By Robert Surcouf
WE now have a new Council of Ministers that is politically more diverse than we have ever seen, definitely since the introduction of ministerial government. Is this going to be a good thing or a bad thing? The answer is no one can know for certain but with the challenges ahead and only two years to the next election we need it to be successful in the best interest of all in our community.
During the various speeches made by the candidates for Chief Minister there was much talk of bringing the Assembly together and of a willingness to compromise. However, compromise can often be a slippery slope away from core values and could lead to instability and even, heaven forbid, another vote of no confidence. To avoid this, we will need the Council of Ministers to focus on the key challenges and identify realistic and affordable solutions that can drive a coalition for positive change over the next two years. All sides of the political spectrum would benefit from delivering for the Island in the short to medium term rather than focusing on petty point scoring or ideological concepts that have little chance of being delivered during this Assembly.
The need to focus on realism when making decisions is not limited to the Council of Ministers. Those remaining or now finding themselves on the backbenches and as part of the Scrutiny process need to focus on how they can positively contribute to the much-needed changes. They can help generate greater confidence in our political system, which I believe has taken some very hard knocks over the last decade.
We are sadly facing what looks like an ever-worsening period of global instability with major elections in both the US and the UK and the ongoing hostilities in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. This is a powder keg that should be of concern for all of us and we need our Assembly to prepare for the changes that we may face and the challenges they may present. Uncertainty internationally and within the supply chains is an area of concern that must be carefully considered and planned for to avoid additional hardship.
When we then add to this the fact that in 18 months’ time many will be starting to consider re-election and how they position themselves then, as with previous Assemblies, we often see the focus move away from what really matters, which is delivering in the best interest of the Island. Too many in our community have lost faith in the political system and no longer vote or positively engage, instead often focusing on purely negative discussions, especially through various social media channels which just further amplify the negativity. We need to change this dynamic.
This Assembly has seen many more first-time Members and a far greater diversity, which was a positive outcome from the last election but for some it has been a difficult first term and it must be questioned if a few might not seek re-election.
In terms of possible future candidates, recent events and the level of personal attacks both within the Chamber and on social media is likely to discourage more new blood coming forward as independents. Political parties that are well structured and run will have greater success in attracting new candidates due to the stronger collegiate bonds and support within the Assembly that this can offer. We might find quite a few past faces from the previous Assembly seeking re-election. Perhaps a banding together of a few of the Alliance members under a new leader or even another new party or coalition trying to gain momentum.
Personally, I preferred the historical Assembly that offered consistent political stability made up of independent Members working together in the expectation that solutions would be developed by consensus rather than risking swings between left or right ideology. Sadly, this approach is struggling in the post-Clothier ministerial government. Those in the driving seat of the Clothier recommendations believed that a ministerial system based on the UK model was the right way to go. Looking at the UK political environment and the way that has served our friends across the water I am not so sure that those recommendations, in part or full, will stand the test of time as well as they hoped. Their approach, as implemented, is bringing the checks and balances of the independents that served us so well under the committee system to an end.
However, in the next two years the Assembly cannot focus on trying to change the political system in terms of how we vote or structure the Assembly as there are far more important things to do. Many of the electorate have felt discussions around “Senators in or out” or “what order names are read out in” as self-centred and a waste of Assembly time when some in our community are relying on food banks and many businesses are struggling to survive.
For those in the Assembly, please stop playing or contemplating silly games and instead be realistic, listen and focus on what really matters and be the difference. That is what will get you respect, recognition and if you want to go again will get you re-elected.
Robert Surcouf comes from a Jersey farming family, though his mother was Spanish and moved to Jersey in the 1960s. He became an accountant and now specialises in risk and enterprise management. A father of two school-age children, he still helps organise and participates in local motorsport events and was one of the founding members of Better Way 2022 before the last election. The views expressed are his own.