By Mike Beaugeard
By the time you read this, the dust will have settled somewhat after what turned out to be a surprisingly more momentous election night than many had anticipated.
As a consequence there is much to ponder, but it would be remiss, not to say churlish, to fail to congratulate the winners before focusing on the losers (including, dare one say it, a significant proportion of the electorate).
Stand up and take a collective bow, Reform Jersey. You doubled your representation in the Assembly and were the clear winners among the parties on offer.
Your party had a history and an identity which enabled you to build on your core support.
The other parties had neither, and suffered accordingly.
Congratulations also to all the fresh faces, most of whom are not only new to the Assembly but, and this may or may not ultimately work in your (and our) favour, new to the wacky world of politics as well. Whatever your motivation for throwing your hats into the ring, you deserve plaudits for at least having had the gumption to try. After all, you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.
Last, but not necessarily least, some plaudits are surely due to the electorate at large. It was absolutely clear in the weeks and months leading up to last Wednesday night that there was a seething mass of resentment gathering towards the outgoing administration. Not just aimed at the government, but also at what was perceived to be an increasingly out-of-control senior civil service. The tail appeared to be wagging the dog, but the entire animal was to blame.
Cue election night and, boy, did the voters vent their fury in a decisive manner. So much so that an astonishing 23 new Members find themselves getting sworn in to the next Assembly – almost half the total number of assorted Deputies and Constables. Among the victims of this political bloodletting were the outgoing Chief Minister and many of his cohort. Losses were anticipated, but not quite on this scale. Whatever happens, the Island is soon going to find itself with a radically different-looking government. It remains to be seen whether it will be as different in philosophy as it will be in appearance.
Wearing my customary curmudgeon-in-chief hat, it is time to take a peek at the losers. Step forward the Alliance Party. Now, who knows what the Jèrriais for schadenfreude is? But a great many local people must be experiencing this to some degree with regard to a brand new party whose leader seemed utterly certain that both he and they would emerge triumphant – yet ultimately sank below the choppy Jersey seas without trace. A word of advice – smug is NOT a good look. To continue the maritime theme, if one were to choose to abandon the traditional independence of the Constable’s role by nailing your colours to a party mast, it might be an idea to ensure that mast is securely attached to the deck beforehand.
The Progress/Liberal Conservatives ‘gained’ three seats, but this was almost certainly entirely due to personal support for the individuals concerned, rather than any great enthusiasm for their joint party manifesto. Likewise, Kristina Moore’s ‘Not-A-Party-Party’ gained four seats, including her own, but there is a feeling that a strong element of their appeal to the electorate was not so much who they were, as who they weren’t. In fact – and this will not go down well in many quarters, but still needs to be at least suggested – a fair few of the successful new candidates will sit in the Assembly simply because they had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time.
Lastly, a quick word or two about Reform Jersey. Yes, this column began by applauding their success, so it may seem slightly absurd that, as with the other, newer parties, it is also going to include them among the losers.
This is for one simple reason. Despite doubling in size in one fell swoop, they have failed to similarly enlarge their sphere of influence. This remains – apart from small urban pockets in St Saviour and St Brelade – entirely rooted in central and southern St Helier. Until they adapt their policies to increase their appeal to the Island as a whole, they may find further gains much harder to achieve.
All in all, then, a fairly remarkable night of unbridled joy for some surprise winners, and despair for some equally flabbergasted losers.
Either way, lack of space means the lessons that might be garnered from this mixed bag of results will have to be discussed another time. As far as political machinations go, though, the real fun and games start now.
As a young man, Mike Beaugeard served in the army. He has also been a musician, Hi-Fi business owner, Conservative local politician, property manager, and security officer. Now retired, he is a keen amateur photographer. He describes himself as a staunch advocate of the Plain English Campaign.