Friday, 12 April 2013

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.


  1. The contingency of Constables have been haunting the Parish halls as a group defence over the decades.

    They don't like it when parishioners use these buildings as a democratic public platform outside the father of the Parish contigency control.

    The Public should have the right as individuals in ''our'' Parish to expect a Constable to respect different views and not to dictate what is hers and is ours.

  2. Nick, just for clarification for your readers, I spoke to Sadie after to clarify how I had apparently undermined her.

    She had misinterpreted (or perhaps I had not explained clearly enough) a part in my opening speech in which I said that St Saviour was a Parish that does not like having a Constable that spends too much time in the States and neglects the Parish.

    She took that to mean I was suggesting she didn't work hard and was unpopular, when what I was actually referring too was the last election when Peter Hanning was defeated because he was widely regarded to have neglected the Parish.

    It was a shame she decided to take this up with me in the way she did publicly where I didn't have the right of reply.

    1. Sam. Thank you for the clarification. I understand that you do not wish to give offence to anyone and certainly not to the Constable now that the misunderstanding has been resolved. This is very diplomatic.

      That said, her remarks were wholly patronising. She acted on the basis that she is older than you and from that she felt entitled to bully a younger person. This is authoritarianism and I do not tolerate it any longer. If she had an issue to discuss it should have been taken up privately. Standing on the platform in a meeting that was not hers, it was wholly inappropriate to use the occasion for self justification.

      It is unfortunate that there are many who, instead of voicing their criticism of ignorance, simply smile and turn away, smug in their own superiority. The Constables’ conduct last night was the best advert for Option A there ever could be. She did not have the political guile to see the conflict of interest and fell straight into an avoidable embarrassment.

  3. The whole thing is a waste of time. It's like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. We will still only have a tiny few votes out of the total number of States Members with options A,B or C - and politicians still won't listen - so very few people are going to bother with this.

    Best Regards

    1. Cynic. Listen to the blog posting above where Dr Jonathan Renouf is interviewed.

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