation of an Electoral Commission aware that they were incapable of making any significant headway on the issue of constitutional reform. It was a classic act of prevarication and delay.

PPC Putsch 

The States debated and approved Proposition P15/2011 for the creation of an Electoral Commission and left PPC with the practical implementation.

However, with the election of Senator Philip Bailhache to the States at the October elections and his membership of the new PPC, the intentions of the original Proposition have ended up being subverted.

Using their majority on PPC, the supporters of Senator Bailhache have created Proposition (P5/2012) that loads the Commission with an equal number of States Members whilst limiting the remit of enquiry. Worse still, Senator Bailhache has expressed his desire to sit on the Electoral Commission and act as its chairman.

The Electoral Commission was conceived as being made up exclusively of lay members. States Members were excluded as it was perceived they could never be impartial or provide the necessary objectivity. Lay member were conceived of as having no existing vested interest or preconceived notions. The PPC Proposition (P5/2012) includes three States Members.

Minority Report

PPC comprises seven members and those supporting Senator Bailhache were Senator Ferguson, Deputy Moore and Constable Norman.
So concerned by overall developments were Deputies Montfort Tadier and Judy Martin, two members of PPC, that they were moved to produce a Minority Report dissenting from P5/2012 and setting out the arguments why the Electoral Commission needs to remain independent.

Le Herissier amendment

With two lodged amendments to P5/2012 Deputy Le Herissier seeks to restore the intention of the Propostion as debated in 2011 for an Electoral Commission comprising only lay members and no State Members. These will be considered by the States on 6th March.

It is believed that a further more substantive amendment Proposition will be presented to reinstate the original terms of reference.

The forthcoming meetings will give the public an opportunity to resist the the coup on PPC that has subverted the cause of Reform.

Daniel Wimberly proposed the creation of an Electoral Commission and lodged P15/2011 which the States debated and approved. His recent letter to the JEP in defence of the original spirit of his propostion can be read here.

Deputy Le Herrisier, author of two amendments and Deputy Tadier, co-author of the Minority Report, outline their concerns in an interview on the Tom Gruchy blog


  1. How ironic that this blog posting should follow on that dealing with 1781, the Battle of Jersey and the death of Major Peirson!!!
    What on earth did he die for - is this really how independence works?
    Seems that the old English colonial style serfdom with the Crown Officers stopping reform and usurping democracy still runs in Jersey.
    Hope that the parishioners of St Clement and St Helier will support Deputy Le Herissier and reject the Bailhache plot.

    No doubt you will be correcting the date for the St Helier special Parish meeting in due course? St Clement is tomorrow, Tuesday 21 February at 7pm.

    Anybody is invited to attend but only voters of St Clement can vote on the Le Herissier matter.
    Se you ALL there!!!

    1. The St Helier Parish Assembly is on Wednesday 29th February at 7.30pm. The Town Hall administration has kindly allowed the Electoral Commission to be the first item on the agenda.

  2. Nick, could you elaborate/explain? In your main posting you wrote.

    "The Jersey Rights Association had also planned to hold a meeting in the form of a public debate however this has been cancelled as they were unable to secure speakers in favour of the PPC proposition."

    Firstly who were invited, how were they invited. Were the invitations just ignored, or what were the reasons given for those supporting PPC not to take part?

    Secondly, the JRA has cancelled the debate.........why? Just because those who support the PPC proposition don't have the courage of their convictions, does that mean it can't be debated?

    1. I understand the JRA had to cancel their meeting as no one would speak in defence of the PPC proposition P5/2012. In other words none of the four PPC members that formed the majority were prepared to stand on a platform and defend their revised scheme.The JRA expected this to happen and of course it speaks volumes as to the way certain politicians view the public and civil society pressure groups. When the spotlight is on you its not commemdable to be seen running off into a dark corner.

      It boils down to a refusal to engage publically with critics. It happens all the time; dissent and criticism are simply ignored by those that exercise power. States Members hate being held accountable. They can deal with their peers in the States Assembly, which is an select gentleman's club, but show only disdain for those organised externally opposing their policies.

  3. At the St Clement meeting this evening (Tue 21st), the Assembly voted 16 in favour of the Resolution, none against and 11 abstentions.

    The meeting lasted for an hour.

    The Constable of St Clement will be communicating the support of the Assembly for the Resolution in favour of Deputy Le Herissier's amendments to P5/2012 to himself as Constable, the two Deputies and the ten Senators.

    Its nice to win sometimes. Now, on to St Helier next Wednesday.

  4. Tuesday' meeting at St Clement Parish Hall 21s Feb was very informative. With Deputy Le Heriser explaining his Amendments to voters of that Parish,along with others who chose to be there showing interest as to what the electoral reforms and amendments entailed. Indepentant Commission to decide on being the important subject.
    It does'nt bear well for Democracy in this Island.As other politicians who attended, In fairness, admitted along with the amendments at this meeting Felt it was not their right as politicians to automatically sit in on an Indepentant Commision electorial reform. Or the possibility of Senator P. Bailache a politician himself, or any other politician for that matter should take upon themselves to Chair these meetings.
    These well intended Reforms put forward by D.Wimberly, Could yet be at risk to Democracy, by being watered down and total waste of taxpapers money. Others may wish to put their own point of view as next Meeting held at the Town Hall Wednesday 29th Feb at 7.30pm.

  5. With 20% of our Government unelected, how can anyone use the word Democracy..!!