Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Youth Branch meeting for the Option A campaign

Date - 2nd April
Time - 4pm
Place - No. 20 Commercial Buildings, St Helier

Next week, during the Easter holidays, I'm chairing a meeting to hopefully form a Youth Branch for the Option A campaign.

Anyone who considers themselves young is welcome to attend and have a discussion about the role we young people can play in the referendum campaign to secure a resounding victory for Option A.

If we get ourselves organised quickly, we can get school groups sorted to put up posters and canvass their school colleagues to build up support from one of the most important electoral groups in the island.

Option A provides a chance for islanders to finally all have an equal say in how their island is run, no matter where they live in Jersey, and to bring Jersey into the 21st Century. This is something that should resonate with young people who are a lot smarter then they often get credit for, and who still have an idealism not eroded by years of cynicism.

So if you are young and want to be a part of this, or know people who are, please come along!

The meeting room is next to Normans opposite the Steam Clock. It should be easy to find, but if there are any problems, please give me a ring on 07797 811130.

One of my first experiences of being vocal about local politics was in 2008 during the Senatorial election campaign, in which my school Hautlieu hosted a hustings specifically for young people (16-18) who had just been given the vote.

There were around 21 candidates in that election, yet only 20 students turned up to the hustings.

The JEP wrote a big article with a picture of the practically empty hall with a big headline criticising young people for being apathetic. I was pretty infuriated by this portrayal of young people and wrote my first letter to the paper to set the record straight.

The reason the meeting had been so poorly attended was because the schools had done virtually nothing to let the students know that it was actually going on. It wasn't mentioned in assemblies, no teachers told us about it and it wasn't on the school noticeboard. I only heard about it through word of mouth from someone who knew one of the candidates.

From what I gather, this was exactly the same in the 2011 election.

Frankly, the schools need to pull their finger out. We have been trying to organise some sort of school debate and be allowed to go in and do talks on the options and canvass young people and we are hitting all sorts of pathetic stumbling blocks.

How can a democracy expect to flourish if they don't allow politics in school? When I was at Hautlieu we had no political education whatsoever. I was lucky that I had a fantastic history teacher Michael Sheldrake who did his best to keep us informed, but it was not an official thing.

Obviously it's important to avoid indoctrination, but the schools way of doing that appears to be to just cut out any political discussions whatsoever, which is totally counter productive.

Regardless, we'll persevere and do our best to try and spread the message.


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Young Guns That Aren't For Hire - The Patronising B-Team

On Friday morning the Option B side officially revealed itself with their front-man former Senator Shenton as the lead spokesperson.

Obviously I'm biased, but I thought the announcement was very anti-climactic. Ben Shenton on BBC Radio Jersey did not seem well prepared and made several mistakes that he must make sure he corrects or face being taken to task by the Option A campaigners who (okay, now I'm really biased) have been demonstrated to have a better grasp with the facts.

He claimed that under Option A some Parishes would end up with none of the Deputies from their district living in their Parish and therefore unable to attend their Parish Assemblies.

This is 100% false. Page 41 of the Electoral Commissions final report outlines their 3rd subsidiary recommendation which is to change the law and allow the Deputies to attend all Parish Assemblies of all Parishes in their district. So actually, the Parishes that now only get one Deputy to turn up to a Parish Assembly, will get seven Deputies to turn up instead. I call that an improvement.

One has to wonder if Shenton has even read the whole report, for making such a school-boy error like that.

He also said that Option A was "awful" (clearly going for some uncreative alliteration there, shame it doesn't stack up with the facts though), because it would lead to having 54 paid politicians. There is no basis for this whatsoever, because most (maybe even all) Constables can be elected as Deputies too, so he is assuming that none of them will be elected (shows how he has no faith in the talent of the Constables). He is also assuming that Parishioners will vote to remunerate the Constables from the Parish finances. That's quite an assumption to assume the Jerseymen and women (renown for always keeping their eyes on the money) would let something like that slip past them. The beauty of Parish Assemblies is that the public in each Parish can make up their own mind and it can be tailored for the requirements for each Parish.

So not the best of arguments there, if he doesn't want to trust ordinary islanders to make the right democratic decision on payment for Constables.

I very much look forward to standing on a platform with him and taking his argument apart bit by bit!

One such other Option B supporter that I hope gets as active in that campaign as possible, is of course the former Senator Terry Le Main.

Le Main wrote to the JEP this rather fantastic letter that is essential reading on why to vote for Option A -

On another forum, Terry Le Main was less diplomatic where he said something along the lines of "Option B is the best because it keeps all the lunatic left-wingers out". I pointed out to him that was a pretty fascist line of argument, to have him rather ironically accuse me of being insulting! Got to laugh at such a complaint right after he had accused left-wingers of being lunatics. (I plead guilty to being left-wing, but whether I am a lunatic or not is pending further clinical assessment).

So lets dissect his letter bit by bit -

"During my long time as a States Member, and especially as Housing president/Minister for 11 years, it was so important in my role to have a very close working relationship with the Constables, either individually or through their committee.

I well know other politicians continue to work with the Constables, especially on individual and personal matters relating to parishioners and, of course, social policy, especially housing their parishioners, either the first-time buyer and now, increasingly, the urgent need to house the elderly in their home parishes alongside their families and friends

Absolutely, and there is nothing to say this won't continue under Option A. In fact it is my opinion that the relationship between the Constables and the Ministers could flourish, so long as the opportunity is seized.

For a start, lots of Constables will be elected Deputies and still in the States anyway. But those that aren't can take a more active role in developing the Comité des Connétables which is currently very under-utilised.

"Over the last ten years we have seen a deterioration in the behaviour and ideologies of some newer Members of the Assembly and I can assure your readers had we not had the Constables as they currently exist in the States Assembly then we could have been in serious trouble financially and socially."

Little needs to be said of this, as most readers will be able to gather that it is nothing more than hot air. There is no evidence whatsoever to say that if the Constables were not in the States, that their seats would not be taken by like-minded independent candidates. In each particular election in each constituency, the most popular candidates get elected, and many of those with behaviour problems as he see's it, end up getting re-elected time after time. People like Le Main will just have to get over that. The reason these people are in the States is because there is demand in their electorates for them to be.

At the last election, Le Main campaigned in St Helier number 2 district on this very basis and resoundingly lost. That isn't a personal attack against him, it's just a demonstration that his particular argument there does not resonate with the public.

"The rainy day fund would be empty and we would be borrowing externally, thus putting our independence severely at risk. We have seen lunatic proposals being promoted in the States and media by a few. Had we not had the wisdom of the Constables, then we would be in serious trouble."

Whether the Constables are indeed all wise is subjective. There is no safeguard that automatically makes them all arbitrary paragons of virtue. If they are all wise, that is nothing more than luck.

But this point is one that is going to be made frequently in this debate, that the Constables are "wise", "they know their Parishioners", "they always vote for the best interests of the island" etc. Of course, this is nonsense because it's all subjective, but clearly those supporting Option's B and C will believe this when they say it. So why are they so scared of the Constables having to face a proper election? If they are undoubtedly the most capable people to be States Members, why do they not trust the public to elect them?

"I was for many years an active member of the Jersey branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and I have travelled to many Commonwealth countries for conferences, having led some and participated in many.

I just cannot say how many times I have on behalf of Jersey explained our independent membership (no party politics) and our world-famous honorary system. We had nothing but praise for our government and honorary system. It’s a tradition of hundreds of years that if you vote out the Constables with their direct link to their parishioners then I am afraid Jersey will be not unique as we are, but just like another UK county.

I too have had some involvement with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I represented Jersey at the 4th Commonwealth Youth Parliament. Being surrounded by intelligent and logical people meant that people were not universally praising Jersey. Why? Because not everything in Jersey deserves being praised. Those who I explained the undemocratic elements of Jersey's electoral system were very unimpressed that an island that is still British could put up with such obviously unacceptable electoral practices. Least of all in these was the speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow MP who described the dual role of the Bailiff as "totally unacceptable".

If Le Main told people about the dual role of the Bailiff and the huge discrepancies in the electorates of St Mary and St Helier and they responded positively, then I hate to break it to him, but it was just because they were being polite.

To pretend that Jersey is, as former Senator Jim Perchard once claimed, "a shining beacon of democracy to the world", is just farcical.

People see the huge undemocratic elements of Jersey's governance and their reaction is puzzlement, not jealousy. This is bad for Jersey's international image.

The diversity in Jersey's culture and our way of doing things is only a merit if that uniqueness provides us with a positive system. When another jurisdiction does something better than us, we should not shy away from copying them just because we are Jersey. That sort of insular and, frankly, backwards attitude is what has caused Jersey to have as many problems as it does.

The idea that we would be less Jersey if we adopted a proper democratic system is just insane. As a Jerseyman, I do not believe that there is anything inherently foreign about concepts like democracy and equality.

"The States made a huge error (yes, including myself) when the welfare system was taken away from the Constables and parishes."

Regardless of whether that is true or not, a fat lot of good having the Constables in the States did there!

"I now fear for the future with a benefit system out of control. Here we have a population of just over 90,000 people and benefits costing the taxpayer over £93m. It is frightening to see such expenditure. At least when the Constables dealt with welfare, there were 12 people who invariably knew the recipients and they were able to control handing out ratepayers’ money. Now we have one minister responsible for a huge budget of approaching £100m."

You can say that for St Mary, where there are probably only half a dozen people on benefits, but to say that the Constable of St Helier would personally know all the recipients of benefits in a Parish of 36,000 people is fanciful.

But here is the most astounding part -

"The public are being barracked by the young guns, some still students and others like several States Members who have never worked in the real world. They do not know what it’s like to borrow a pound and have to pay back three in employment or business."

Just, wow.

What a great way to alienate several thousand potential voters.

Given that a young person can vote, join the army and pay tax at 16 years old, a young persons opinion is no less valid whatsoever than an older persons.

We may not have paid much in tax or directly contributed to the economy, but the world you leave behind is the one we inherit, so we are entitled to a say in how it is run. Patronising young people in that way and denigrating them is a sure way of making them disillusioned with politics, when it is good for society to have people who are politically motivated.

In fact, whilst I'm on this subject, the very first time I met Ben Shenton was in 2008 at the Channel TV studios on election night. Myself and a few other Hautlieu students had been invited to give the token young peoples view on the results as they were announced. We were all 17 years old and had just voted for the first time because the voting age had just been lowered to 16. In between the live interviews, we met the then Senators Shenton and Perchard who explained to us young and enthusiastic folk that they had voted against 16 year olds having the vote because they believed we weren't mature enough or mentally capable of making a good decision.

Democracy means everyone should have an equal say. That is regardless of age, gender, IQ or any other feature and people like Terry Le Main would do well to recognise that. He shouldn't also say utterly ridiculous things like this mad claim that we don't know what it is like to borrow money. Does he think we pay for our university fees with pocket money alone?

The A-Team has put out the challenge for mass public debates with the Option B and C teams, because we're confident that once the message is out, people will see that Option A is clearly the most fair, logical and democratic.

We've already been hitting the streets to canvass the public and have been getting a really positive response.

I'm back in Jersey on Friday for a bit, so hopefully on Saturday I'll be in Queen Street handing out leaflets. Do come say hi if you see me about!


Sunday, 10 March 2013

Option A and the Parishes

Whilst we have yet to see the official campaign groups for Options B and C unveil themselves, there are a few hints that things are being worked on behind the scenes for some sort of announcement shortly.

Already the chairman of the Comité des Connétables John Gallichan has written to the JEP to warn us of the impending apocalypse should Jersey enter the 21st Century and adopt a fair electoral system. I don't have access to this full letter (being in the UK and all) but have seen the summary article on the JEP website, which I will try to address.

This also follows a few bloggers cropping up to make the case for keeping the link between the Parishes and the States.

Tony Bellows has this posting -

A new blog by an anonymous called "Parish Advocate" has started up too -

I regret the hint in Tony's blog that somehow us in the Option A camp are being disingenuous, and I regret the choice of name for the latter blog, because I believe that most of us in Option A are the real "Parish advocates". Part of why I support Option A is because I see the end of the undemocratic link between the Parishes and States as the perfect opportunity for the Parishes to initiate a program of reinvigoration to make our Parishes better. Option B means "business as usual", a vindication for their continued distraction by States work whilst the Parishes continue to decline. That is not something I want to see, and I think those that support Option B are misguided for thinking their option will benefit the Parish system.

Perhaps the most disappointing line in Tony's blog was this - "And how many Option A supporters do support the Parish by taking on honorary positions in the Parish, or standing for election for those?"

Actually Tony, lots. I won't divulge our membership list, but there are several people working in the A-Team who have been heavily involved in their Parishes. In fact, you might have noticed that one of our key supporters is Constable Crowcroft, who holds perhaps the most important and onerous honorary position in the island (given the population and the fact that St Helier is the capital).

I'm sure there are people in the Option A side that don't agree with me and want to see the end of the Parish system, but then I hope those in the Option B camp will admit that there are those on their side who also don't give a damn about the Parish system either, they just want to see St Helier under-represented because of their (incorrect) perception that that is where all the left-wing trouble makers get elected. The disingenuous in the Option B camp are far more malign than those on our side.

Tony poses three questions - "Why don't they come out and say that (1) it will weaken the Parish system (2) that is no bad thing, because that's a feudal legacy that we no longer need (3) Guernsey States manages well without it and has done so for many years."

So I'll take them each in turn.

1. It will weaken the Parish system.

Quick answer - because we don't believe it will. In fact the opposite.

The idea that somehow the Parish system will be weakened by the Constables having more free time to dedicate to their Parishes I think will strike most thinking and logical people as perplexing. That alongside with what the Electoral Commission recommends in their report, that all States Members must see their primary role as being in the States, not anywhere else. To make running the Parish a secondary job, rather than a primary one as it currently stands, is certain to weaken the position.

The reason the Parish system will survive is because there is merit in the system. It seems contradictory that those that support Option B feel that the system can only survive on life-support from the States. Oh ye of little faith! If the Parish system is so wonderful and obviously beneficial to the island, why do you think it can only continue if we keep the Island administration undemocratic?

I suggest that if the Constables remain automatically in the States, their position will inevitably become one that people will hold more and more disdain for. Those in the parts of the island that will be under-represented (that's 33,000 people in St Helier) will see a States that is making decisions that are not representative of the island (because the States will be skewed to the country Parishes interests worse than it already is) and that will be purely the fault of the Constables (whereas now, you can equally blame the Deputies). I suspect after a few years people will get really fed up of it when they see a States even further from the people than it currently is, and one which may be struggling to function at a minimum level because of 12 members being pre-occupied with another job.

A Constable who is elected to the States on a separate and equal mandate to all other States Members will be legitimate. Option B increases their illegitimacy, and how someone could think that is a good thing for our Parish system is beyond me.

If the Constables remain automatically in the States under Option B, we will see more, not less, uncontested elections. Those wanting to become politicians would not choose the route of being a Constable, when there is another election in which they can come 5th and still get a job, plus being a Constable would mean taking on a greater workload than it currently does. And those that might want to be a Constable would be put off by the fact that they will be expected to spend more time on States duties. We don't want to be putting people off from standing for Parish roles, we want to be encouraging them! If being in the States is optional, more people will come forward to be Constables and the public will then have the choice of whether they can be in the States or not.

Constable Crowcroft says - "To those who fear the collapse of Jersey's parish system if Option A is successful, I would say that 11 years in post has convinced me of the robustness and resilience of the parish system. Whether 1 or 12 of the parish constables are also elected as States Deputies (under Option A) Jersey's parish system with its unique living tradition of Honorary Police, sworn officers dealing with rates, roads etc., will in my opinion continue to prosper."

I see no reason to doubt him, and certainly no reason to question his sincerity.

I've said in a previous blog that the idea that there would be people thinking they'd like to volunteer for their Parishes Battle of Flowers float, or become an honorary, or stand for the Miss St Saviour or whatever, but think "oh, what's the point? My Constable isn't in the States!" seems so unlikely to me.

Mike Dun (who is backing Option A) wrote a good submission to the Electoral Commission in which he outlined a vision of a Parish system and Comité des Connétables that was more accountable, more involved and more interactive. This is what we should aspire to, and I suggest that it will be far easier under Option A, not Option B.

Some have said that not being in the States would reduce the Constables access to ministers that is vital for some Parish issues (because apparently outside of the States it would be beyond them to pick up the phone and arrange a meeting). But at present, the chairman of the Comité des Connétables sits in on all Council of Ministers meetings. Just because the Constables wouldn't be automatically in the States doesn't mean that practice could not continue where concerns and suggestions could be relayed through that forum, or even having joint meetings of the entire Council and Comité for certain discussions. The possibilities are endless, but it seems as though those favouring Option B aren't feeling imaginative.

Senator Gorst was asked in the States a few weeks ago whether he would allow that practice to continue if the Constables were not in the States. Disgracefully, he just bluntly refused to answer the question (further showing contempt for the whole practice of questions that I referenced a few posts ago). This sort of disengagement is what we have to overcome.

Option B is business as usual, Option A is the kick up the arse that the Parishes need.

2. That is no bad thing, because that's a feudal legacy that we no longer need.

The legacy of people being indirectly members of a legislature, despite their hugely varied electorates is pretty feudal and I'm interested to hear an argument in favour of that feudalism. Losing that would certainly be no bad thing.

But the Parishes themselves are not a feudal legacy and I hope no one on the Option A side would make such a silly point. Having a local administration is an effective and cost efficient way of delivering services at the lowest level possible to the people. How could anyone argue against that? They have it in the UK and it's incredibly important. Elected councillors elections are almost never uncontested and the role is unpaid. But the heads of their local authorities are not automatically MP's too. Why not? Because frankly it's an absurd idea and is met with a pretty derisory response when I put it to my friends here as an idea.

I heard somewhere recently that the honorary police make up around half of the islands total police force. How fantastic is that? People in the community wanting to give something back in the form of their time and service doing an essential job. It's wonderful. Imagine if we lost it. How many professional police officers would need to be hired to make up the service lost, and how much would that cost? That would certainly be a bad thing for the island.

Recently St Peter could not find someone for Centenier and came close to receiving a heavy fine. This despite the fact that their Constable is in the States. Some help it was. Had they not been in the States, perhaps their efforts could have been better focused on a recruitment drive.

3. Guernsey States manages well without it and has done so for many years.

Sorry, but Jersey is not Guernsey and Guernsey is not Jersey.

Guernsey's Parish system has historically always been far weaker than Jersey's, even when they did have the arbitrary and undemocratic link to the States (which they were smart enough to get rid of, without the need for a referendum). They don't have honorary policing for example. They don't have that long standing tradition of honorary service that we do, and I pity them for it. They are missing out. We have a totally different and much stronger starting point.

One thing that Guernsey does right is that it has an electoral system that makes all islanders equal. As an unsurprising result, they have far greater rates of political participation than we do. Of those registered in Jersey, only 36% of them bother to vote, whereas in Guernsey it's 70%. To not want to copy that, would be insane.

In fact, Guernsey's Chief Minister Deputy Peter Harwood is actually an elected Douzenier (a Parish official). Politically, it would be incredibly difficult for a Constable to become Chief Minister in Jersey because of their mandate. But in Guernsey it's not a problem, because they hold two mandates concurrently but separately. They can legitimately take both Parish and States roles, both democratically and only if they want and are capable of doing both.

Parish Representation

Now onto Constable Gallichans letter. He says that under Option A, we would lose Parish representation and those Constables elected as Deputies would not be representing their Parishes in the States.

Well, to a degree that is only true in so far as single Parishes having single dedicated representatives. But this is actually a good thing, as I'll explain. And no, they wouldn't be representing their Parishes, but you wouldn't want them to anyway, you'd want them to represent their constituents. That is sort of the point of a politician.

The States of Jersey is the islands national parliament. They decide issues that transcend the Parish boundaries, and therefore, individual Parish representation is therefore totally unnecessary. There is nothing about taxation, education policy, immigration etc that solutions can only be provided with a Parish perspective. Only an island perspective is necessary, and the point of these super-constituencies, is to push candidates into focusing on more island issues than local at election time, and rightly so.

So, that type of Parish representation is not important for central government, but in so far as Parishioners having representatives, Option A actually provides them with more representatives, it's just that they share them with other Parishes too.

As it stands, even when the States is deciding an issue that is particular to one particular Parish, most of Jersey's 12 Parishes are totally helpless to defend themselves in the States. Most of Jersey's Parishes have only two representatives in the States, one Deputy and one Constable. But under Option A, each Parish will have the ability to call upon 7 Deputies. That's 5 more States Members than Grouville, St Marin, St John, St Ouen, St Mary, Trinity and St Peter can currently call upon.

The Electoral Commission has specifically recommended that the law is changed to allow Deputies to attend the Parish Assemblies of all the Parishes in their district, not just the one they live in. So if one Parish has an issue, they can call upon more Deputies to fight their corner than they currently can now. That goes for every single one of the Parishes.

In fact in some districts, it's likely that several of the Deputies could also be Constables of other Parishes, meaning at Parish Assemblies they could have the expertise of other Parish administrations to bring ideas forward directly.

Surely everyone is a winner in this circumstance?

The Numbers

The final and most important point is the numbers.

As my recent post shows, Option B is statistically worse than what we currently have, in terms of providing islanders with adequate representation in the States.

District 5 (St Ouen, St Mary, St John and St Lawrence) and District 3 (St Clement, Grouville and St Martin) have a combined electorate of 25,110 and will have 17 States Members in total. Whereas St Helier will have a slightly greater electorate of 26,860 but only 11 States Members. How can that be fair? How can that be rational? How can that possibly endear people in St Helier to a Parish system which will be to blame for their inadequate representation?

I have asked several times of the supporters of Option B to give me an explanation as to why it is that the country areas deserve to have more representation per person than those in the urban areas, and not one them will even acknowledge such a request. Why? Because they have no answer whatsoever. There is no logical and democratic argument for giving one group of people votes that are worth more than another in an island as small as Jersey. None at all.

Nick Le Cornu did a very interesting blog post looking at a petition to the Privy Council in 1886. In those days, St Helier had over half of the population of Jersey (more than the other 11 Parishes combined), yet had only 5 out of 38 States Members. The petition for fair representation was rejected.

We are 127 years later, and the battle for fair representation for St Helier is still being fought and will continue to be fought for another 127 years and another and another, until democracy wins the day. A victory for Option B will not be the end, the marginalised will not be silenced.

And finally on the money. Well the "Parish Advocate" has worked out some costs of taking the Cosntables out of the States, and whilst I don't know if the figures are accurate, I make one simple point - if democracy costs money, then it is worth it. I really don't think the people of St Helier can have their under-representation sold to them on the basis of "it's cheaper not to give you full democratic rights".

And anyway, having to defend a case in the European Court on Human Rights for having a non-compliant electoral system will cost us a pretty penny!

Again, I've asked supporters of Option B to explain to me why I am wrong and how Option B is in line with the European Convention on Human Rights, and I've been met with the most pathetic of responses of "Errr, it just is." No articles, no precedents, no clue. Go figure.

The A-Team

The official coalition for Option A is now meeting very regularly and formulating our campaign. The key themes are - Democracy, reinvigorating the Parishes and increasing voter participation.

If you are wanting to get involved or offer whatever help you can, you can send me a message and I'll help you out, or you can contact the groups secretary Christine Vibert at or call her on 07797 732558.

You can like us on Facebook -
Follow us on Twitter -

And spread the word!

Option A - Toujours en avant!


Sunday, 3 March 2013

Where are the safeguards for a moral foreign policy?

Channel News has reported that the Economic Development Minister Senator Alan Maclean is leading a small team for a two day trip to Israel to promote Jersey business.

You can see already people moaning about these expensive trips as a "waste of taxpayers money", but I am not one of those and I see the merit in them. If trips like this get Jersey's name out there and can advertise Jersey business, that can only be a good thing.

Further to this, it can only be a positive thing for Jersey to take more responsibility for representing itself internationally and seeking it's own voice and image.

But one problem that we have is that there is very little democratic accountability on this sort of thing. Partly because we don't have an official dedicated foreign affairs ministry, but more so because we don't ever really get a chance to vote on a set of government policy suggestions in elections.

So we don't have much debate on whether we approve of what the government is doing internationally on Jersey's behalf. When I see news of Jersey forging links with places like Israel, I immediately have concerns that I see no attempt to be addressed.

For example, I can't have been the only one that found it quite sickening to see things like this from last year -

That is our Treasury Minister with Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, a member of one of the ruling families of the United Arab Emirates, a country where I suspect you can't even vote for the president of your local fishing club, in case the idea might catch on.

Not even the vaguest hints of democracy exist in the UAE. You can be executed in the UAE for engaging in homosexual activity. The huge immigrant population have no rights whatsoever.

In the age of the Arab Spring, I don't think it is right to be cosying up to disgusting regimes like that in the UAE, and this picture of Senator Ozouf with a brute makes me feel very uncomfortable, no matter how "good for business" it may be.

This may be me being naive and idealistic (I'm sure people won't hesitate to tell me in the comments section), but is it wrong to think, even though we are small and not particularly influential, we should be taking more of a stand on what is right and wrong, and not actively engaging with regimes that are directly connected with such human rights atrocities?

The 1980 Olympics in Moscow were largely boycotted because of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (how lucky we were that the same attitude wasn't taken in last years Olympics! Did anyone else spot that irony?), the Apartheid regime in South Africa was subject to a boycott, we are encouraged to boycott non-fairtrade or battery farm produce etc. So it's not an alien idea.

Of course we have to be pragmatic, we can't just boycott a regime because we don't agree with a few things they do, but on big issues of principle, it is right to take a stand, to make a point and (most importantly), stop helping it be profitable.

If an institution realises that it's vices are causing it aggravation and losing out on profits, they are more likely to change them. Starbucks being the recent example, which changed it's tax affairs when it realised that it's reputation for tax avoidance was going to cost more than it was saving. Of course North Korea is the exception to the rule where perpetual boycotts haven't done anything. (I have a friend that has been to North Korea and apparently the stories about cakes made out of grass are true!)

On the case of Israel, I can't have a problem with Jersey seeking business links with legitimate enterprises there. But Israel is a country that we have good reason to have contention with and these contentions should shape how deeply involved we get with the country.

For a start, it is a country that defines itself on racial lines (despite a quarter of the country not fitting that definition) and has specific laws for Jews that favour them above Arabs. A Jew from Brooklyn or Golders Green that has never set foot in the Middle East has an automatic right to an Israeli passport and residence (on the basis of their ethnicity), but an Arab from Jaffa or Nazareth who was displaced in the wars has no right whatsoever to come home.

As an anti-racist I have real problems with that. It's no different to the old Australian whites-only immigration policy.

Israel illegally occupies the Golan Heights in Syria. Israel illegally blockades the Gaza Strip. Israel regularly engages in wars using illegal weapons like phosphorous gas. Israel is subject to more United Nations resolutions than all of the other countries of the world combined (that's a fact, look it up). It's frankly a wonder that it hasn't been expelled from the UN.

So this is a country we must be careful with, in case we accidentally aid these crimes.

The fact is, part of why Israel occupies the West Bank is because it is profitable. They can use the land for their own businesses, they have territory to expand their growing population into, and (worst of all) they've even managed to trick the Palestinians into adopting their own local authority to which they pay taxes (which are collected by the Israelis) to pay for the police that manage the occupation alongside the IDF.

Under no circumstances whatsoever, must Jersey businesses engage with Israeli businesses based in the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank or East Jerusalem. To do so legitimises those businesses and makes them viable. When Senator Maclean meets with the director of the Israeli Chamber of Commerce, that point must be made clear. If an Israeli business is directly involved with the occupation of Palestinian land, it should not be welcome in Jersey.

These are the sorts of things we don't hear from the government, because of the nature of how our foreign policy works.

Of course I would hope that people in our government like Senators Ozouf and Maclean (whom I do hold a degree of respect for) would be conscious of all these things and make an effort to ensure our business links are backed by a degree of morality, but we don't know. Honestly, it would be nice to see them questioned in the States next week to make sure that they didn't do anything on the trip to engage with businesses they shouldn't have.

However, I would make one specific criticism. Senator Maclean is reported as being due to meet the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem. He should cancel this meeting.

Jerusalem is a city, half of which is illegally occupied. East Jerusalem is recognised as the capital of Palestine, yet Israel has annexed it and the locals are made to suffer colonisation, eviction and subjugation. Israel builds settlements in key areas on the outer rim of East Jerusalem to ensure that it is impossible to divide the city as part of a two state solution, and thereby making peace itself impossible. That means more rocket attacks, more suicide bombs, more "precision" bombings.

Therefore, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of that city are complicit in this and they should not be recognised as legitimate leaders because they are no such thing. To engage with them is to show our support for an occupation that is a part of one of the most harmful conflicts in the modern age.

I know this is just a dream to imagine Jersey leaders show commitment to wider principles of justice, rather than a pure interest in money, but Jersey people should be making it clear what our views are on how we engage with certain foreign countries, because the apparatus does not currently exist in the States to hold these people to account on that basis.