I AM 70 years of age, born and bred in St Lawrence and, apart from spending my 20s working in Europe, I have always believed it to be my democratic right and my duty to vote to elect our government.
Just before Christmas, at the height of a life-threatening pandemic, when I could not hug my children and grandchildren, when the last thing on the worried public’s mind was politics, the vote on electoral reform was rushed through in a most underhand way by Deputy Russell Labey.
There was hardly any discussion or comment in the media and the general public did not have a say in the matter. Surely such a momentous decision should have necessitated more thorough debate. I know that some people have been musing over it for 20 years, but not the general public. The referendum on the Clothier Report was flawed and not implemented. We were then left with a worse scenario than before. In my view, this has happened again now.
Deputy Labey says the new reforms will dispel voter apathy and encourage the younger generation to become involved in politics. Well, good luck with that. After the vote last week I watched a reporter randomly ask pedestrians in King Street what they thought of the decision. Almost all had no understanding or interest in the proceedings.
I do agree that our present system does not seem to be working and is far too complicated. Guernsey understood that and opted for an Islandwide mandate – one man, one vote – easy, simple for everyone to understand and above all, completely fair for each and every voter. No parish disadvantaged. Obviously, they will have some problems in this first trial, as they now have too many untried and untested politicians. However, next time the voters will know who they are, look at their achievements, or lack of them, and vote accordingly at the next election. After years of voter apathy, they had the biggest turn out in years.
In future, the electorate of St Lawrence, St Mary and St John, will be able to vote for just four Deputies and we have lost the right to vote for eight Senators. If none of those Deputies achieve a place in ministerial government, we, the voters of all three parishes, will have no opportunity to show either our appreciation or displeasure in that government. We will be helpless to remove a failing government – how can this be democratic? Why should we bother to vote?
My whole family and all my friends are angry and depressed by the way our government is running this Island. Do none of you read the letters pages in the JEP? I am essentially an optimistic person and so, to protect myself from the constant feeling of angry helplessness, I will no longer read the newspaper, watch the news or follow the procedures in the Assembly. I will take pleasure in our beautiful Island and my loved ones and leave discussions and debates to you few.
I have been told that an all-Island vote for equal Deputies/Senators is logistically impossible in an Island the size of Jersey. If this is correct, then a party system is the only way forward. When you bring in party politics, where we can vote as a whole Island, I will think again. But until such time, I will no longer vote.