Open up the eligibility to stand
By Andy Jones
THE Assembly is to debate changing district boundaries, trying to even out representation, scrapping Senators and removing Constables.
The Assembly is though, arguably, ignoring a whole herd of elephants lurking around the edges of the Chamber. While Jersey is advanced in that the ability to vote in Assembly elections is solely based on residency requirements, this jars like tinfoil on a tooth when we acknowledge that only British Citizens (including dual nationals) can stand for election to our Assembly.
The UK, however, is way ahead of us on this with a significant number of other nationalities able to stand and obtain high office in Parliament – including Irish nationals (Leo Varadkar could hawk around his CV and may well get the job of British PM given the current choices) and Commonwealth citizens with an Indefinite Leave to Remain. So the UK has a total of 51 non-British nationalities who could be elected and become Prime Minister. Plus dual nationals. Does it cause a crisis in the UK’s democracy? No, it’s not even on the political agenda as far as eligibility is concerned.
So why must Jersey be so restrictive? Is the financial deficit going to be bigger because we have an Irish national as Chief Minister? Or will we have a breakdown in law and order because we have a Canadian in charge of Justice and Home Affairs? And, given that we have essentially a glorified city council running the Island, what is wrong with opening up elections to all nationalities settled here in Jersey?
Or is it the case that some are afraid to share power?
Broadly speaking some 20% of Jersey residents were not born here nor are British nationals. If we invite immigration it’s because we need their work skills. Surely the same can be said of needing their participation in our Assembly.
Without the ability to be represented in the decision making process that governs our lives there can be no real inclusion, no sense of shared ownership in our society. And this puts all of us at a disadvantage.
If as a States Member you are afraid of the competition for a seat, then you are a disgrace and should not be there in the first place.
Let’s have one class of representative, numerically balanced constituencies, no Constables and a simple five-year residence eligibility to stand, regardless of nationality.