Jersey Reform Day.
This site is dedicated to the day, now officially recognised annually by the States of Jersey, to mark the anniversary of the events of 28 September 1769.
Jersey's own Independence or Bastille Day.
Here is my written submission to the Electoral Reform 2017 Sub-Panel.
The public is invited to attend the public hearings that are taking place in some Parishes and to make written submissions before 25 May.
Some members of the public are invited to appear before the Sub-Panel to explain their submissions further and I have asked to be invited.....
Electoral Reform 2017.
Response to Corporate Services Scrutiny Sub-Panel from Michael Dun.20 May 2017
1 The public has
belatedly been invited to comment on proposed complex Electoral changes that
will be debated and voted on by the States Assembly in a few weeks.
There is inadequate
time or information available.
2 The proposals are supposed to address shortcomings in the
existing system of “representation” but although States Members have been
kicking such ideas around for 17 years it still remains unclear what the
defects actually are or whether these or any other reforms might address them.
3 The public is
invited to comment upon the proposals as published and not to deviate into
Such a constraint
is unreasonable for many reasons – not least because the means of
implementation of the various proposals are not yet determined and in any case
the implications of impacts arising from the reforms are impossible to predict.
4 The proposers of
the reforms claim that these reforms are just a step forward and that further –
but undefined reform - must follow in due course.
5 Such degrees of
uncertainty are not fit to be presented to the electorate to comment upon - nor
for their “elected representatives” to vote on.
6 Although the
reforms are presented in the name of “fairer representation” (for example), to
address specific inequalities arising from numerical differences in the sizes
of constituencies and their geographical distribution – the proposals will not eliminate
7 The “Venice Commission,”
although often referred to in support of the proposals by some, is in fact
optional and as a mere advisory “code” can and will be ignored as it suits.
8 Although there is
one option to reduce the number of seats in the States to 44 – for reasons
which are unclear – this option is tied to another proposal that removes the
So, the complex
reforms are offered as a sort of Pick n’ Mix and thus defy logical discussion.
9 The role of
Senators is supposedly to be justified for retention by others on the basis of
an “all Island mandate” which – like so many terms and expressions being used –
10 No States Member
or category of Members can be “mandated” by the electorate - either at the time
of election or during the term of an Assembly.
11 Ironically, the
Chair of the PPC Committee was “mandated” by the States Assembly to prepare the
Propositions for the current proposals and to present them to the States, but
does not personally support them.
He has already
confirmed to this Sub-Panel that he believes that one class of States Member
only is desirable.
expression widely used but totally meaningless is the “Parish System”.
By sprinkling this
around liberally - like magic dust from Pater Pan - any discussion of the role
of the Constables has been eliminated from these proposals.
13 It is the status
of the twelve Constables in the States that is the single most unfair and
distorting aspect of Jersey’s failing electoral system.
14 When such
misleading terms as “Parish system” or “Jersey Way” are used it is impossible
to know what these might mean since lifestyles are so variable in different parts
and parishes of the Island where “local” or national origins are also
supersedes facts when these terms are used.
15 The existing
role of elected representatives and their relationships with the electorate
differ substantially between small and large population parishes.
The proposals do
not explain how this will be changed or improved.
16 It is the
mistaken use of the perverse “representation” concept that lies at the root of
the real and substantive problem.
17 These proposals
are for the benefit of a very small bunch of people with political aspirations
and not about “fairer representation” of the whole population at all.
The proposals are a
18 There is nothing
proposed that is designed to facilitate access to self representation by
members of the public in accordance with their own pursuit of democratic free expression
19 The proposals
are fixated upon the distribution of potential votes - not making access to
participation as a candidate fairer or easier.
20 The proposals
are designed by and for existing States Members.
21 Currently a
registered person can vote for a Constable in one only of the twelve seats at a
This is unfair for
several reasons but the proposals will not change that.
22 To be a
candidate in any of eleven of the twelve parishes a candidate for Constable must
be a resident of that specific Parish - except in St Helier. The proposals will
not change that.
ofrural “super-constituencies” will
have some claim on representation from more than one Constable (if not an
actual voting entitlement) whereas residents of St. Helier will have one only,
very busy, Constable to engage with, who may not be a resident of that Parish.
24 Residents of St
Helier, the most populated parish in Jersey, could, in theory, be represented
wholly by persons who are not resident in that Parish.
25 Under these
proposals, no Deputies or Senators need reside in the same “super-constituency”
as a resident voter. Seeking personal “representation” will inevitably be made
26 As my own very
recent experiences have confirmed, it can be very difficult to locate a States
Member to respond to calls for assistance as a “representative.”
27 I sent one
e-mail to 32 States Members and received two replies only.
A different e-mail sent to 30 Members received just four
responses but in neither case did the nearly £50,000 p annum Members offer to
do anything to assist.
28 Although States
Members talk freely about “representing” the public, notably with their problems
or views – in general they do not deliver a service.
29 More often than
not, Members do not even respond to communications from the electorate.
The proposals do
not plan to change that.
Deputies undertake most “representation” because they have a specific and
defined “constituency “of manageable proportions and are more likely to encounter
inevitably remote from the electorate and Constables often similarly so.
31 Some Deputies
take on matters that do not arise in their own constituencies and thus attract
the workload of other Members.
super-constituencies will make this lack of representation even more acute
because “Super Deputies” will be more remote from their electorate.
32 Most existing Members
are “conservative” by political nature and prefer not to rock the establishment
boat or challenge the status quo. They are unlikely to represent individuals
with different political viewpoints or with “unpopular” complaints.
The proposals are
unlikely to change that.
33 The Ministerial
system has made it even more generally difficult to engage with all the classes
of Member since they claim conflicts of one sort or another.
The proposals do
not seek to improve that.
34 The proposals
promise nothing to improve the Ministerial structure and any reduction in the
number of elected Members will make worse an already very deficient system.
35 The practical problems
and costs of being a candidate will be made even more difficult by the
proposals – especially with regard to “super constituencies. “
36 The management
of general elections could prove to be especially problematic both for
potential candidates and the organizing officials.
37 It is entirely
the candidate’s choice whether to stand for any particular class of seat –
Constable in ten of twelve Parishes excepted because of the residential
qualification – the electorate having no influence on that decision.
The proposals will
not change that.
38 These proposals
are directed at a small percentage of the whole population only - those who
vote - although the reforms if implemented will affect everybody.
39 The lack of
expressed public interest in the proposals does not indicate understanding or
40 Only a small
percentage of the Jersey population over the age of 16, do vote.
will have no predictable impact on that.
41 Many of the
resident population do not register to vote – although the law requires them so
will have no predictable impact on that.
42 There is no
obligation on those who are actually registered to vote so to do.
will have no impact on that.
43 The Stats office
says that 6,000 people arrive in or leave Jersey each year – these people are
already inadequately monitored for electoral purposes and there is nothing in
the proposals to address that.
44 The likely outcome
of these proposals is that the preparation of voter lists and the supervision
of elections will be made even more problematic and confusing.
45 The Stats office
says that 20,000 people with Jersey housing qualifications do not live in the
Island but It is not known how many of those are registered to vote or do so.
46 There is nothing
in the proposals regarding the important absentee section of the potential
electorate or whether they should be encouraged to vote or stand for election
as candidates or how this might be achieved.
47 It has been
widely discussed that a referendum should form a part of the process of
implementation of these proposals if/when agreed by the States but no details
48 I want to record
that I ran, virtually single-handed, the official “NO campaign” against
Constables having an automatic seat in the States in October 2014, alongside
the General Election.
I took on that task
reluctantly because nobody else wanted to do it since I would not allow the
“YES” campaign to proceed uncontested.
49 I had about two
weeks only to organize this campaign with little help, spending just a few
£hundreds of my own money. I was not sponsored and candidates for election were
specifically excluded from my campaign.
50 The “YES”
campaign had access to unlimited and undeclared funding and support.
Since eleven of the
twelve Constables did not face an election they were able largely to support
the “YES” campaign. The Constable of St Helier gave some support to the “NO”
51 The referendum campaigns
were denied access to the all-island public meetings of the Senatorial hustings
and could only speak from the floor if at all.
52 One shared Referendum
public meeting took place at the Town Hall only.
53 In total 24,130
votes were cast in a very low referendum poll. 15,069 voted YES. 9,061 voted
54 Any suggestion
that this referendum result might be considered as the “final word” on the “Constables
question” is ridiculous and distorts the discussion of these proposals.
55 It is relevant
that this referendum was conducted in an unfair manner with the “YES” campaign
having access to unlimited and undeclared resources.
56 This should not
be taken as a model for any future referendum which must be organized with independent
supervision to ensure fairness for all.
57 It must not be
assumed that only YES and NO campaigns will have official recognition in any future
As we all know the States of Jersey has been discussing "electoral reform" for years.
Recently the concept of "super constituencies" has become a central theme and several variations on this theme will be voted on by the States soon.
The States might have the good sense to reject the whole thing - but the chances are that the "establishment" will vote something in to confirm their stranglehold on power.
The public have been more or less excluded from meaningful participation in this reforming process in recent months.
The propositions will be voted on very soon by the States so the propositions have been referred to a Scrutiny Panel to review and make comment.
It is all very rushed and inadequate.
As part of that rushed Review process, the Scrutiny Panel has decided to invite the general public to comment - but strictly in accordance within the terms of the propositions. The discussion is therefore very strictly curtailed and controlled.
This video (below) was recorded at the Town Hall hearing from 7pm on 17 May 2017 and shows Deputy Le Fondre introducing the Panel to the "electorate".
It runs for about 7 minutes and is very boring.
The sound is not very good either in spite of this being Deaf Awareness Week.
About a dozen members of the public turned up - besides a smaller number of States Members, who as so often, huddled together in a cosy group in the audience and said nothing .
The Scrutiny Panel does not want to receive views on wider issues like the removal of the Constables from the States or increasing the number of Senators back to 12 or complaints about the generally low standards of Ministerial government.
Such matters are not included in the specific propositions to be voted on.
Thus, this is not really a "public consultation" exercise at all - unless you have a precise view to express on a specific proposal - but really is just an opportunity for Scrutiny to endorse the propositions in whole or in part.
It's just part of a pretended democratic process.
This Scrutiny Panel led by Deputy Le Fondre clearly has no intention to report to the States that the public rejects the whole of the sham propositions - as was clearly the mood at this hearing - but will inevitably cobble together a pleasant few pages of PR prose for the States and send a note to the PPC Committee expressing some polite individual misgivings where appropriate.
The public is also invited to send written comments to the Scrutiny Panel but these too must be kept within the strict terms of reference.
The initial invitation for members of the public to address the Panel personally in the usual Committee room of the States Building seems to have been retracted - except for the select few.
There will be a couple more of such public hearings as this - details on scrutiny.gov.je - but my advice is not to attend unless you can express support for the propositions. Wider dissent is clearly not being encouraged here...
I have videos of public responses at St Helier but most of the evening's talking was from Deputy Le Fondre desperately trying to keep the small flock confined to the official agenda. If enough people express an interest I will post some examples but personally I feel that I have more important things to do...
I was very interested in Deputy Scott Wickenden's Proposition on E-Petitions - especially since he is the Assistant Minister for E-Gov.
So I tried to contact him - by phone and e-mail - to discuss it and to record a video but no response.
So I went ahead without him and recorded this e-interview which I copied to Greffier Egan and invited him to circulate it to all elected States Members.
He declined saying I must do so myself. So much for E-Gov.
So I copied it to 32 of the 49 elected States Members - of these just 2 responded (by email) namely Deputies Hilton and McDonald.
I hope that the E-Petition Proposition will be approved by the States when it is debated since it is important that the public does not have to depend upon on such unreliable representatives to be heard.
Roll on the next election - shame Jersey will not be joining with the UK on 8 June this year....