Thursday, 19 January 2017

'State of Democracy' tour of the Channel Islands

Press Release - For immediate release
Jersey political party leader to hold ‘democracy’ events across the Channel Islands

Jersey’s Deputy Sam Mézec, leader of the Island’s only political party, Reform Jersey, is announcing that he is to hold public meetings in each of the Channel Islands to discuss the state of local democracy.

This follows a speech Deputy Mézec gave in the States of Jersey Assembly at the end of last year in which he made scathing criticisms of the attitude and competence of the government of Jersey, which quickly went viral on social media, with over 100,000 views so far.

He said -
“After my speech went viral I was contacted by a lot of people in the other Channel Islandswho said that they felt that the problems I had highlighted in Jersey were equally true in their Islands too.

In Jersey, there is a widespread feeling that the government does not work for ordinary Islanders, is completely out of touch with the public and too beholden to vested interests. I know that many people in Guernsey, Alderney and Sark feel that their governments are the same and many Channel Islanders are crying out for change, but it’s falling on deaf ears from our current political leaders.”

I don’t believe that any of our Islandgovernments are demonstrating a proper commitment to true democracy and I want to encourage all Channel Islanders to get politically active and demand much better from our governments

The people of Alderney showed at their last election that you can achieve change if you engage with the political process and are prepared to punish failing politicians at the ballot box. I hope that these meetings will inspire more Islanders to get involved in political campaigns, form political parties and start working towards the change our Islands so desperately need.

Each meeting will begin with a speech on the state of democracy in the Channel Islands by Deputy Mézec, followed by the floor being opened to the public to either contribute or ask questions. Debate is encouraged!
Guernsey’s event is being held from 7:30pm on Wednesday 25th January at the Wicked Wolf (formerly the Carlton Hotel) in St Martin.
Alderney’s event is being held from 7:30pm on Thursday 26th January at the Island Hall.
Sark’s event will take place at some point in February, with a date and venue to be confirmed.

All members of the public, media and politicians welcome.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Our last hope for democratic change in 2018

P.133 - A small step forward for democracy in Jersey

Here are the facts:

- Jersey's electoral system is an undemocratic mess.
- It needs to change.
- So far every attempt to change it has been a disaster.

Following so far?

Our system is over-complicated, with three categories of elected MP, each elected in different constituency types but who do exactly the same job as MPs, with one doing an extra job of running a Parish. Our system is unfair in that different parts of the Island receive different levels of representation. Our system produces huge numbers of uncontested elections (17 out of 49 last time), many constituencies do not attract very high caliber candidates and election turnouts are some of the poorest in Europe.

Still following? I don't blame you if your eyes are glazing over already.

If you've been paying attention to Jersey politics for any reasonable length of time, you will be well familiar with all of this and probably be sick and tired of talking about it.

We are the victim of our circumstance. Our democratic system has evolved over hundreds of years without any real democratic revolution which has forced our constitution to be underpinned by clear principles of objective democracy, and it's proven so difficult to overhaul the system to one which actually works on behalf of the people of Jersey, rather than the people in government in Jersey.

It isn't rocket science to build a proper democratic system. You just need to make sure it complies with two basic principles -

1) The system must be simple and user-friendly so any citizen can easily engage with it if they choose to.
2) The value of everyone's vote should be equal, so that the system is fair.

This isn't difficult. It isn't controversial. It certainly isn't radical. It's just basic democracy.

My policy is that Jersey should have one category of States Member, elected in equal sized constituencies where every voter has the same number of votes. Party politics would provide further accountability where people would see a direct connection between how they vote and what they get, plus it would provide a framework for ordinary Islanders to still be able to get involved in politics even if they don't aspire to stand for election.

That is what I believe in and what I will fight for.

But there is one thing getting in the way - Reality.

My preferred system just isn't going to happen any time soon. I wish it was imminent, but it's not and that is the sad fact of the matter. Anybody who does not start by accepting this clear fact is living in delusion.

For any proposal which changes how States Members are elected to be successfully implemented, it needs 25 States Members to vote for it in the Assembly. The number of us who will vote for equal votes and a simple system is probably in single digits.

The political reality is that my ideal system will not be implemented by this Assembly for the 2018 elections, and so if I want to see any improvements at all, I have to be prepared to support measures which, in my view, don't go far enough, but which represent at least a small bit of progress.

We have a choice. We can be pragmatic, accept the reality of the situation and work constructively to deliver improvements, or we can stay dogmatically tied to an idealistic ambition which stands no chance of being achieved. If you fall in the latter camp, you serve no positive purpose to politics and actually provide an unhelpful and counterproductive distraction.

Only one thing matters in Jersey politics - improving people's lives.

Politics isn't a game and it should not be a nice cosy club for those elected to stand on a soapbox and claim £800 a week for the privilege.

To waste time devoted to something which is not going to be achieved and which actually reduces the chances of more modest reforms being accepted, is a self-indulgence that I will not be involved in.

My last manifesto said - "We will support any proposal which makes our system fairer."

I have a duty to my electorate to obey that promise, and so I will vote for any proposal which makes our system fairer, even if it doesn't totally represent what I want in an ideal world.

Why does our system need change?

Nobody is satisfied with our system. When 70% of the public don’t vote, yet all polls show 70% of the public are dissatisfied and want change, it doesn’t take a genius to spot the correlation there.

With greater participation in our elections we would get better quality governments.

If elections are made tougher, only the highest calibre candidates will get elected and they will be forced to produce much more comprehensive manifestos with tangible objectives which they can be measured against at the next election.

To quote Spiderman's Uncle Ben - "with great power comes great responsibility". When the electorate begin to feel the direct consequences in society from how they voted at elections, they will treat their vote more carefully and be prepared to be far more pragmatic in their expectations and more willing to treat those in power with respect so long as they maintain their integrity, and that partnership between the people and the government will be far stronger and more constructive.

Basically, more democratic societies get better outcomes, especially in smaller jurisdictions where it's tougher to fund big projects.

Why has it been so difficult to change is thus far?

Two words - self interest.

Too many States Members over the past few decades have been prepared to implement a system that they can't be certain they'll still get elected in, or which could accidentally weaken the power of the right-wing establishment in Jersey.

Basically, they're scared that if we had a fairer voting system, they'd actually have to work harder to democratically defeat progressives at the ballot box, because when we stand on equal platforms, most Jersey people would actually find the progressives more convincing. Jersey is not as conservative a society as people often say it is. The establishment know this and know that unless they rig the system, there is a very real chance that they could lose power fairly quickly and then it will be down to the people of Jersey to determine who governs the Island.

We have a dodgy history of States Members spending days debating various hodgepodge propositions to alter the system, some representing small progress, some actually making things worse. Mainly just paying lipservice to the subject because they know they can't really keep a straight face and say "what are you talking about? The system we have works fine!"

In 2000 Sir Cecil Clothier headed a panel of locals and experts to make recommendations to reform the entire government system. The establishment of the day decided to implement all the recommendations which consolidated their power, but to ignore all of those that gave more power to the public.

In 2012 the States decided to set up an independent Electoral Commission to produce proposals for reform to be put to a referendum in 2013. At the last minute the States decided that the commission should not be independent and should actually be headed by States Members. It was hijacked by Senator Philip Bailhache who used it as a vehicle to propose the system he really wanted the whole time where more power would be concentrated in the areas the establishment do best and less in the urban and more progressive areas.

He proposed reducing the States to 42 members, with 30 Deputies elected in super-constituencies based on the Parishes, plus the 12 Parish Constables remaining as members. The effect of keeping the Constables meant that the conservative countryside remained hugely over-represented in the States. This system was non-compliant with the international guidelines on fair electoral systems (the Venice Commission).

A referendum was held and, by a very slim margin on a low turnout, what became known as “Option B” won, with that system being resoundly rejected in the parts of the Island which would suffer under that unfair system, but being outvoted by the countryside.

Then, amazingly, the States went on to reject the referendum result and refuse to implement it anyway!

Proposals came forward to ask the public to vote in a referendum on election day in 2014 on proposals for one type of States Member distributed fairly across the Parishes. The proposal was wrecked by an amendment to turn it purely into a referendum on the Constables in the States.

Since that referendum I have worked on a sub-committee of the Privileges and Procedures Committee to see if there is a way forward for reform, to make positive changes, bearing in mind that referendum result and the desires of States Members.

There isn't.

Simple as that. Two years work and it has amounted to nothing because there just isn't a system that stands the faintest chance of being accepted by the States which could improve things.

There is no dishonour in admitting defeat when you've worked hard but circumstance is against you.

What can we do now to achieve change?

There is one final chance. It's called P.133.

Deputy Andrew Lewis has lodged a proposition to have the States redebate the winning "Option B" from the 2013 referendum, however with a small change to increase representation in St Helier to undo the unfairness which helped seal Option B's initial defeat.

The States would be made up of 44 members, including the 12 Parish Constables and 32 Senators elected in large districts with 5 members each, except the St Helier districts which would have 6 members.

Here is the breakdown -

The map at the top of this blog post shows what the Island will look like.

The addition of two extra members for St Helier is a significant improvement for voter equity in contrast to the original Option B which left St Helier underrepresented -

Under the current electoral system, St Helier represents just 22% of the Assembly despite making up 34% of the population. Under this Option B+ system, St Helier will make up 30% of the Assembly. That is significant progress.

The proposal is still not compliant with the Venice Commission, but it is more proportionate than the current system.

Residents per S + C
St Brelade + St Peter
St Ouen + St Mary + St John + St Lawrence
St Helier North
St Helier South
St Saviour + Trinity
St Clement + Grouville + St Martin
Total members

Let me be clear - this proposition does not represent what I want in an ideal world.

If I wanted this proposition to be perfect, I would remove the 12 Constables and have every district elect 7 Senators. That would provide complete equality.

But here are it's virtues -

- It provides more proportionate representation than the current system

- It is far simpler than the current system, with 32 members elected equally and 12 in Parishes, rather than 3 types of member, only 8 elected equally.

- It reduces the number of States Members, with the countryside taking most of this burden.

- It gives voters a much more equal number of votes, either 6 or 7, rather than the current system where some have one vote for Deputy, some with 4.

- It will require all candidates to knock on doors if they want to get elected and reduce their reliance on the mainstream media.

- The 32 active members will be elected in tough elections on an equal basis, so will each have a mandate for their policies.

- It broadly reflects the result of the 2013 referendum, with a nice concession to those who voted against it, and might restore a bit of faith in politicians for listening second time round.

But most importantly - it actually stands a chance of winning in the States.

Many sitting States Members campaigned and voted for Option B in 2013 and voted for it when it came to the States. Many Option A campaigners were against it then, but are now of the view that this slight alteration does represent progress and could be tolerated. If any proposition stands a chance of succeeding, it is only this one. No other one will and successful amendments will weaken it's viability.

I also believe that the exercise of overhauling the electoral system once will show the public that there is nothing to be feared from change and will make us all more tolerant to the idea of the electoral system not being set in stone and subject to regular review. I believe that soon enough there would be a successful proposal to move to one type of member in equal constituencies, with a majority of States Members prepared to accept it.

I promised I would vote for progress. This is progress. I have to vote for it.

I want much more and will not settle for this as a final solution. But if it's a choice of no progress, or this small step in the right direction, the answer is obvious. Progress must prevail.

This is exciting and we should be prepared to grasp the opportunity with both hands. If we don't, we face going into the 2018 election with the same system and the same inevitable outcome. That is not acceptable.

Please lobby your States Members to vote for progress and support P.133.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Kit Ashton on Climate change, Trump and bigotry - a guest post

I'm delighted to publish for the record the recent letter to the paper written by local democracy and Jèrriais campaigner Kit Ashton.

He tackles climate change, Donald Trump and Jersey-based racism, and what progressives need to do to respond.

We'll be discussing some of these subjects at our next 'Pint and Politics' event upstairs at the Green Rooster at 8pm on 9th December. Come join us for a discussion on the "Trump Effect" and how progressives should respond. We'll have guest speakers and live music. The last event was really good fun so hopefully this one will be even better!


Dear Editor

I write regarding Bram Wanrooij’s perceptive column on the election of Donald Trump and the rise of the populist far right.

Mr. Wanrooij makes some excellent points, and the questions he raises are now paramount not just for abstract debate – but – and I mean this with no intention of alarmism – for the continuing existence of humanity as we know it.

Beyond Trump’s arrogant, bullying manner; beyond his ignorant, fascist, nepotistic, and (partly) anti-Semitic cabinet; beyond his disgusting approval of racism, misogyny, torture, murdering the families of whoever he decides is a terrorist, pre-emptive nuclear strikes, and authoritarian autocracy; there is one policy position that should strike dread in every citizen of Earth: his stance on climate change.

On the same day Trump was elected, the World Meteorological Organization delivered its latest report, which reconfirmed the urgency for action: climate change is happening, it’s devastating, and humans are responsible. The evidence (if you’re a person who will actually weigh up evidence) is compelling.

Yet Trump is planning to defy 97% of peer-reviewed climate scientists, billions of global citizens, and the painstaking agreement of nearly 200 nation states, by tearing up the Paris Agreement, which may have mitigated the worst effects of environmental chaos. This is very bad news indeed.

So what can we do in little old Jersey?

First, I believe we should get our own house in order – Jersey’s slow progress on our carbon footprint, our dependence on petrol cars, indulgent lifestyles, over-population, and our woeful food security must be addressed. This mean us all mucking in.

Second, we can pressure our politicians to act - and to influence Trump’s position where possible.

Third, we need a cohesive community response, public debate, and a positive alternative to the politics of hate, division, and of course climate denial. This has already begun - with Jersey in Transition, Reform Jersey, and other helpful groups.

Finally, the good people of Jersey must remember our history and not shrink back from confronting and calling out the far-right for what it is. Trump’s bigoted allies and supporters are amongst us, though they mostly hide in euphemistic language.

Indeed, judging by his consistent, cringeworthy endorsement of all things Trump on social media, one such person even writes a column for the JEP… I’ll give readers a clue: he’s not from Jersey, he’s got a few quid, and his name is not Bram Wanrooij.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

A Day in the Life of Deputy Sam Mézec - Town Crier

This month's edition of the St Helier Parish magazine, the Town Crier, features an article about what I get up to on the job!

It's available in outlets across town, but here's a copy for those who miss it.


So what is a typical day in the life of a States Member actually like? Well, the short answer is that there is no such thing!

I guess that is partly why I enjoy being a Deputy, because there is always a new challenge on the horizon or a new controversy brewing which must be dealt with, which keeps the job exciting and keeps me motivated.

But the one thing which is the same for me every day is that I get to start the morning by walking through the heart of St Helier No. 2 where I live, through the Millennium Park and get to stop and chat to constituents, often friendly words of support but also keeping me up to date on the local issues in the area.

The park is always packed with people enjoying the open space, playing football or taking their kids to the playground. I will continue to put pressure on the Council of Ministers to keep their promise to improve life in St Helier by purchasing the Gas Works site so we can extend the park and provide more open space in the most densely populated part of town.

The most important duty of a States Member is to attend debates in the States Assembly and represent our constituents. I think I’m a very active States Member in the chamber. I regularly bring propositions to try to achieve my manifesto pledges and ask more questions than most other States Members put together to hold the government to account. I think the majority of people in St Helier are dissatisfied with how the Council of Ministers is letting our Island down, so I try to give a voice to those people who want to see the government of Jersey deliver something much better than we are currently getting.

Sometimes it can feel like banging your head against a brick wall, but I feel optimistic that one day in the future we will have a proper States Assembly which will genuinely work in the interests of ordinary Islanders!

On a day when the States is not sitting, I’ll probably be out and about in town scurrying between different States departments trying to help people who are having difficulties, or working with the Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel of which I’m a member.

I meet several times a week with my colleagues in Reform Jersey, Deputies Geoff Southern and Montfort Tadier. We work very closely together and I think we’re a great team and are much more effective than we would otherwise be if we were independent members.

Politics is serious business and it can easily grind you down if you don’t make sure you keep enough time free to enjoy yourself. So even though this job dominates my life (and I’m not complaining!) I keep sane by playing guitar in a band and spending time with my friends and family.

Monday, 17 October 2016

My submission to the States Members Remuneration Beyond 2018 review




Dear Mr. J. Mills CBE and SMRRB Members,

The topic of the level of remuneration which Jersey’s elected politicians receive is one which usually provokes emotive and strongly held views on all sides of the debate. As a sitting States Member (and one who hopes to continue beyond 2018) I have a direct financial interest in what the basic rate of pay is. I have been careful at election hustings and in media interviews to steer clear of that particular element of the remuneration debate which I have stated should not be a matter for politicians, and so in this submission I wish to make no recommendations on that particular element of this consultation.

However, I will say that I believe the decision taken by the SMRRB in recent years to avoid recommending pay increases during an electoral term has been an eminently sensible decision which I hope over time will be appreciated by the public, as many people I speak to appear to be unaware of this decision and believe that the previous arrangement of pay rises every year is still in place.

Instead I wish to focus on the arguments surrounding the pay structure and, specifically, differential pay.

Starting principles

The SMRRB has in its terms of reference the inclusion of two points of principle which I wholeheartedly agree with. Namely that the rate of pay should be at a level which allows the broadest possible spectrum of persons to be able to serve as States Members and sustain a decent standard of living, along with the important consideration of the current fiscal climate and public finances.

However, I am strongly of the view that a fundamental consideration in determining the pay structure for members of Jersey’s parliament should be that the structure should complement a system designed to uphold basic principles of democracy.

That may sound a bit vacuous or clichéd, but I will try to find a coherent way to explain what I mean.

Serving as a member of a parliament is a privilege and a huge responsibility, and it is one which is only temporary so long as our constituents continue to have faith in us to represent them. It is essential that those in that position be people who are held to an incredibly high standard with regards to their behaviour and performance in that role.

The States Members’ Code of Conduct states that members must observe the following principles of conduct whilst in office – Selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. (Otherwise known as the ‘Nolan Principles of Public Life’)

Whatever our pay structure may be, it must not be one which could inadvertently lead to situations where there is a financial incentive to disobey these principles.

Members must always be able to act according to those principles without any consideration of what that could mean for their personal finances.

Whilst it is true to say that most people involved in politics in Jersey are in it for the right reasons and act with integrity throughout their political careers, it is a fact that corruption exists in political systems around the world and we must be vigilant to ensure that it is not allowed to creep into our own system by taking a complacent approach to these issues.

Non-remuneration related factors to consider

It must be said that there are a whole host of factors which affect people’s decision on whether to stand for election or not, or whether or not to seek ministerial office, which have nothing to do with how they will be remunerated for it. In fact, in many cases the remuneration is actually a very unimportant consideration to them.

The most significant of these factors is that Jersey lacks a proper party political system which would otherwise offer support and training for prospective candidates, as well as a selection process which aims to target every constituency for a contested election.

In other jurisdictions, established political parties contest power through elections and this gives their entire process a completely different dynamic to what we have in Jersey.

Here, somebody who wants to serve their community but who has no idea how the practical side of elections work has a mountain to climb before they can be considered a viable candidate. This can be daunting and I am certain will put off a lot of people from putting their name forward for election. A party system would provide the infrastructure to enable more people to get into electoral politics and stand for election.

Another factor is that we have a broken electoral system.

The mechanism by which our States Members are elected is overcomplicated, gerrymandered and has a propensity to lead to uncontested elections. People are less likely to challenge a sitting States Member if they are perceived to have a ‘safe seat’. It also leads to ‘carpet bagging’ i.e. candidates chasing the seats they are mostly likely to get elected in so they can pursue their political agenda, rather than stand in a place they know well and have a connection to.

The final factor is that the level of support provided for States Members varies on what category of member you are or what office you hold.

An ordinary backbencher has no dedicated office facilities, no support staff and no researchers. They have to do it all themselves. Ministers have personal assistants and Chief Executives for their departments and the Constables have their office and staff at their Parish Halls.

These are three serious factors which have a huge impact on who ends up standing for election and how Ministerial roles end up filled. The salary structure can never rectify the problems caused by these deficiencies and so the SMRRB should not attempt to mitigate those failings by just proposing pay increases as a solution.

Of course these factors do not fall within your terms of reference to make recommendations on, but I do not think it would be wrong to at least make a passing comment on the effect these issues have on our political process and how it makes your job more difficult.

Differential Pay

It is certainly true to say that our States Assembly is unusual in contrast to most parliaments around the world in that all elected members receive exactly the same remuneration, irrespective of what other offices they hold. But then we are an unusual Island!

There is a logical argument that says that salary rates should reflect the level of responsibility somebody has, as is common in many other professions. However, the peculiarities of our democratic system must be taken into account and the other factors which will affect how those in positions of responsibility act should be considered.

A rate of pay which reflects the level of responsibility a member has will not necessarily reflect how hard that member actually works.

As I said previously, backbenchers do not have any administrative support whereas Ministers do, which can make their job less onerous. It is also the case that some departments do not involve as much work as others. The clear example here is the Housing Minister who no longer actually has a department to run as it has been incorporated into Andium Homes Ltd. Is it fair to pay the Housing Minister more than a hardworking backbencher and the same as, for example, the Health Minister?

The point must also be made that if this were implemented in the current Assembly, the people who would see the biggest increases in pay are those members who are actually already the wealthiest, whereas those who would see the biggest drop are those who are of the most modest means.

Another argument that is often made is that differential pay rates (i.e. a higher pay rate for Ministers) would encourage more high calibre candidates to come forward for those positions.

I believe this is a flawed argument because it does not take into account that a person standing for election as an independent candidate has no way of being sure that they will end up becoming a Minister once elected.

The only way that a candidate could know that if they were elected they would be appointed as a Minister (and get the pay rise that comes with it) is if they forged a deal behind the scenes before an election with the person most likely to become Chief Minister in return for mutual support. Otherwise they would run the risk of standing for election, being isolated from the Council of Ministers for not sharing their plans for government (despite their personal credentials) and then have to spend 4 years in office on a lower rate of pay than they anticipated, or resign and cause a by-election.

This would encourage a quasi-party system to exist only behind the scenes and not included on the ballot paper for voters to judge. This cannot be conducive to having an open and honest political system where political alliances are open and known by voters.

“Legalised Bribery”

I think that the strongest argument against differential pay has come about since October 2014 when changes to the States of Jersey Law 2005 came into force which introduced the doctrine of ‘collective responsibility’ to our system and gave the Chief Minister the power to fire Ministers.

If Ministers were entitled to a higher rate of pay, the Chief Minister would not only have the power to dismiss someone from Ministerial office, but would also therefore have the power to cut their pay.

This could very easily be used as a political tool to discourage Ministers from speaking their minds when they believe other Ministers are making mistakes.

If members are elected as ‘independent’ candidates, then it is wrong to provide a framework to allow the Chief Minister to essentially be able to bribe them into doing what he wants.

Many States Members are not independently wealthy and rely solely on their States Members salary to provide for their families. If one of these members were a Minister who received a higher rate of pay and had a difficult family circumstance where they might have to spend a lot of their income on professional care for a relative, or perhaps they had multiple children who were struggling with the cost of higher education, that extra supplementation to their salary would be an incredibly difficult thing to lose over a point of political principle and they would have a clear financial incentive to put their integrity aside so they could continue in office and receive the extra income.

In previous States debates and media interviews I have described this concept as “legalised bribery”.

I accept this could be seen as an extreme way to describe this situation, but I consider it to be so incredibly dangerous for our democracy that it must be treated very seriously.

Having served as a States Member for two and a half years, both before and after collective responsibility was introduced, I have seen first-hand how the Council of Ministers works and know that it is not a slick operation and that there are Ministers who are incredibly calculating and would know full well that this could be a tool that could be abused to serve the political agendas of the most senior Ministers.

Fiscal climate and public finances

Lastly, and briefly, it must be said that it is insensitive to propose pay rises for Ministers who have spent the best part of two years cutting public services and support for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society.

To make the case that a Minister (like the Social Security Minister), who has just cut £600 a year in support for disabled Islanders, should get a pay rise because the job entails a lot of responsibility will not be an argument that will go down well with the public.

Most Islanders are finding it increasingly hard to get by. The bottom quintile of earners in the Island have seen the value of their incomes reduced by 17% over the past five years.

This is quite possibly the worst time in the history of the SMRRB to contemplate a pay rise for those Ministers.

Q1: Do you agree that the Chief Minister should receive a supplement above the salary for a States member?

For the reasons I have stated, I do not believe that this should actively be pursued now.

I will however concede that the arguments that apply for how the supplements could be used as a form of bribery for Ministers do not apply for the Chief Minister.

As this is a role which is only accountable to the entire States Assembly and cannot be summarily dismissed by one member, it is clear that a pay increase will not have a potential impact on that individual’s attitude towards the job.

Q2: Do you agree with our proposal that the supplement for the role of Chief Minister should initially be set at 15% of States members’ salary (which at the current salary level would be £7,000)?

I see no logic why that particular figure should be used instead of any other.

I am also concerned by the use of the word “initially”. How long would it remain at that rate and would this be a slippery slope?

Q3: Do you agree with our proposal that in principle differentiation should apply to ministers and chairmen of scrutiny panels once the economic climate has improved?

No and I believe that this would be incredibly damaging for our democracy, for the reasons I have stated.

The economic climate has little to do with it. There may well be a case for differential pay when Jersey has a reformed electoral system and party politics, but whilst we retain so many deficiencies in our democratic system, this can only serve to make things worse.

Q4: Should States members’ salary (£46,600) be held level during the 2018-22 period?

I make no comments on this question, for the reasons stated at the beginning of my submission.

Thank you for taking the time to read my submission. I would be happy to make myself available to discuss any subsequent issues you may wish to explore in person.

Kind regards,
Sam Mézec
Deputy for St Helier No. 2
Chairman of Reform Jersey

Monday, 12 September 2016

My Election Reflection

Well, what an interesting month that was.

Firstly, let me thank the 3,518 people who came out to vote for me last Wednesday.

To have received such a huge amount of support from people of all walks of life across the whole Island and to have come so close to winning is a huge honour and I think is a demonstration of how badly the Council of Ministers has lost the public's support and how many people across the Island are now treating Reform Jersey as a legitimate player in Jersey politics who they trust more and more as time goes by.

I congratulate Sarah Ferguson on her victory and look forward to working with her on the policy areas which we share, including stopping the introduction of stealth taxes. Reform Jersey has propositions down to both stop the stealth taxes and, if those are unsuccessful, to ensure the rates are progressive and the burden is spread fairly to high earners, rather than purely squeezing Middle Jersey.

The bookies initially had me down to come 4th or 5th. They also had me down to lose in St Helier. I wish I'd stuck my life savings down on that bet...

We defied the odds in this election, have proven that Reform Jersey is here to stay and have laid excellent foundations down for the election in 2018.

Some important stats to note:

  • I almost doubled Reform Jersey's share of the vote since the last election (if we obtained the same share of the vote in a general election we would win 14 seats).
  • I increased our share of the vote in every Parish, up by 14% in St Helier, St Saviour, St Clement and St Peter.
  • I won a landslide in St Helier and also won St Saviour, the two biggest Parishes with a combined population of almost half of the Island.

But some anecdotal evidence is more important to bear in mind too.

From my experience, I spoke to hundreds of people who were voting for the first time ever because they were inspired by our campaign. This was not just young people, but many people who had lived here for decades and just never bothered before, despite being very aware of the big issues of the day and disliking how the government was handling things.

What caught them was that we made the effort to reach out to them, particularly on social media, and had a message that struck a chord. That message was simple - the States of Jersey doesn't work for you, but we think it should and we'll do our best to see that things get fairer.

People believe in that message. The old tricks that used to be thrown at us ("they're far-left, anti-finance, dangerous and evil" nonsense) don't wash any more because those hurling those stones thankfully live in glass houses.

Believing that the tax burden should be spread fairly, believing that government should get good value for money and believing in a population policy that works for people who are already in Jersey is not far-left, it's mainstream.

We also produced a leaflet in Portuguese which we went into their cafes, food festival and Church to hand out.

The reason that progressives have historically not done as well in elections as they should have done is because the people who would benefit most from their policies tend not to vote. But in this election we managed to get many of them out. That will be the key to our success in future is to keep these people inspired and mobilise them to become regular voters.

But the second part of that is to convert people who always vote, but would not usually vote for people like us.

In this election I had the opportunity to go round to the country Parishes and meet and speak to people who have only ever heard of us through unsympathetic forums like the JEP or word of mouth from Council of Ministers acolytes.

When they heard the word from the horses mouth instead, they realised that we are not the extremists some have tried to portray us as, and that we actually have a lot of positive things to contribute. The hustings were a useful platform to get this message across and I spoke to swathes of people who left impressed by our message. I came second in Grouville and St Ouen, two historically very conservative Parishes, which shocked many people.

Practical Recommendations for the Future

There are however some very important lessons to learn from this election based on some of the negative experiences.

The first and most pressing is how bloody awkward voting can be.

It is absolutely absurd in the 21st Century that you can't register to vote online. The amount of people I encountered who wanted to vote for us but couldn't because they weren't registered and had missed the deadline made this very frustrating.

Guernsey has online registration. It's not difficult. Just get on with it. Bureaucracy should not get in the way of people taking part in democracy.

There is also no reason why the current arrangement with polling stations continues to exist.

The technology exists and we have more than enough skilled computer software programmers resident in the Island who could write the software in a matter of weeks to create a system where electoral roll information is shared in real-time with all polling stations so that voters could vote at any station which is most convenient for them, without the capacity to then walk to another station and attempt to vote again. Again, just get on with it.

Also, many polling stations are not in convenient locations. Having one polling station per constituency in an arbitrary location is nonsensical.

Take St Clement as an example. Their polling station is at the Parish Hall which is at the wrong end of the Parish. Most people won't pass it on their way to and from work or dropping the kids off at school. If it were at Samarez School or the Good Companion's Club, you'd get hundreds more people there voting.

Another example, voters in Hue Court live closer to the Town Hall than almost everybody who lives in St Helier No. 1 district, yet they are technically in St Helier No. 2 district, so have to go to vote at Springfield Stadium instead.

I suggest we open more polling stations in more convenient locations where voters can vote, regardless of where they live.

Schools are perfect because many people are going to them anyway.

Finally, I fully support online voting being introduced. I am assured by those in the know that it is not as simple as the other recommendations I have made and will take more time to implement and (crucially) test so will not be implemented for the next election.

That is a shame, but I'll do what I can to keep up the pressure so it is in place as soon as possible.

Where now for Jersey democracy?

There has been much talk of the way that "no-hopers" detracted from the process and left the public unable to delve further into the politics of the candidates who actually stood a chance of winning.

I agree with this to some extent.

I stood in this election because I believed I stood a chance of winning. Some candidates stood despite knowing they stood no chance of winning at all, but they just like the sound of their own voices. One candidate even included the fact he was going to lose the election in his press release announcing he was standing as a candidate (I'm not making that up).

If you are standing for any reason other than to win and try to make Jersey a better place for it's people, then you're not standing for the right reasons and should not be there.

Some have proposed election deposits as a way of fixing this.

It may well help for some elections, but for others it will make things much worse.

We have Senatorial elections which are over-contested and Constables and sometimes Deputies elections which are often uncontested or at least under-contested.

As it stands, election deposits would simply discourage poorer, but just as credible, candidates from standing and potentially increase our already unacceptable levels of uncontested elections.

There are two better ways to resolve this -

  1. Party politics.

Party candidates make the best candidates.

It is no coincidence that the three candidates who did best in this election were the ones who had the best organised teams behind them. Those who did the worst were the ones who tried to do it all themselves with little funding and barely any volunteers.

We already have covert party politics. Once it is officially out in the open it will be clear what candidates stand for, whose club they are in and where they'll sit on the big issues if elected.

This will naturally put off no-hopers, or they'll instead join parties which will give them training and experience which will one day help make them a credible candidate.

     2. A fair electoral system.

Our electoral system is too complicated and it puts people off voting. But it also forces candidates to think more about where they stand and stops them challenging what they perceive as "safe seats" and instead go for other seats which end up over-contested.

Guernsey has one type of elected member in equal sized multi-member constituencies. They had no uncontested elections last time and all voters had a healthy, yet not overbearing, choice of candidates.

But unlike Guernsey, the reform of our electoral system should include moving to the Alternative Vote and Single Transferable Vote systems, where voters rank their candidates in order of preference to ensure that the most popular candidate gets elected.

It is wrong that Sarah Ferguson could get elected with 70% of voters having chosen someone else (and I'd still say that if it was me who had won).

We need to professionalise our democratic system if we want to see higher standards in it.

All other suggestions either hark back to some nostalgic past which never really existed, or seek to push a square peg through a round hole. It's not rocket science. A fair electoral system and party politics will improve our elections.

A call to all progressives

If there is one thing that comes out of this election, I hope it is a recognition that Reform Jersey is the best vehicle by which progressives can play a positive role in Jersey politics.

Others who stood on an independent progressive platform did appallingly and only helped to contribute to somebody who holds some very regressive views being elected.

In future they are far better off working with Reform Jersey rather than attempting to be a lone voice. The people of Jersey do not benefit from politics being led by egos. Teamwork is the only thing which will see the changes made to improve their lives. Those on the progressive wing of the political spectrum should recognise this and come on-board with us so that we can work together to deliver this change.

Since the by-election our membership has shot up. We will have candidates in more constituencies next time round and will certainly make gains. We are an open club and people are allowed to join it if they share our values. We aren't a sect and we certainly aren't tribal.

The public don't need here-today gone-tomorrow politicians. They need a movement with the strength to persevere for years to make their lives better. If you claim to be a progressive but won't work with that movement, then you're part of the problem.

For me, of course I will be a candidate in the next election. For what office is now up for discussion. I'd appreciate any comments my supporters may have on that question!

Thank you to:

- My dad for all the hard work he put in with posters, leafleting and chauffeuring.
- My mum, sisters, grandad, and all other relatives for all their support.
- Deputies Montfort Tadier and Geoff Southern for working their backsides off to help run my campaign and giving up a huge amount of their time.
- All of my volunteers, friends and supporters who helped prepare and put up posters, leafleted, canvassed on the doorstep etc.
- My designer for producing my posters and leaflets (I've always thought he does a smashing job).
- Unite the Union and the Communication Workers Union for their endorsements and support.
- Kit Ashton for his fantastic election videos he produced. Mèrcie bein des fais!
- All of those who volunteered on election day to make the process run smoothly.
- The staff at the States Greffe who did a brilliant job with
- The other candidates for what was generally a very clean campaign.
- Everyone who voted for me!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

John McNichol - Proposing me for Senator

I'm here to nominate Sam Mézec of Reform Jersey for the candidacy of Senator.

Well here we are. A mid term by- election has been thrust upon us, and now gives us a golden opportunity to deliver a verdict on the government of our island.

And what a damning verdict we can now deliver.

Let's make no bones about it ladies and gentlemen. The public of this Island have been taken for a ride.

Ministers stood at the last election, in the full knowledge of the impending fiscal deficit that was looming over us, a deficit of their own making.

Did anyone of them have the honesty or integrity to stand up at the time and warn us?


Not one of them.

We were duped.

Duped into believing everything was fine, our finances were the envy of the world.

Turns out the truth is a whole other ball game.

We are now facing tax rises, health charges, swingeing cuts to our public services, vicious cuts in support for the sick and vulnerable, and wholesale job losses and privatisations.

The medium term financial plan is a veritable smorgasbord of pain for the average Islander, while the wealthy are once again given preferential dispensation and exemption.

Its time for a change.

A real transformative change.

And there is literally only one choice that can deliver that transformation.

Sam Mézec and Reform Jersey.

Anything else will send a clear message that its business as usual, and the last thing this Island needs now is business as usual.

Sam Mézec represents the future, his track record speaks for itself.

He has consistently opposed the regressive policies of this Council of Ministers, taking them on and calling them out at every opportunity.

His live debates with ministers have been brilliant examples of how to deconstruct official narratives and expose them for what they really are.

We need Sam Mézec and Reform more than ever.

We need somebody to win who is clearly standing on a platform of opposing the regressive policies of this Council of Ministers, who has a proven track record of standing up to them and who also has a proven ability to work with others to achieve positive changes.

Sam and his Reform colleagues have been tireless campaigners for the voiceless and the vulnerable.

They have brought proposition after proposition to the assembly to attempt to hold ministers in check.

For example:

  • Equal marriage
  • Nursery funding
  • Free bus passes for the disabled
  • Minimum housing standards
  • Stopping lower minimum wage for the under 25s
  • Online voting.

We need to send a clear, unequivocal message to the government - they must change direction.

Sam Mezec will deliver that message.

We reject the Medium Term Financial Plan

Reform will lodge amendments and a vote for Sam is a vote to endorse those amendments.

Sam Mézec will stand in the assembly and say the public have given him a mandate to reject their plan.

He will pledge to

  • Stop the stealth taxes
  • End the civil service gravy train and golf jollies
  • Protect vital front-line public services that so many rely on
  • Reconfigure our tax model into a more progressive one that actually delivers for all Islanders and not just those at the top.
  • And to deliver meaningful electoral reform that produces real democracy.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the most out of touch and unaccountable government Jersey has had in decades.

We need a government that works in the interests of our whole community, not just those at the top.

Electing Sam Mézec as a Senator would be just the political earthquake this Island needs and would force the States of Jersey to change the way they do politics.