Wednesday, 6 November 2013

A desperate attempt to rewin political consent - No Reform just more Referendums on Clothier and Constables,

As expected todays States debate on electoral reform was shambolic. 

The highlights of the day were: 
  1. Debut of Reform Jersey – successful lobby in Royal Square
  2. Ozouf Machiavellianism – Proposition pulled to be last man standing 
  3. Paralysis – political right unable to break with gerrymandered past 
  4. Referendums on Clothier and Constables in Oct 2014

 Enter Reform Jersey

Reform Jersey made its debut in the Royal Square this morning on the political stage to lobby States Members arriving for the debate. Being 5th November, it was appropriate there should be Guy Fawkes masks and barrels of make believe gunpowder as props to add a little comedy. Posters with demands and slogans made clear it was time to stop the gerrymandering that has been in place since 1948, if not for centuries. St Helier, with one third of the island population should have political representation to match.

Master tactician

It was masterly tactics, like a card dealer taking an Ace from the bottom of the pack, Senator Ozouf sought to “defer” his proposition P93/2013 until later in the debate. He did so coyly suggesting it did not command the prospect of a majority by being debated first and should therefore act as a “fall back proposal”. States Members were aghast at the audacity but could do nothing.

Senator Ozouf’s grand plan is to leave P93 as the last man standing after all other propositions have been lost.  Fall they did and by 5pm those of Deputies Pitman, Green, the Constable of St Mary and that of PPC itself had all been relegated to the dustbin. P93 is in fact Option B from the April Referendum slightly tweaked to give St Helier two extra Deputies because of the “perceived” inequality of representation between it and other places. It remains a gross gerrymander that leaves Constables in place and does nothing to address the historical Town- Country divide. PPC’s academics in their report ranked it as among the worst by the criteria of under representation.

The loss of Option B in July, left the party of government and the right fuming with impotence. What they thought was going to be a walk in the park turned out to be a humiliation as States Members baulked at the prospect of reduction in their numbers. Ever since there have been behind the scenes activity to get Option B back on the rails.

The myth Option B ever commanded a majority

A number of members from the right kept referring in their speeches to the public choice in the Referendum having been ignored in the July vote. There is a myth, perpetuated by the media, that Option B commanded a majority, when in fact it never did, albeit mathematically winning only after Option C voters’ second preferences were transferred. The Referendum was only ever advisory, or as Senator Bailhache referred to it on BBC Radio Jersey on the day after. as a “glorified opinion poll”. Had it ever been intended to be binding, States Members would have been swarming all over the detail well in advance. Accountability is something States Members utterly detest.

In particular, the Constable of St Helier used some rather quaint turns of phrase, referring to Option B as “the proposition of the people” and “the people’s choice”, which the States had responsibility to implement. This all sat in a most peculiar fashion, as the Constable had officially declared as a supporter of Option A, albeit his subsequent conduct on PPC, of which he was then Chairman, and now, raise questions as to that professed loyalty.  Incidentally, the voters of St Helier had no doubt that Option B was a gerrymander and by a ratio of 2 to 1, supported Option A.

As the various propositions fell, it was quite evident that the Assembly had no enthusiasm for the cause of reform. There were a number of classic speeches that illustrate that the political class as a whole are incapable of embracing democratic changes.

Deputy Le Bailly of St Mary came out with some memorable reactionary phrases. He confused the Venice Commission with the Vienna Convention, describing it as “another European Directive akin to Brussels”. It was better not to “mess with the Constitution” and instead concentrate on the things that mattered to people, namely unemployment and affordable housing. All of which is an code for doing nothing. He intended to vote against all the propositions before the House.

The Constable of St Mary, a former member of the Electoral Commission, faced derision when she came out with the observation that just because one third of the island population lives in St Helier it "doesnt follow they should have one third of the representatives". 

Why might that be so one has to ask the Constable? Why do 1700 people in a constituency called St Mary have two representatives, whilst another constituency with 30,000 only has eleven?

The answer is, as she knows, but cannot admit, that it ensures power in the States rests in the hands of the wealthy to the detriment of working people in urban areas. This is what is meant by gerrymandering.


After the propositions of PPC and that of Deputy Green had sunk without trace, there remained floating on the surface two pieces of debris marked Referendum. Somehow the Assembly, in its inimicable fashion, had mustered a majority in favour of not one but two referendums to be held at the same time as the October 2014 elections. That they are mutually contradictory shows how absurd the process of reform has become.

The referendums will be: 

1.    with a single Yes/No question to ask voters whether they agree that the Constables should remain as members of States Assembly as an automatic right“ 
2.    “with a single Yes/No question to ask voters whether they agree that the States Assembly should, with effect from the 2018 elections, be comprised of a single category of members elected on a parish basis in accordance with the recommendation of …(the ‘Clothier’ Report)”
  As we have already seen referendums are the work of the devil.

“A British political elite which used to detest and dismiss the idea of referenda is suddenly in favour of them all over the place in defence of the shibboleth of parliamentary sovereignty. This is about the challenges of political disconnect, lack of trust and legitimacy, and a desperate attempt to rewin political consent.”

Gerry Hassan

The three barrels,standing on their own in the Royal Square next to the States Building, were a reminder that governments in the modern age rule only with the consent of the people.


  1. Now can we see some real candidates please with realistic policies that might challenge the entrenched political philosophy that you complain of.
    If there are no suitable candidates the rest is just another form of gerrymandering...if reform is truly required then let the electorate have some reforming policies to vote for...enough posturing...the thinking public want policies.

  2. I don't know why you bother.
    Most people have washed their hands of the States after the last referendum result was rejected and when I walked past you demo yesterday it was hardly crowded.

    1. Its true many despair of rational modernisation and democratisation that the political class refuses to implement. They prefer a gerrymandered system that has retained power in the hands of the few for a long time and serves them nicely. This organised malaise induces voter abstention and is part of the mechanism for retention of power. The political class is indifferent to 60% voter abstention islandwide and 70% in St Helier and the implications that has for their legitimacy.

      Hope should never be abandoned. There is an old slogan that should serve as our guide “pessimism of the mind; optimism of the will”. Broken down that means even though the task may appear impossible, the very act of doing is an affirmation of hope. History tells us that struggles may take a long time, with victories and reverses, but change comes. Think of the history of the overthrow of colonial slavery.

      When you say you passed through the square you were inspired by a bright candle shining in the darkness. You noticed and it forced you to lift your slumbering head and rounded shoulders in that trudge to work. The spectacle was torn for a brief moment. Here was an organised protest of significance – significant in that it was organised. That is the hope that the political class so fears.

      The struggle for democracy in Jersey has been going on since 28th September 1769, when the people entered the history of their island and asserted a claim to its governance. This is why the event is so significant, yet is air brushed out of official history which prefers state actors like Major Peirson or invents “Mace day”.

  3. A great blog Nick. Very perceptive.

    Is Ozouf's proposition still 'live' then? The Prince is clearly hard at work. Probably waiting for a day when Bailhache, Baker, Moore and Maclean are not absent. That's four guaranteed yes votes that he was missing yesterday, due to their absences.

    He is so transparently Machiavellian that it is untrue.

    1. My understanding is that once debated, a proposition cannot be debated again for another three months according to States rules. That’s why, after the debate on reform in July, the soonest the matter could come back to the House was November.

      The Senator pulled his Propostion for “Option B with two extra fairies in St Helier”, fearing that were it debated and it lost, which was inevitable given Option B was defeated in July (applause here for the "A Team" and Option A campaigners), it could not be reconsidered in time to pass through the process of legislative approval before the elections in October 2014. Cleverly it was “deferred” to an unspecified date, so that the Option B Gerrymanderers could regroup and rethink how best to slip a revised Option B past a reluctant States.

      Hope that helps. The constitutional lawyers will tell us if I am wrong.

  4. Oh, and do you have ANY idea how they are going to handle the results of two mutually exclusive yet simultaneous referendums? What if the public vote yes for both of them???

    You really could not make this s!*^ up !

  5. Jersey is kept as a stable TAX HAVEN under an equally stable semi-feudal government and politicised-Judiciary purely to bankroll the Monarchy and British Governments war machine!

    How else do you think the United Kingdom continues to funds its armed forces?

    The same United Kingdom that under its last Labour Government was left on the brink of bankruptcy and economically on its knees…

    Yet, this very same country is still is able to cough up billions to run its Navy, Army and Air Force; a country which has hardly known a time of peace (Think Northern Ireland, Falklands, Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other so-called “conflicts” in which the U.K. and its Monarchy have waged war).

    That’s why both the Monarchy and U.K. Government continues to turn a blind eye about child abuse and all the other sh*t that is happening in this island.

    That is the real reason why in the 21st Century we still do not have true democracy in jersey.


    Understand the previous statement and you will understand everything that is happening in this island!

  6. I wish you were in my district so I could vote for you. You speak so much sense that you should walk into the states through the district you are in.

    1. Many thanks for the comment. I think we met in the Supermarket.

  7. Just goes to show what the establishment party will go to just to keep their power. ozouf pulled a fast one with deferring his proposition so that he can come back later perhaps hope to change some members to change their minds by offering to vote yes on any of the things they want to go through in the future. Now tell me there is nothing in it for them if they hold the power. Think being a member of a board that would make millions if their plans go through and your states member who makes those plans go through gets his/her backhander.

    1. Yes you are right we did meet in the supermarket.
      What I told you is correct and I believe that your should be voted into the states, so I hiope if you stand again your district will have the sense to vote you in.

    2. We were not formally introduced. Give me a call, I am in the book.