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States Reform

Inside the States Chamber

The status quo

By Ryan Morrison
The States of Jersey spent more than a day debating electoral reform ahead of further consultation.

For half of Tuesday 13 and all of Wednesday 14 March, the States of Jersey were debating a topic with no intention of coming to a conclusion.

The chamber was full with almost all members there, and most of them gave a speech.

The subject under discussion was states reform and the debate was set up so no decisions needed to be taken and everyone had the opportunity to put their point of view to the Chamber.

Teenagers Voting
Teenagers Voting

The point of the debate was to look ahead and make try to make it easier to get somewhere in the future, to try and find a consensus from which to work.

Although there were many different opinions, some common threads did come out of the debate.

Reservations

The most common issue States Members had with the reform plans was to do with the number of members and keeping a balance between Scrutiny and the Executive.

A number of Members were concerned that the effectiveness of Scrutiny could be compromised if numbers were reduced to 30 Members and 12 Constables (options one and two).

Their concern was that the balance would be gone and that ministers would be able to blast through their measures irrespective of disagreements with Scrutiny. 

Consensus

Ok so Members were worried about numbers, but let’s now look at the positive side and see what common themes came out for reform.

The most popular idea was that of a General Election, or to be more precise a same day election for at least the deputies and senators.

Ballot Boxes
Ballot Boxes

However, there were one or two who thought the build up to such an occasion could be confusing and the day itself might prove a nightmare. 

Constable Geoffrey Fisher of St Lawrence thought that might discourage voters rather than attracting more as was the point of the whole operation, but those who agreed with him seemed very much in the minority.

There were many who pointed put that this could spell the end of the role of senator for which deputy would give up a reasonably safe seat to attempt the unknown if there was no fall back position. 

Ideas for super constituencies and island wide votes for all except the Constables also proliferated.

A universal four year term seemed to find general acceptance as well as some adjustment to constituency boundaries in the event of super constituencies or a universal island wide mandate not being accepted.

There is an imbalance, whether it is the oft quoted one deputy for Grouville but two for St Lawrence example, or the fact that it needs well over 1000 votes to get elected in one part of St Helier but less than 500 can secures you a seat across town.

Constables

The Constables have been a hot issue for a long time. We’ve hosted a poll on bbc.co.uk/jersey that saw a vast majority in favour of the removal of Constables, but polls by Privileges and Procedures seem to come out in favour of Constables staying.

Who Really Cares?
Who Really Cares?

There was near universal support for the Constables during the debate, and some thought that the creation of super constituencies or an entire island wide mandate for everyone else made the constable even more important.

The idea being that they would then be the only local link from parish to states assembly.

Is this all necessary?

The necessity for reform was a question asked by many in the house, and not Deputies you've never heard of, Deputies who are very active and can always be seen or heard talking to their Constituents.

In broad terms they said it was the least mentioned topic on their list - if it was mentioned at all - so why are we bothering.

They were answered by Privileges and Procedures Committee member Senator Mike Vibert, who said it, was vital process in rebuilding a connection betweens the States and the people of jersey.

Voter numbers had to be increased to give a greater legitimacy to the Chamber.  Senator Vibert reminded members that not one of them - not one - had a mandate of more than 50% of those eligible to be on the register.

Some had below 10% of the possible vote and more had to be done to build up those figures and make the system more democratic and so more accountable

So what about you?

In the various polls and debates we’ve launched on bbc.co.uk/jersey the results seem to come out in favour of fewer large constituencies, no Constables and fewer States Members.

The consensus in the States debate seemed to be for keeping things more or less as they are but with a minor change to boundaries, a General Election day and four year terms.

What should be done next? Should there be a referendum giving members of the public the final say in how the States should be formed or should the say rest with the elected members?

last updated: 17/03/07
 
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tony Gallichan
I'm still trying to work out how this 'First Minister' thing was pushed through without a referendum. Of COURSE the people of Jersey need to have a full say in what happens. Referendum is the only fair way - with no carefully worded questions so that one cannot help but give the answer Mr. Walker and his cronies want...

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