Yes, the debate had certainly been meant to be about securing the already agreed and much-needed fully independent Electoral Commission. But unfortunately ‘real Chief Minister’ Senator Philip Bailhache and his political glove puppet ‘pretend Chief Minister’ Senator Ian Gorst actually wanted to ensure that Jersey stays in the political Dark Ages. And so the debate quickly descended into farce.
This clearly left Montford and I wondering if – depressing as it was - there was not possibly also an opportunity here to boost Jersey’s ailing tourism industry. That’s right – Jersey to be re-named ‘Royston Jersey’ after the village in the famous cult TV show. Just close your eyes; picture it…the shop from Royston Vasey to be replaced with the States Chamber… Edward and Tubbs to be replaced by Philip and Ian. Episode One. Action…
“Independence? But this is a LOCAL Electoral Commission for LOCAL right-wingers – we’ll have no democracy HERE!”
Funny? Yes, on the surface. But the truth is that what is happening in Jersey now behind the façade of ‘democracy’ is anything but. Few in politics disagree that the entry of Philip Bailhache into the local political arena was anything other than the last, desperate throw of the dice for the Old Guard that has run Jersey as a private club for the wealthy and powerful for decades.
Indeed, the truth is the old Establishment Party is slowly dying on its feet. Even with the desperate spin from the State Media the reality is obvious. Most of the ‘big guns’ of the past are either no longer in politics or long-discredited. The anticipated ‘heirs’ to the throne – Senators Ozouf and Le Marquand – have proven themselves unpopular and incapable respectively. While some of the new generation only managed to get elected by means as desperate as smear campaigns against Progressives; or via personal begging letters to constituents to support them from the likes of Senator Paul Routier.
Consequently, stopping a fully independent Electoral Commission really was essential for them if they were to hold back the clock inevitably ticking toward democracy for another decade or two. And with the surprise capitulation of Deputy Andrew Green to join with Establishment wannabees Baker and Bryans in selling out their electorate and sending a tight vote the way of the far-right just for a moment it really looked like they were going to get away with it.
Luckily, however, our Establishment Party really are even more lacking in judgement and commonsense than most of us could ever imagine. Actually, I am probably being far too kind. They really must be plain daft! Why? Just consider the two politicians put forward to join Senator Philip Bailhache on this allegedly ‘independent thinking and fully open to the evidence’ body that we are meant to entrust with reforming our government for the 21st Century:
Constable Juliette Gallichan of St. Mary.
Deputy James Baker of St. Helier.
Noticed the little credibility problem here already? No? Then let me explain it for you…
Firstly, Senator Philip Bailhache has already made it quite clear that in his view the Constables MUST stay in the States no matter what. Foolish enough in itself given that the whole point of the Commission as agreed just last year was to appoint members not already holding publicly stated and entrenched ideas.
Then consider the reality of the situation – as I made sure I drew out an admission of from the Senator himself during the debate. The reality is that we can either have a fair system of representation with all voters, town or country, being pretty much equal with regard to the ‘weight’ or value of their vote. Something we have never had before.
Or we can keep the Constables in the States as they are now. But we can’t have both. FACT. This was confirmed by the States visiting electoral expert only last week. The ‘democratic deficit’ between St. Helier with more than a third of the Island’s population and the tiny parish of St. Mary for example is just too large. We really need just one type of States Member – call them whatever you will. FACT.
So what does Senator Bailhache and his front man ‘Chief Minister’ Gorst do? They only nominate the Constable of that very same tiny Parish, Constable Juliette Gallichan! That’s right – the Constable with the least tenable seat in the whole States Assembly if we are to give any genuine consideration to fair and equal representation. Priceless! Absolutely priceless!
Yet after this it actually gets even better – or worse – depending on one’s outlook.
For next up we then have Deputy James Baker of St. Helier. Surely questionable in itself given that this Deputy not only never participates in any debate, EVER – three whole months into his term of office - but also appears to be striving to take over the mantle of former Senator Ben Shenton as the States new regularly ‘invisible Member’. Just where does the Deputy disappear to?
But of even more of a concern than the possibility of a Commission member who never participates and – on evidence so far - may not even turn up for hearings has to be the following. During the election Deputy Baker made a huge play out of the fact that he was the son of a former…Constable.
Not a problem in itself under any other circumstance of course. But in this situation you can surely see where this is leading? The Electoral Commission is meant to be ‘open-minded’ as I said. Indeed, this is absolutely essential if work that is going to cost the Island’s taxpayers in the region of £100,000 is to have any credibility at all. Yet what has our Establishment Party and its spineless hangers on given us? I’ll hammer it home one more time…
Senator Bailhache: Pro-Constable. Desperate to keep the reality of their bloc vote in favour of whatever the Council of Ministers proposes. Wants ‘reform’ to be sure - but only along the lines of the Barclay Brothers in Sark. His ideal reduction in numbers would see St. Helier being even further under-represented in numbers than it is now – and the Parish is already a full four Deputies under. FACT!
Constable Gallichan: Pro-Constable. As the sitting Constable of little St. Mary thus having the least tenable seat in the Assembly Constable Gallichan has the most to lose. And consequently the most to gain by managing to find the ‘evidence’ that the Constables’ position really needs to be protected regardless of the ‘democratic deficit’ that will make fair representation impossible
Deputy Baker: Pro-Constable. Not only the son of a former Constable but supported by and supportive of ‘Chairman’ Philip Bailhache during the election – just remember the back-slapping ‘love-in’ with Establishment Party ‘Grandees’ outside the Town Hall. Indeed, even supported Bailhache for Chief Minister and voted against the wishes of the St. Helier parish Assembly to say ‘no’ to any politicians sitting on the Commission!
What this all means? With an Electoral Commission now going to number only six following the narrow defeat of the amendments of Deputies Le Herissier and Young the above demonstrates quite clearly that already the ‘Keep the Constables in’ vote cannot be outgunned. No matter what the argument. No matter what the evidence.
This is no longer an ‘Electoral Commission’ it is a farce and an insult to the people of Jersey. It should be abandoned. Now.