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Stand yourself if you don’t like unopposed elections

Voices | Published:

By Helier Clement

(21204761)

WHILE it wasn’t exactly a major fall-out involving handbags at five paces, the row which erupted among the thinkers and drinkers down at the pub last week did warrant mine host – for the first time in very many years – threatening to get his two young granddaughters to come among us with baseball bats in order to restore order.

It was the evening of the nomination meetings for Constables and Deputies and we were watching events unfold on one of the old lads’ iPads – an innovation which this particular computer illiterate (hoping eventually to become a novice) found absolutely fascinating, no doubt prompting The Reader to suggest that little things amuse little minds – but I can live with that, and worse.

The kerfuffle started when it emerged that 13 of the candidates had actually got into the Big House ‘on the nod’, so to speak, by going through the proper nomination process but finding that, after the statutory amount of time had lapsed, no one else was contesting that particular seat – more than a quarter of the whole representative assembly.

I don’t for a minute think this situation is even remotely desirable but the fact of the matter is that the individual Constables presiding over the nomination meetings were, I am absolutely certain, scrupulous in ensuring that the proper nomination procedure was complied with to the letter. Besides, there are enough people among those attending who know those procedures backwards and wouldn’t hesitate to raise a verbal eyebrow or three if anything untoward was going on.

So where does all that leave us. Well, down at the pub last Wednesday evening it left us in the mother and father of all shouting matches with the temperature in terms of irritation and exasperation rising by the second – so much so, as I said earlier, that the landlord was forced to utter threats, albeit in the sort of way which took some of the ill feeling out of the exchanges.

It all centred on the eligibility or otherwise of those 13 candidates, and I have to say that a small majority of the thinkers and drinkers took the view that their election was somehow less than valid and, furthermore, those taking their seats in these circumstances should be barred from both ministerial jobs and being chairman of the various Scrutiny committees.

I have to say that I was one of the minority who argued, as strongly as we could, that it was hardly the fault of the automatically elected Constable or Deputy that no one had either the wit or the courage to put themselves up in opposition but, in many cases, were probably prominent among those who shouted the loudest that being elected unopposed was somehow not democratic.

Sorry, but I fail to see either the sense or the logic in such an argument, although in fairness to the old lads, the evening ended reasonably convivially, and while it wasn’t exactly large Calvados measures all round, the landlord was persuaded to wipe the dust off the cork of the Armagnac bottle, just to check that it hadn’t gone off.

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FOR the life of me I cannot understand the reasoning behind St Brelade Constable Steve Pallett’s suggestion that the debate on halving the retail tax should be held again when the elections are over and the new House assembles, because it ended in a tied vote – which means no change – and he wasn’t able to be present.

Sorry, Mr Pallett, but pulling down nine hundred notes in the little brown envelope from those nice people at the Treasury every Friday lunchtime does bring with it certain obligations and responsibilities, pretty high on the list of which must be ensuring that you’re present to press the button – or borrow Alan Maclean’s ring binder to do the job for you – and vote on these things. After all, I’d have thought that it was part and parcel of the job.

Looking at the voting record, I see that not only was Mr Pallett missing for this vote but he was the only one on the pay roll not to be present – a fact which rather pours scorn on his assertion that ‘the vast majority of States votes have a large number of Members missing’.

AND finally…Credit where it’s due, and so a large bouquet is heading in the direction of that lot in the Big House for approving the organ donation opt-out system. One life saved or enhanced will make it worthwhile.

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