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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Submission to the Electoral Commission


Well we finally have our opportunity to present our views to the 'independent' electoral commission. I have given the matter due thought and made my submission which I present below. Who knows maybe they will give me the opportunity to present my views directly to the commission at some later date.

Remember it will likely have no effect on the what I suspect is already determined conclusions of the commission, but it will be forever included in the public records, I hope history will show that there was a vocal opposition to the actions of the States of Jersey and that the resulting failures were solely a result of failings on the part of the States of Jersey to listen to the people.

Visit the electoral commission's website.

PREAMBLE

It is impossible to address the issues presented in your leaflet without first addressing the purpose and function of the States of Jersey. I therefore touch briefly on these before responding to the direct terms of reference.

Fundamentally, civil society should be solidly founded on the basis of subsidiarity, whereby the decisions are made by the lowest competent authority. This is the fundamental basis of all modern liberal constitutions. The lowest competent authority wherever possible being the individual, then the family, then the Parish, then the States and then the UK government. This is a doctrine which is too often overlooked within the States of Jersey and is a primary cause of the difficulties Jersey now faces.

The fundamental truth is that all human beings are born free and equal (United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1) but the States of Jersey has become too keen to override this truth with the implementation of a great deal of petty legislation requiring for example people to wear seatbelts in a car which is a matter which should be left to an individual to determine for themselves.

I also look at elections in terms of meeting the demands of Article 3 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention of Human rights and that therefore any election should give rise to a 'clear expression of the will of the people'. There are many, many shortcomings within the Jersey electoral system and the elections as they currently operate are far, far from being compliant with the demands of such treaties, such matters being the subject of a current action before the European Court of Human Rights.

Finally, there is the grave concern of the lack of separation of judiciary, legislature and executive in the operation of the States of Jersey, too much power is concentrated in too few hands and power inevitably corrupts. 

An example of this is found in the Bailiff's salary of £360,000 which is more than the combined annual salaries of the Lord Chief Justice, a judge several levels higher than the Bailiff and the Speaker of the House of Commons. 

Whilst the Bailiff's role may be said to comprise of the duties of both of these positions, it is in and of itself, far less important than either. The Bailiff might be considered to be on a par with a district judge, at a stretch, (the honorific Queen's Counsel is entirely honorary and would not accord him the same dignity as a real Queen's Counsel in a British Court) and therefore his salary should be around £120,000, such is the extent of the corruption within the States of Jersey.

ON THE FUTURE ROLE OF CONSTABLES

In examining the future role of Constables it is important to review the dictates of Subsidiarity. It is clear that Parishes operate with far greater efficiency and accountability than do the departments of the States of Jersey. For myself I see a great deal of the responsibilities currently operated by the States of Jersey being returned to the Parishes including; road cleaning, planning decisions, road maintenance, primary education, welfare etc. The Parish assembly is the jewel of Jersey's brand of democracy and more power should be returned to it.

In order to achieve this a fundamental change would be required in which parishes were permitted to pass their own by-laws which with approval of the 'upper house', the States of Jersey might be enacted and apply solely within the confines of a parishes boundaries.

Clearly if Parishes were to take on a great deal more of the work then the Constable would ideally not be present in the States of Jersey as the demands of operating his or her parish would be too onerous to allow time for States work also.

I would not seek to replace the Constables within the States Chamber thereby reducing the number of members to 39.

ON THE ELECTION OF MEMBERS OF THE STATES OF JERSEY

One of the main barriers to a genuine 'expression of the will of the people' at election time is the multi-vote electoral districts. The effect of this is for a minority of people in Jersey to elect a majority of the same type of member, by which I mean those who share an ideology.

All political innovation moves from the extreme towards the centre, the Centre itself is devoid of innovation and ideas and the lack of change, and the lack of alternate viewpoints, within the States of Jersey has placed us in the dire financial peril, which we now find ourselves.

Any elections should be on the basis of one person, one vote thereby allowing a kaleidoscope of ideas to be represented within the States Chamber.

This may be through 39 single members electoral districts or through multi member electoral districts and it would even be possible to have a single island wide vote with the top 39 candidates being elected. 

It would seem that 39 single member jurisdictions would allow every candidate sufficient opportunity with a little effort to meet every one of the approximately 2,000 voters in that district. There is much to be said for every voter having a personal relationship with every candidate and therefore member.

Only in this way is a candidate who has failed to meet his election promises readily removed from office. There should be no distinction between members however.

ON THE TIMING OF ELECTIONS

Elections should be held once every four years to allow sufficient time for a newly elected member to provide a track record on which future elections can be based. However there should be the possibility of a percentage of the voters of an election, say 10% to call for an immediate by-election should the member act in a manner which is unacceptable. Every member should realise that they are representing the voters and should conduct themselves accordingly.

CONCERNS OVER THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION

My primary concern is that the commission will seek to implement conditions which allow the Civil Service to operate with the least constraint, thereby turning the States of Jersey into an instrument of tyrannical oppression at best or an out of control protection racket at worst. It is my heartfelt wish that the commission examine the facts purely on the basis outlined in the preamble, which is that which will best serve the people.

I fear on the other hand that it is going to act as an apologist for the failures of the States of Jersey for the period 1980 to date as represented by Horsfall, Walker etc. who have destroyed what was once an idyllic community.