Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Not the Parish of St Helier blog

This occasional blog has never purported to contain the views of the Parish, but rather to provide the opportunity for me to get things off my chest that concern the Parish and to elicit constructive criticism and suggestions.  However, I came under fire in the States Assembly this week for having a link to this blog on the Parish website.  While I was able to reassure members and any ratepayers who were listening that no Parish funds have gone into providing or maintaining the blog, I have to accept the criticisms (made predominantly by members who agree with me about the best outcome of the forthcoming referendum) that the mere presence of a link to my views on the Parish website creates a perception that this is the Parish's view rather than my own.

For a Parish Constable to openly support 'Option A' - giving the electors of Jersey an equal say at the ballot box - has caused some consternation, not least because I have changed my mind about this.  A clip of the Constable of St Helier as a younger man supporting the contrary view - that the Parish constables should have an automatic right to sit in the States - has been posted on Facebook by Senator Lyndon Farnham.  As I said on Facebook in reply to Lyndon, changed my mind because I found the Electoral Commission's report convincing on the subject of voter equity. 

The bottom line for me is this: if you are going to redesign your voting system you might as well take the opportunity to achieve that most basic feature of democracy of my vote having the same power as yours. 

To those who fear the collapse of Jersey's parish system if Option A is successful, I would say that 11 years in post has convinced me of the robustness and resilience of the parish system.  Whether 1 or 12 of the parish constables are also elected as States Deputies (under Option A) Jersey's parish system with its unique living tradition of Honorary Police, sworn officers dealing with rates, roads etc., will in my opinion continue to prosper.

If either of the other options is successful in the referendum on April 24th, the need for reform is not going to go away.  This is going to run and run until we stop skewing the democratic process by allowing elected members with vastly differing mandates to influence the outcome of key decisions by Jersey's government, and by giving Jersey's electors different voting power depending on where they live.