Sunday, 17 March 2013


The campaigning season for the 24th April Referendum has begun. Naturally, full of élan, it was The A-Team that were first out on Queen Street this Saturday morning.

Bang on 9.30am we were handing out leaflets and getting over the message that only Option A can deliver democracy and fairness. The response was overwhelmingly positive with many people completing voter registration forms in advance of the 3rd April deadline to register. Regardless of age, gender or residence, a cross section of Jersey has already decided it will be voting for Option A in the Referendum on 24th April.

Some of our A TEAM canvassed for opinion whilst others took the bold step of introducing themselves to passersby. Unfortunately, many walked past without acknowledging our presence, then stopped suddenly, turned on their heals and came back to take a leaflet. There was little need for persuasion, the message was out there – Option A was fairest and best.

Below are some short vox pop videos of the reaction of the voting public to the A TEAM message. Many were curious and wanted more information. The committed team was quick to provide that explanation and did it with a smile.

The disconnect between a government for the few and the ignored many

As we know there is a 60% voter abstention at elections in Jersey. We soon found out why - the disconnect between a government of the few and the ignored many. Politicians and media alike shy away from this self evident fact.

The campaigning season has begun and The A-Team is in the lead. We will be back in the center of Town every day right down to close of play. More reports and video updates will be posted here, on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Rumour reached us that a couple of Option C supporters were canvassing on King. Delighted and spoiling for a forthright exchange of opinion, we went in pursuit of the target. To our disappointment they had packed up early, if indeed they were there at all. We suspectd they were there only there for the media photo shoot and left.

Opinion formation 

Opinion formation in the island is through the media. I call it strategic high altitude bombing. We are of course in the trenches but taking ground from our opponents as they do not like engaging with ordinary people. These folk really enjoy the fact that someone finds their opinions valuable. We had however to listen to a degree of unpleasant racism, but in every conversation there are nuggets of enlightenment. People read, listen to or watch the media and what they believe to be the opinion of others. Few of us like to hold opinions that others do not hold and as a consequence people in general prefer to remain silent if they genuinely hold different views, less they give offence. 

As an example there was one lady of a certain age who said to me she was voting Option B and recited the received opinion and argument mustered to support that case. I did not ignore her, but persevered sowing the seed of doubt. I had met the lady in the past and she sort of recognised me. She was not poor but she was not wealthy either and she was very Jersey.. I assume we had parted agreeing to disagree. Imagine my surporise when forty minutes later have completed her promenad of King Street and returning back up Queen Street, she came over to me and saind in a hushed tone that she might be open to reconsider her vote. The twikle in in the eyes was highly flirtatious. So, it is possible to change opinions with rational argument – especially if it is delivered with respect and politeness.

OPTION B and its supporters

To supporters of Option A I would say "steady"; popular opinion is in our favour. We may be pushing on an open door, even though we have hardly seen the whites of our opponents eyes. They dont like being out on the street because they are outside their comfort zone having to speak to the "angry masses" who tell anyone in government about their deficiencies.

Intellectually Option B arguments are weak and rely essentially on emotion and sentiment. People understand fairness and equality. Who would wllingly play a chess game with half ones pieces eliminated at the outset whilst one's opponent had a full set?. That is the case presently and would be the case as well under Option B were unevenly sized parish constituencies be retained as electoral districts. Automatic retention of Constables makes it more advantegeous in terms of representation to reside in the North or in the Country rather than an urban area or in St Helier.

Option B campaign inauguration

Senator Ben Shenton on BBC Radio Jersey on Friday, announcing the inauguration of the B Team, was woefully ill informed. It was only the presenter's assistance that kept him focused and gave him the opportunity to reherse a lame alliterative slogan - "Option A, the awful option". The other slogan was "Option A doesn't do what it says on the tin" - clearly he was reading the lable upside down.

Ad nauseam repetition of "heritage" and "tradition" will not trump our Aces of equality and fairness. It is true that the Parishes system "is very very important to the island of Jersey ", but I cannot accept that self evident truth being used to instrumentalise the retention of the automatic right of Constables to sit in the States. 

An accomplished individual has many choice available to them including being both Constable and standing as a Deputy in one of the new large Districts. This will sort out the capable Constables from the less so. In that way those who have no desire to sit in the States can concentrate on the matters they know and love best in the parish, without being expected to meet the the levels of performance expected of a States Member in terms of committment and capability. This will avoid the embarassing situation that is currently evident with many Constables (and we might add a number of Countrty Deputies) not up to the job of being a States Member.
Ben Shenton likewise failed to explain what he meant by an "efficient" States; a contradiciton in terms as presently constituted. 

Equally tendentious was the statement that "most people's point of contact is the Parish Constable". Wrong. Try getting one to listen on a contentious issue, let alone represent you at an Appeal Board or Social Security Tribunal. Deputies do that and that is often why they are approached first.

He referred to St Helier as being split in the future between District A and District B, when in fact they will be called District 1(combing the current Town Districts 3 and 4 and a bit of 2) and  District 2 (the current District one plus the Town centre part of District 2).

One particular howler was the suggestion that Option B makes "the people of the island more involved in government". He did not explain how and it will certainly not address the issues raised by some of those we interviewed in the videos below. Reducing the number of States Members to 42 will make it even more difficult to find someone to take up an issue, especially if contentious and Scrutiny will be decimated by being undermanned

The BBC presenter rightly pointed out the disparity of representation between the Country Parishes and St Helier, but Ben Shenton took this to mean the mandate or number of votes by which a States Member was elected, not the gross difference in size of constituencies and number of eligible voters. He clearly does not understand what is meant by the historic divide between Town and Country. He must acquire a copy of Dr John Kelleher's seminal work on the 19th century Jersey rural commnuinty "The triumph of the Country" (sadly out of print but in the Public Library).

His political science got worse as he sought to explain the lower voter turnout "in Town" as being "largely because it has a more "transient" population" and/or tresidents are not eligible to vote. I beg to differ. St Helier has many long term residents. The right to vote is acquired after only two years residence. A better explanation for a 75% voter abstention in Disrict 1 St Helier is social class.  The working class are much less likely to vote than other social groups, especially if they are part of the main immigrant communties.

BBC Radio Jersey, "Option D" - demoralising the electorate

Incidentally, it was wholly inappropriate for the BBC presenter, Matthew Price, to suggest at the beginning of the interview and in the closing summary, that there was an "Option D" - to ignore the Referendum entirely an not vote. This was presented in the form of a deniable throw away quip,  Such light talk undermines the Referendum whose very legitimancy depends on voter participation. Why would the BBC encourage people not to vote? He did subsequently read out a comment I placed on the BBC Facebook page in complaint.  The shot across the bow was noted. No more gallows humour please Matthew and get a grip Editor Gripton. I have yet to hear a BBC Radio Jersey programme devoted to the reasons for voter abstention being so high in the island, possibly the highest in Europe. The BBC has the excellent and informed Professor Adrian Lee from Plymouth University who could provide the facts and figures. This is of course an embarassing subject for Jersey's govenment and one that consequently is best ignored by the ever loyal media. So there is a challenge Matthew and John, use the Poliicts Show on Sunday to explain this little understood or discussed feature of Jersey's political landscape.

It is imperative that there is a level playing field maintained by the media in the Island or the elctorate will be grossly ill informed about the Referendum. 

Vox Pop

I feel certain that readers will not hear such verement expression of opinion  in the Jersey Media as was expressed to us today on the street - but I wait to see. During the coming weeks we will be giving voice to the true opinions of the island. Liberty of expression is a vital ingrediant of a vibrant Democracy. Come and talk to us. We will be at the top of Queen Street. Also look out for our stall in Kings Street.

Listen to the voices of some of those getting ready to vote and vote for OPTION “A”.

St Martin resident: "I think [Constables] should carry on being in their Parish which is where they are at their best."


"You wouldn't fancy doing a quick interview to camera would you?  A TEAM member Deputy Montfort Tadier explains the unquestioned advantages of Option "A"


"The system doesn't exist for your average Joe; litterally no one understands how politics works in Jersey... no one has a connection with the government of Jersey!

Option A will begin the process that will give the public a chance to structure the government and have a choice of policy.

Here is the leaflet provided to islanders today. Read the arguments and let me have your comments.



  1. Good Posting Nick,

    It might be worth asking supporters of the B Option, how often their Connetable spoke in the House, how many questions asked and the number of propositions and amendments they have lodged since being elected to the States.

  2. There are flaws with option A. 42 members is not enough to run matters properly, unless you commit to reconstitute the government with fewer ministers. And even with a single class of membership, there are still a significant series of issues in the way the States runs which means it might not deliver.

    But basic democratic principle requires that executive, legislative and judicial powers be separated. Even Sarkees now understand that.

    The Constables cannot continue in the States. Option A it has to be.

    BTW: when are the arrangements for postal/proxy votes going to be announced?

    1. I agree 42 members are not enough. Scrutiny will be undermanned and dysfunctional.

      The Sark authorities had to be dragged kicking and screaming into 21st Century democratic ways. The British Government, ultimately responsible for good government there, kept rejecting reform legislation until they got it right. A couple of indigenous Brechouites from Sark’s tributary islet helped along the way with an action in the English High Court and lots of behind the scenes lobbying.

      The arrangements for this Referendum are a shambles. It has been known since the inception of the Electoral Commission that one would be held. For nearly a year no thought has been given to the details and law surrounding its practicalities.

      Funding for campaign groups was proposed then withdrawn. There is no expenditure cap on campaign groups and no access to the electoral role.

      I agree there appears to be as yet no arrangements for Pre Poll voting, which was reasonably successful at the elections in 2011. In addition, will representatives of the various A, B and C campaigns be permitted to scrutinise the vote and final count?

      Of course no one is accountable. Neither PPC nor the EC, notwithstanding having a least one former Crown Officer on both.

      It is going to be the usual make it up as we go along and don't question our authority.

  3. Arrangements for pre-poll voting are now in place. See

    St Pauls Centre opens on Mon 8 April.

  4. Nick, on the postal and pre-poll voting -

    Pre-Poll voting will be from the 8th April till the 22nd at St Pauls Centre.

    Registering for postal vote must be done by the 19th April.

  5. You say "I agree 42 members are not enough. Scrutiny will be undermanned and dysfunctional."

    So how can you vote A then?

    1. Option A is not perfect. Remember GST was sold to the public, through the media, as "the least worst option". So GST was good enough for the Jersey Public to have imposed upon them even though they indicated their disapproval through petitions and demonstrations in the Royal Square.

      Option A embodies the best characteristics of a reformed Assembly that have been demanded for at least 20 years: A General Election; all elected on the same; one category of States Member (no confusions as to the existing three categories and what they do that is any way different from one another). There will be no more “rotten boroughs” or uncontested elections (9 of 12 Constables’s elections went uncontested in 2011. That in St Ouen was the first contested election in 103 years!)

      Option A embodies fairness of votes and fairness of representation. There will be no more tiny constituencies with a handful of electors electing several representatives, whilst in St Helier thousands elect maybe only one extra representative. The historic inequality between Town and Country will go. It will not matter where in the island one lives, one will have the same number of votes and elect the same number of representatives, called Deputies.

      If Option B become law in any form it will be a gerrymandering in favour of the County interest over that of St Helier, just as it has been for hundreds of years (see my earlier blog on a petition in 1886 by the residents of St Helier calling for fairer representation). As a consequence of the Country dominating politically for so long, the forces of commercial capitalism were unable to develop and in their wake establish a modern democracy in Jersey. It has taken until now to put in place that essential structure.

      Above all, a vote for Option A is a conscious act that defies pessimism. It is a way of saying to oneself I will not despair at the sad state of my homeland.

      The Patriot has no choice other than to vote for Option A.

  6. Nick

    In your comment 21st March you say there were 9 Constables returned unopposed to the States in 2011. It was actually 8. There must be one that everbody forgets ): - as you are not the first to have said this.

    I should just add: over the years since 1999, on average, out of the 12 Constables sitting in the States at any one time, 8 or more were sitting there NOT having faced an election.