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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Why are there no political parties in Jersey?

Deputy Tadier on his blog interviews the knowledgeable and insightful Dr Forskitt on the prospects of political parties in Jersey.
Parties are about so much more than elections,
how hard could it be to start a proper one in Jersey?

Now I am a firm believer that only with the assistance of political parties can any democratic state effectively function as a true expression of the will of the people, a view coincidentally shared by the Council of Europe.

So I want to examine what would actually be required for a political party to function effectively and to look at the different roles that a political party will take.

1) POLICY FORMATION

Now policy formation is a long and complex process which many people would rather not have any more than a cursory role in, but you need to break it down into bite sized chunks.

For example within the policy making function you would need to have a series of sub-groups which would look at specific areas of policy, to make it easy form ten panels each of which would 'shadow' one of the ministerial departments.

There would of course have to be some cross-over between the groups but say ten panels of ten people each person serving on two would be sufficient to ensure some form of cohesiveness and enough diversity of opinion that every aspect of an issue should be raised and a best way forward identified.

2) A SOCIAL CLUB

Every party will have a private members club in each constituency which will serve to unite the members, I believe that the operation of the National Trust for Jersey would serve best in this area. They have regular events - lectures, cultural events such as black butter making, music concerts, open days for their properties, educational events. In fact the National Trust for Jersey is the closest thing to a political party that exists in Jersey at the current time.

3) CANVASSING, POLLING AND LOCAL ISSUES

Party activity continues even in years when there is not an election. Local issues can be bought to the awareness of local councillors or MP's through the party apparatus. Do not be fooled into thinking that an MP's duties do not include the citing of bus stops, interceding with government departments on behalf of constituents and many other things which specifically serve only one constituent. The MP may not personally handle these matters as they generally have a small staff and volunteers but every person served is a vote, potentially.

4) ELECTING MEMBERS TO COUNCILS AND PARLIAMENT

The final role is in supporting candidates in elections both financially and in terms of knocking on doors. In the UK you may not see the candidate but the chances are that someone from each party will call in to see you during any campaign.

So where do you find 50 people in Jersey with sufficient interest and motivation to form a party?

The UK Labour party has just ten aims but take out the aims which are to do with the operation of the party and you are left with just one: Pursue social justice through community, co-operation and freedom of endeavour.

The UK Conservative Party aims are: To improve the quality of life for everyone through: A dynamic economy, where thriving businesses create jobs, wealth and opportunity. A strong society, where our families, our communities and our nation create secure foundations on which people can build their lives. A sustainable environment, where we enhance the beauty of our surroundings and protect the future of the planet.

The truth is that almost anyone could sign up to either party - the test is how these aims are subsequently broken down and the methods which are employed to achieve them.

In any party structure the members would have to realise that not everything would necessarily be to their liking but as long as things were generally moving in the right direction, sometimes you just have to accept that democracy means you can be outvoted. Each member will sometimes be required needs to subordinate their individual desires to the will of the whole.

Any nascent political party would of course function best without any 'independent' politicians as publicly identified members, a party needs to grow from the people not from the States Chamber. A party I believe would function best without a leader who after all only serves any real purpose inside the Parliament. The parliamentary party is only one small part of what a political party does.

There are many politically aware people in Jersey, but there is no cohesion, no sense of common purpose and no form of association between these free individuals.

The first step is to identify a simple aim that as many of those motivated and politically aware individuals as possible can get behind - when someone has written it let me know, I'll get behind it. Until any attempt is made to get a candidate elected it is only a think tank and social club.