Thursday, August 30, 2012


The 10% rule and Senator Bailhache…

You can generally tell when a lawyer is beginning to lose the case in court because he or she will suddenly grasp the get me out of here “human rights” argument.

Today we in the public seats at the Electoral Commission’s latest hearing observed Chairman ex Bailiff Sir Philip not just reaching out for the ejector seat button but he was desperately seeking any exit from the impending disaster.

The old ship of Jersey tradition is headed for the rocks and he knows it.

So when the common call from so many witnesses was to throw the Constables overboard he was almost at a loss to know what to do.

Even Constable Norman proposed it in his refreshingly frank presentation and Senator Bailhache was pricked to reveal that “we” (the Commission that is) had only just learned about the 10% rule and he challenged the Constable that his “Clothier style” reforms (with all members elected on a Parish basis in a general election on the same day, under the same terms and conditions) might lead to an “international human rights breach”.

The basis of his sudden concern was that constituencies of unequal voter size would be in breach of international rules which allow for a deviation of about 10% or so ONLY.
The ex Bailiff was not sure which rules these actually were or which International Convention they came from but he resorted to the same argument on several occasions, as the long day of hearings wore on.

Eleven rounds of half an hour each with a fresh contestant for each round is a heavy-weight contest by any standards, especially since so many body blows struck the anti-reform target. The ex Bailiff’s aged constitution is clearly getting a bit tired.
Sir Philip’s gloves were so obviously becoming too heavy and his legs too wobbly and it was all under the steady gaze of Emille Collin’s bronze bust too.
Some people swore that Emille’s lips actually formed into a smile when the demand for the chance to vote for all the candidates of choice on an “all island basis” was uttered by several witnesses…

Sir Philip however did not play the human rights tune when it was pointed out  again and again that the inequality of the current Parish vote for Constables is already hopelessly unfair (and so must equally be in breach of any 10% International obligation}.
With St Mary’s 1,500 voters at such variance with St Helier’s 25,000 - the existing breach should be obvious to anybody but the misty eyed adherents of Jersey tradition will never grasp the unfairness argument readily.
Perhaps the fear of some international condemnation by the UN or the Council of Europe will stimulate action even before this Commission reports?

Our ex Bailiff  with his all-Island Senatorial mandate cannot be so unaware of this simple fact and he should perhaps be bringing a proposition to the States ASAP to correct the international unlawfulness in accordance with his oath of office to “uphold the {human rights} laws and usages of the Island etc”?

Of course he will not do so but it is difficult to imagine how the Electoral Commission can ignore the 10% rule threat when it produces its report and reform suggestions.

For those who want to learn more about the 10% rule – the site of the ACE electoral knowledge network is full of very wordy but essential reading.

In essence, international standards on elections are laid down in such instruments as the UN Declaration on Human Rights, The UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Social, Cultural and Economic Rights (all ratified for Jersey), plus other Conventions such as those against Racism or the Rights of Women and various documents on non-discrimination in the matter of political rights (1962) or framework for periodic and genuine elections (1989).

Under these, the requirement that free elections must facilitate the full expression of the political will of the people is developed.
Not just as an add-on but as the VERY BASIS OF LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT.
One person, one vote is the basis of universal suffrage.
Each vote must carry equal weight – electoral districts must be established on an equitable basis to ensure that the results accurately reflect the will of ALL VOTERS.

The electoral districts must be determined on the basis of equality of actual populations or voter populations, as far as possible.
That is where the “10% rule” comes in and the boundaries of constituencies must be regularly reviewed to accommodate changes in population too and that review MUST be undertaken by an independent authority – i.e. not part of the government.
Generally, such reviews in most countries take place every few years.

The current (2012) UK arrangements are worth looking at.
The number of MPs in Parliament is being reduced from 650 to 600.
Each constituency will be within 5% (plus or minus) of a standard population quota – currently fixed at 76,641 (thus acceptable within the 5% variation range of 72,810 to 80,473) with a further general maximum land area of 13,000 square kms.
Redistribution of boundaries must be considered every 5 years.
Parliamentary terms are now for a fixed term of 5 years.

So this is the sort of standard that is being applied for the “mother of Parliament” but of course Jersey’s overall population has grown from about 60,000 to nearly 100,000 since 1960 and our electoral boundaries remain virtually unchanged.
Unfairness is just a fact of the Jersey electoral system as it has always been – but the “human rights” argument is hardly going to assist in its preservation.
 On the contrary, international obligations must ensure that the whole basis of having a block of 12 Constables (so unfairly returned into the States) is untenable.
The current arrangements for the choice of Deputies must be similarly defective under the 10% rule.
The writing is on the wall but am I being too optimistic for reform – can this Electoral Commission still, somehow report in favour of the status quo…?

Answers in Jerriaise please…


  1. Constable Len Norman was heard to whisper the magic words "But, we are not in the EU" when the Chairman presented him with the 10% rule. Not being in the EU is not the get out of jail card he thinks. Standards apply irrespective and the UK government is obligated to see its "dear Channel Islands" comply.

    1. He didn't seen to understand that the EU and Council of Europe are two separate things and it is the latter that is relevant when it comes to human rights law.

      And even if we aren't in the EU, so what? Are we saying that's an acceptable reason to have worse human rights than our neighbours?

  2. Details of 28 September 1769 from the original and censored Royal Court record can now be viewed on the Electoral Commission site at
    Go to current submissions for 26 August under Dun Michael(4) and see what has remained hidden for nearly 250 years! This was the event that founded the very same States of Jersey that is still seeking democracy....

  3. Why did Bailache go to the Bahamas when he could of looked at Guernsey, who did away with automatic Parish politically representation and changed the basis for voting by amalgamating certain parishes for voting purposes.

    Does Jersey want the national headlines "Jersey undemocratic tax haven"!.

  4. Non-compliance is still the only answer, when will the sheeple get off their knees?

  5. Each constituency will be within 5% (plus or minus) of a standard population quota – currently fixed at 76,641 (thus acceptable within the 5% variation range of 72,810 to 80,473) with a further general maximum land area of 13,000 square kms.

    Presumably there has to be some sort of derogation for northern Scotland, where the maths simply doesn't work otherwise?

  6. So this is the sort of standard that is being applied for the “mother of Parliament” but of course Jersey’s overall population has grown from about 60,000 to nearly 100,000 since 1960 and our electoral boundaries remain virtually unchanged.

    There is, of course, one other fly in the ointment - voter eligibility.

    If you set a bar on voting rights which leaves about 10% of the population legally (but immorally) disenfranchised, the population figures and quotas become meaningless. The fact that 25000 St Helier residents elect 10 members may give you 1 member per 2500 voters - or it may be 1 per 1500 (same as in St Mary) if all the disenfranchised voters live in St Helier.

    How do we answer that one?

  7. 596 of the UK constituencies will be within the 5% limit. The other 4 - in the wilds of Scotland or offshore - have special terms to allow for practical difficulties.
    Sir Ph was getting into a sham lather about little St Mary's 1,500 - but that could be a special case under the hew system. On the other hand, the Island Plan could be scrapped (as it should be for many reasons) to allow some more houses to be built there rather than making St Helier even worse as the social and democratic ghetto of the whole Island.

    If all else fails, the boundaries between the parishes around St Mary could be adjusted so that its voter deficit is reduced to be within the 5% or 10% standard (or whatever might be the norm). The USA has no percentage tolerance - constituencies there have to be virtually identical on voter numbers and this has been tested in the American courts...
    In Jersey, Parish boundaries are not actually sacred and it would be interesting to know how they were originally arrived at and for whose benefit?

    Don't forget the 20,000 potential voters with housing quals who live outside Jersey. Nobody seems keen to grasp that particular problem - I wonder why?

  8. As I understand it James, one of the big changes will be to bring Scotland in line with the rest of the UK in terms of constituency population... the majority of those 50 seats will be lost in Scotland.

    Free and fair elections... we do not have them, we cannot have them as long as there is one newspaper which continues to be economically dependent on the States for its survival and which continues to be biased in its reporting. The JEP is a government publication in wolf's clothing.

  9. A comment received from Brian appears to be incomplete so has not been published...