Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Privy Council is in London and the road is via Sark - PPC “press the button” on Referendum ‘Option B’ implementation

There was an atmosphere of expectation as the Policy and Procedures Committee (PPC) met Thursday afternoon in the Blampied room of the States building on the day after the Referendum on reform of the States Assembly. Given the inconclusive and contradictory nature of the result, would PPC seek to reconsider or give instruction to draft legislation?

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the results of the Referendum and whether to authorise the preparation of draft legislation to implement Option B. It was all theatre of course, as there was really no possibility that it would not receive approval, just as the Electoral Commission was never going to be independent and the referendum was anything more than a fig leaf of legitimacy on an illegitimate government fait accompli.

The committee voted to instruct the Greffier to draft legislation by 3 votes in favour and 2 abstentions from Deputies Montfort Tadier and Judy Martin, who attempted a desultory rear guard action.

It was Constable Len Norman who led the assault in calling for implementation. This is a sad irony at the end of a career, as he once upon a time supported the Clothier recommendations that there should be one category of States Member and agreed Constables should no longer automatically sit in the States. “Surely we are not going to say we are not going to not draft legislation” he exclaimed with vigor and indignation at years of stalling over reform. He went on to criticise “childish emails about percentages and how you work it out….our job is to implement the Referendum!”

With the objections swept away and being quorate, the meeting moved rapidly to a vote. Noticeable by his absence was another PPC member, Senator Bailhache, who had given his apologies at the commencement of the meeting that he would be late. To be sure, this was a mere excuse, as it would have been  beneath his dignity to be present during unseemly wrangling. He turned up 25 minutes into the meeting after matters had moved on. Anyway, his vote was unnecessary as there were a sufficient number of members to pass the motion. Accordinly, the Chair, Constable Simon Crowcroft, Senator Sarah Ferguson and Constable Len Norman gave approval with two recorded dissentions.

The Chairman, sidestepping all responsibility, had a bon mot for the historic occasion: “We are the midwife of this process and let the parents fight over the name of the child.” In other words the States Assembly will have the final say. We probably know the outcome in advance as the party whips will be out for loyalists to conform.

¡No Pasarán! - They shall not pass!

The Greffier earlier in the meeting had mentioned that there was a tight schedule if the legislation were to be implemented in time for the 2014 election and this gave the matter some urgency. He also mentioned in passing that this type of law would have to go to the Privy Council for final approval.

It is of course at the Privy Council that this legislation will founder.  Few in that meeting realised the road to London is via Sark. Senator Bailhache does and will already be smoothing the way in the corridors of power. Even so, the British government has already spoken and in spite of there being a Conservative government in power, the precedent for democratic reform of all the Channel Islands is à la mode de Serck. Kicking and screaming we will have democracy here, for 'Option B' is a gerrymander of historic proportions and cannot be allowed to pass.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Abysmal Referendum 14% Turnout in District 1 St Helier, yet by 2 to 1 they vote ‘Option A’

The manual worker erecting the voting booths in the Town Hall just before voting opened at 8 am lives in District 1 but he had no intention of voting and indeed neither was he registered to do so. “There is no point voting” he said “they have decided what they want and they will get it anyway.” That was the somewhat cynical yet worldly wisdom of a member of Jersey’s working class.

We all love to despise those that do not vote. We do so because we do vote and we consider ourselves superior for doing so. Yet that worker had an insight we voters had all missed. We were being railroaded into a Referendum where very few understood the real issues and so many had been spun a line by the Option B campaign that the Parish as an institution was about to come crashing down if their beloved Constables no longer had an automatic right to sit in the States. Option B spent most of its time in misleading emotional appeals designed to disguise true intentions. 

With an 85% voter abstention in St Helier and 75% island wide, the result, with Option B declared "the winner", is devoid of meaning or legitimacy. None of that matters of course, since this was a plebiscite for the public to be seen to seemingly endorse Option B.

The bare bones of Option B were the ones Senator Bailhache declared he wanted on the Senatorial Hustings, pushed through on the Electoral Commission and reiterated during the campaign. It was also government policy, being endorsed by Senator Gorst in a specially arranged hearing of the EC. Had there not been democrats on the Electoral Commission and Senator Bailhache had had his way, the Referendum question would simply have been Option B yes or no, without A or C as alternatives. Since C is the status quo and A the only fair design for a reformed electoral system, B represents a gross gerrymander. One suspects turnout would have been less and I would have been campaigning against any change, since B just makes the situation worse.

The Privileges and Procedures Committee met yesterday and has now "pushed the button" to prepare the legislation for implementation of Option B. 

This indecent haste is to meet the tight timeline to the 2014 elections. In the meantime there will be many opportunities to prevent this abomination. The forces of Democracy are mustering.

In fact yesterday, the only sensible political conversation I had was with three French tourists who came up to the polling station entrance intrigued by the occurrence of an election. They turned out to be Socialist Party supporters and they understood immediately that only Option A was democratic and that Option B was a sham. They had the same sort of problems with the right in France. Progress there was also slow and a hard fought battle. They understood because they were political beings.

The Referendum results

These are the results of the first preference count in District 1:

Option A – 464
Option B – 214
Option C -    97

Even though the election was on an AV system designed to achieve an overall winner, in terms of legitimacy only those first preferences have much meaning.

I await the full breakdown from the Greffe of the Option C second preference votes, as these were not announced separately by the Jurat, and consequently cannot comment how these altered the position in District 1. Suffice to say, it is reassuring that overall St Helier voted 2 to 1 in favour of Option A, displaying a healthy democratic spirit. This difference in temperament is of course attributable to social class and wealth, though some may have instinctively understood St Helier was going to loose out dramatically in terms of under representation through Option B.

District 1 historically has the lowest turnout and highest voter abstention in the Island, so it was no surprise to see the final turnout figure of 14%. In St Helier it was a 16.75% turnout, with ‘Option A’ taking 1760 votes, B 932 and C 452 after the count of second preference votes.

I had to laugh at Senator Ozouf’s attempt to explain away the poor 26% turnout islandwide in the Referendum as owing to an electoral role that had not been properly weeded. That might be because there is no Electoral Registrar for the whole island with a department tasked with maintaining its accuracy. Back we come to the deficiencies of the Parish Administration. In addition there are around 8000 eligible people who are not on the role having not registered to vote.

Election irregularities

I was the scrutineer throughout the polling and count on behalf of the A Campaign in the Town Hall where District 1 polled and all the St Helier votes were counted. I did not see any issues to raise concern except one matter that was brought to my attention subsequently by an external source. This is now under consideration as an official complaint. More later.

Spoilt votes

On a lighter note, it is the spoilt votes that always interest me. I expected a lot more than there were, which indicates that voters were not fazed by any complexities of AV and casting second preferences. Some were spoilt deliberately with comments such as “None of the above” and “none of the below”. 

The real cracker has to one ballot across which was scribbled “Get rid of Pitman”. One can only imagine the mind of someone prepared to waste their vote just to make such a statement about one of their current Deputies. This of course is what the Referendum and Option B is all about; getting rid of what Senator Bailhache described as "the wreckers". Deputy Trevor Pitman is a hardworking politicians who takes seriously his work in the constituency and in the States, asking questions that embarasses those that exercise power. 

Interestingly that ballot did not say "get rid of Baker". Deputy Baker, is a poll topping representative for District 1 St.Helier. He got elected on the basis that his father had been Constable of St Helier and had the Ouzoufite electoral machine to get him there. He has been a sad dissapointment, taking 6 months to make his maiden speech in the States Assembly, an embarassing omission that even the JEP had to make comment about. He may be useless, but he is loyal Party Fodder and always votes the right way.

Monday, 22 April 2013

‘Ten Constables say they will vote to keep their £50,000 salary’ – A-TEAM Democracy Rally – Royal Square, Saturday 20th April

It was glorious Spring weather as we made final detailed preparations for the A-Team Rally in the Royal Square on Saturday. This was the culmination of a successful campaign in support of Option A. Overall the event was a great success with speeches by A-Team supporters and some excellent music by the Badlabecques and another band playing Irish Folk

The contrast could not have been starker than between a handful of States Members supporting Option C giving out leaflets in King Street at the same time as the Rally by the A-Team was proceeding in the Royal Square. The difference was that we were a cross section of Jersey civil society, bonded by a desire to see reform and democracy established in the Island, whilst those States Members in King Street seemed rather embarrassed at having to engage with the public in the common thoroughfare. It was probably the first and last appearance of the C Sense Campaigners on King Street. At least they were making an effort, albeit something of a forlorn hope.

Option B – going forward ever looking in the rear mirror

To my knowledge Option B never attempted to engage directly with the public on the street. This reflects the oligarchic nature of that section of the political class backing that campaign. Their influence is informal within the circles of power and then relayed by the “tom toms” to those who take their lead from those they choose to lead and protect their social interests.

The B campaign never spoke in the language of democracy, fairness or equality. Their slogans were those of efficiency and stability, essentially conservative and financially motivated. These conservatives seem not to have understood the wisdom expressed by all wise conservatives faced by changing circumstances – For things to remain the same, things must change.

Option B is consciously more reactionary than the present status quo – it gerrymanders the electoral constituencies so as to favour wealthy rural parishes to the disadvantage of the urban and by reducing the number of States Members, yet retaining Constables, creates a block vote for the Executive leading to autocratic government.

Today, as I drove a friend into the airport, I saw a very revealing sight; an Option B poster was being erected on the main roundabout by two Portuguese men. As we know the Portuguese community is one of the most difficult to motivate politically inspite of it being long established. I imagine none of those men would be voting on Wednesday for Option A, C or indeed Option B. These men were not volunteers; paid hirlings I muttered under my breath as we passed by. Money is a wonderful way to buy an election. The hard work can be done by others.

A little bird, high up the tree, whispered in my ear saying “If I were you, I would see Option B as right-wing conspiracy”. Not my words, but ones worth pondering.

Here is my speech:


The Badlabecques:


Sam Mézec:

Deputy Montfort Tadier

Ted Vibert



Friday, 19 April 2013

80% ‘Option A’ voting support in St Helier Parish Assembly

A St Helier Parish Assembly voted 80% in favour of ‘Option A’ on Tuesday evening. This may auger well for the ‘A’ campaign on Referendum Day Wednesday 24th April.

Whilst a bold and dramatic headline, to say that 80% of Tuesday’s St Helier Parish Assembly supported ‘Option A’ in a vote, needs a degree of qualification and context. This is not to minimise the result. It was a definite success. Parish Assemblies are notoriously poorly attended in all Parishes, so that in St Helier could not really expect to be otherwise. That said, meetings held in the Town Hall to discuss matters of Island importance often have their biggest turnouts in St Helier precisely because that is where the prestige lies.

  Civic Pride in St Helier

Some may be smirking that St Helier has prestige. I suspect those who live in St Helier are reticent in expressing civic pride about the “The Town”. We need to be more assertive; were we to be St Helier might have more respect instead of being the dump for all the things other Parishes consciously don’t want. Therein lies the Town/Country divide of which we have seen in action, but heard very little in terms of intellectual debate.

 Even the Town Deputies do not speak with one voice for St Helier. Were it so St Helier would have a stronger voice as an entity. Issues of political persuasion and social class tend to divide. Many Deputies vote with the Council of Ministers and can be considered government loyalists. In St Helier District 1 Deputy James Baker is an example, having been parachuted into St Helier (he lives in St Martin) by the Ozoufite Nouveau Riche electoral machine, otherwise know as the ‘The Party of Cocktails’. By contrast, what is disparagingly described as ‘inner St Helier’ elects those that tend to act as the opposition to the Executive, albeit in a hesitant fashion. The expression ‘inner St Helier’ (that is inside the Town ring road) is shorthand for the issue of social class.

  Loi (1804) au sujet des assemblées paroissiales

The Parish Assembly on Tuesday 16th April was requisitioned under the Loi (1804) au sujet des assemblées paroissiales by 4 parishioners for two important reasons. Firstly, to demonstrate that Parish Democracy was not dead. Secondly, it provided an opportunity for a conscious demonstration by those that live in St Helier that our voice should count in the “National” debate about the Referendum on States Assembly reform. The vote taken at the end of the meeting was strictly limited to St Helier voters. By a show of yellow cards we voted. The result was: ‘Option A’ 13; ‘Option B’ 4 and ‘Option C’ 2.

The cynics will be saying, oh that’s just Town and it can be ignored. What I noticed is that, as far as I could tell, those voting were not committed to one or other of the official campaigns. What we got was a demonstration of the ‘Public Will’ in St Helier. There were about 35 to 40 present at the Town Hall meeting that evening and many lived elsewhere in the Island. One gentleman, who clearly would have like to vote, stood up to ask for clarification on the point and was told only those on the electoral role in St Helier could vote. I suspect that when the count comes in for St Helier on Wednesday we will see St Helier overwhelming voting for ‘Option A’, albeit the turnout will, as ever, be low. It could well be lower than at election time generically, especially as so many are still confused as to the real issues at stake.

 Reform of the States Assembly is long overdue. Voting ‘Option A’ on Wednesday 24th April will be a bold statement by the public that it really is time for change and our patience is now at an end.

Here is my speech on behalf of the A-Team supporting 'Option A' at the Town Hall on Tuesday evening. I read it to be sure that the message was clear.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

C for COMEDY - Option C comedy time in St Helier

Here is a wicked compilation video with Option C Russel Labey at his best with a story about his mom, Ransoms Garden Centre and a speech by Senator Philip Ozouf. We are not amused.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

St Brelade - Still undecided on the Referendum

The meeting on Friday evening at St Brelade Communicare was dull. What it lacked in verve in comparison with St Saviour, was made up for by some considered analysis of the various options and none more so that by Dr Jonathan Renouf, a former Electoral Commission member and that evenings A-Team lead speaker. Here is his opening speech:

Media Boycott

For seasoned observers of the wily ways of the Jersey media, there is a worked example in their treatment of Dr. Renouf. For a member to the Electoral Commission to come out in favour of one of the options is surely a newsworthy event. When Sir Phillip Bailhache, the EC Chairman announces his official support for Option B, there will be a front page in the JEP and the other media will carry the measured cadences of L'homme providential.

Such deference was not accorded to Dr Renouf at a press conference to make clear his position. Only BBC radio turned up and to their credit ran with the story from mid-day Friday on the hour. The JEP and CTV seemingly boycotted the event, no doubt because falling advertising revenues have cut the compliment of writers. The other explanation may be that they did not want anyone else from the Electoral Commission upstageing Senator Bailhache when he comes out in favour of Option B next week.

Laughing stock

St Brelade resident Graham Prouse made some pertinent observations about Constables, no doubt based on first hand observations as a former senior Jersey civil servant. In his day, he recalled, many Constables “were a laughing stock for their inability to be articulate and in some cases even their intellect was questioned”. Fortunately that is clearly not the case today and times have changed for the better.

Christine Vibert gives her reply from the platform as A-Team speaker explaining how with Constables back in their Parishes, the Parish and Honorary system will be strengthened. Constables will be doing what they do best – running their Parishes, without the burden and challenges of States work.


The universal principles of equality and fairness. 

A straw poll was taken by the chairman of the meeting at the beginning and end of the meeting as to whether those present had made up their minds which way to vote. It was disappointing that having listened to the speakers there were so many still undecided at the end of the meeting.

Giving out leaflets in the market today, Saturday, I encountered a couple who as it turned out live in my district. They complained that they did not fully comprened the various options. One said that their opinion changed depending on which letter they had read in the JEP that evening. The issues were not clear. I suggested that they would be better off reading the government's literature produced for public distribution as this was far superior to the misinformation they would find elsewhere.

Dr Jonathan Renouf has explained in his Town Hall interview (previous blogpost) that the issue is not really that complicated. A little time spent reading the EC Report or its Summary would soon lead one to the conclusion that only Option A embodied the universal principles of equality and fairness.

Option A - Toujours en avant!

Friday, 12 April 2013

"A once in a lifetime opportunity to define the basis of our democracy" - Electoral Commission member Dr Jonathan Renouf INTERVIEW

Emile Collins looked on in bronze from his plinth as we filmed an interview with Dr. Jonathan Renouf, an Option A spokesman and former member of the Electoral Commission. Emile would have been proud with what was happening and without a doubt he would be voting Option A on the 24th April were he still with us.

In this short video Dr Renouf sets forth his motivation to come back to his island and get involved in the Option A campaign. He appeared as the “surprise” guest speaker for the A-Team at Communicare St Brelade this evening and his “hustings” speech will be available on this blog in due course. We caught Dr Renouf at a Press Conference at midday today in the Town Hall and asked him to explain why he supported Option A. His answers are succinct and persuasive.

" A Referendum like this does not come along often - the chance to define the whole underlying basis of your democracy (is) a once in a lifetime opportunity - what a shame to miss this opportunity to have a say."

"At root its really very simple - if you support Option A, it is because you believe the electoral system should be based on fairness and equality."

First Referendum "Hustings" in St Saviour - Property of the Parish

It was a hoot. The first of the public meetings in the Referendum campaign was a mixture of farce and entertainment with a bit of informational politics thrown in for fun. The format was somewhat like the BBC's Question Time, with some quick fire wit and chairing by CTV presenter Gary Burgess. There was a good turnout, but whether there were any paying public in the stalls at St Saviour’s Parish Hall was unclear. The room appeared to be full of supporters of one group or another, albeit the dominant group was most certainly for Option A, as was the applause.

Curiously, there were a number of unexpected speakers in the audience espousing the cause of Option A. This aspect may become clearer as the “hustings” proceed as to exactly how the forces are lining up. Is Option A pushing on an open door? Nevertheless one should never underestimate the forces of conservatism. They do not need to stand on the street and hand out leaflets or mobilize public sentiment; that is not their way. They can be relied upon to turn out to vote and vote to keep things just as they are. These are the voters for B and C, for whom Constables hold a mystical quality.What we see in play are the forces of modernity against those clinging to an increasingly irrelevant past.

The process of democratising Jersey has been proceeding since those memorable events of 28th September 1769 when "the People" stepped in to make their own history. It has been a long and meandering path indeed. The present Referendum is but one further small step forward.

The Constable and “her” Parish

The Constable of St Saviour was somewhat embarrassing in that she welcomed all to the meeting and then insisted at the end in closing the meeting. This led to some amusing exchanges, when in an extremely patronising way she told "Young Sam", the Option A Speaker Sam Mezec, that she had a bone to pick with him on something he had said in his speech. Had Sam not been aged 24 she might not have attempted to so publicly humiliated a speaker. This led to rebuke and counter rebuke. Given this was a public and not a Parish Assembly what was the Constable doing there at all muscling in on the action? They just can’t let go it would seem.

This little vignette was a classic moment and perhaps the unexpected highlight of the evening. The voice calling out the word “patronising” is mine. The exchange is what happens when the absence of deference meets arrognance. It also illustrates why Connétables are often perceived as anachronistic and authoritarian. The Deputies of the St Saviour will be pleased to know they are property of the Parish and most certainly an inferior being to a Connétable. When one thinks about it, the very concept of “Le Père de famille” or “father of the Parish” is completely chauvinistic and abhorrent to the modern spirit of equality between the sexes. The much revered coutume de normandie always had a reputation for being "le plus dur" when it came to the treatment of women.

That closing speech appears towards the end of the clip after Constable Pallet of St Brelade and Deputy Macon of St Saviour. Note the more measured words of Constable Pallet, a supporter of Option B. Watch for yourself and judge.

Sam Mezec - A-Team speaker

Here is the lead speech of Sam Mezec in support of Option A.

Sam’s speech is followed by one of the many questions of the night, this by Ted Vibert (A-Team supporter) asking those supporting Options C and B to explain exactly how it would be to the detriment of the Parish if Constables no longer sit automatically sat in the States Assembly.

The answer from Senator Lyndon Farnham, for Option C is evasive. He was unable to produce any concrete evidence to support his assertion. The essence of the B and C case on Constables is based purely on sentiment and emotion. Politics is, as we know, ultimately based on emotion. However, there is a danger in being ruled by the heart to the exclusion on the mind. There is an undeniably powerful and rational argument in Option A that the electoral system should be based on fairness and equality and everybody’s vote should count the same regardless of where they live in the island. This is Democratic sentiment which Jersey should embrace wholeheartedly on 24th April.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Pre-Polling begins in the 24th April Referendum

Pre Poll voting in the 24th April Referendum began today at 9am. The first voter through was a St Brelade Parish Loyalist and she told me she had plumped for one of the Options and not used her second preference vote. I imagine she did not vote for Option A.

The JEP photographer was there like me at 9am awaiting the first voter. He left at about 5 minutes past 9 having asked a member of staff to simulate voting. Anyway, lets hope lots of people use the pre-poll to get the voting done and dusted early.

St Pauls Centre is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, from today onward until 22nd April, which is a half day.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Of Constables and Turkeys - Christmas is coming on 24th April

Here is my letter to Constable Phil Rondel of St John regarding his quite amazing Proposition P39/2013 requiring a 51% turnout in the 24th April Referendum.

"Dear Phil,

Re: P39/2013

I read with disbelief your Proposition P39/2013. A few questions and no doubt you will be able to cite the sources for your reply.

Do you know the turnout for the island during the 2011 elections? I believe it was around 40%. Do you agree? How therefore do you arrive at 51% turnout as an acceptable figure for change?

You mention that when first elected in 1994 the turnout in St John was 80%. This is impressive.  Do you happen to also know the turnout in District 1 St Helier, where I happen to live? I do not know, but would assume it was around its historic level of 25%. This makes voter abstention around 75%, which is very close to your Country Parish turnout. What a difference a few miles can make.

Incidentally, I cannot state precisely what the turnout was in 1994 in St Helier, because such records are not available. There is no government electoral statistics site that would be so helpful to those researching the matter. Perhaps your next Proposition to the States could be to provide funding for such a project.

The figure that should be embedded in every speech you make in the States is that 60% of the registered electorate do not vote. There is a 60% voter abstention. This means that all governments lack legitimacy. They do not have popular support. Do you agree?

As you know full well the Referendum is purely advisory to the States. It is not in any way binding. Its results can be ignored and probably the Turkeys will do just that. Why then require a 51% turnout in the Referendum at all when you know the turnout is unlikely to be higher than at any election?

A Referendum has been mooted for at least a year. You understand the potential constitutional consequences of the various Options proposed. Can you point to the efforts you have made in that time to ensure that the appropriate legislation was in place to cover all potential eventualities? Did you contact PPC to remind them of their responsibilities and did they discuss your suggestions?

Are you a Turkey who has been told Christmas is coming on the 24th April?