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.