For the Jersey Democratic Alliance, 2010 will be the year to lay the groundwork for the 2011 General Election.
The first issue to resolve is whether we set our sights on merely being a party of opposition and protest, as we have been obliged to become for the time being, or whether we return to the original idea of being a serious alternative party of government. My personal preference is for the latter, but as our politicians become more experienced and skilled in the tactical game-play of systematic opposition, so, it seems to me, some of them are coming to see it as an end in itself. As the DEMOCRATIC Alliance, though, it will be the collective will of our membership that ultimately settles our direction.
If the alternative government vision does prevail, that will then open a second issue of what our policies should be. Our 2008 Policy Document has been overtaken by events in many places. There will be hard work to be done to overhaul it, and rebuild it into a raft of credible, practical and more attractive options to give voters a real choice.
Another challenge will be to make contingency plans for what our policies would be, in the event of a major economic setback. Dark clouds continue to hang over the international finance industry. It would be good for Jersey's economy, if our little piece of that industry continued to thrive. However, it would be somewhat foolhardy to assume that it definitely will. Should there be a substantial contraction, the JDA's principled support for a strong public sector, to provide the standard of infrastructure and services that Jersey deserves, will become incompatible with the island's traditional abhorrence of government debt. I foresee some heated debate about where the compromise should lie, so 2010 should be an interesting year for those of us who are concerned about policies. Although, should the JDA have accepted the role of perpetual opposition, it may be enough to just leave the dirty work to others, and then castigate them for it.
We have until Nomination Night in the Autumn of 2011 to find our candidates for the next election. On the other hand, it would be better to spend a year or more preparing them, than to send forth raw recruits whom we do not really know and cannot rely upon. It would be unkind to mention names, but some readers may recall that we have sampled failure in the past, from giving our backing to the unready. Perhaps one of my few readers may be secretly nursing a desire to represent their fellow islanders; come forth and tell us now, not when it is too late.
Probably the greatest challenge will be just to keep people interested. The last election is over a year gone, and the next still further away. This may be the time when politicians can concentrate on doing their best and most serious work, but that is because it is also the time when the general public are least engaged. We cannot keep using old mailing lists; that would offend against common sense and common courtesy as much as it would the Data Protection Law. Thus, we can only make general invitations to supporters to come or return to us.
2005 was an unduly rushed campaign, and 2008 even more so, despite having had years in which we could have prepared. Therefore, to apply the hard-learned lessons, Election 2011 needs to start right now.