Friday, November 8, 2013

Clothier? Think Twice

Many of my politically interested friends are pleased to see that this week The States Of Jersey finally approved, in principle, a referendum on the revised electoral system proposed by the Clothier Commission. There is certainly a strong case for replacing the current mish-mash of accidents of history with a modern and coherently designed process. Nevertheless, despite those around me telling me how good Clothier is in theory, I have yet to see any explanation that actually convinces me it is the right way forward.

The Clothier scheme successfully addresses the equality questions that so many hold against the current complex voting system. Neither voters in their representation, nor politicians in their mandates, have any kind of equality from parish to parish and office to office. Clothier would have a single rank of members, all from similarly-sized constituencies. Job done.

However, I feel Clothier has provided the right answer to the wrong question. In general, equality is a better principle than inequality, but I disagree that it should take priority over effectiveness of representation. Before they started chipping at the current system, I had fourteen representatives, the Constable, a Deputy and twelve Senators. In the urban districts, despite their whinging about getting less than their share, the multi-Deputy districts had sixteen or seventeen representatives, including up to four of their own local ones. So, apart from uncontested elections, we all got to vote for or against over a quarter of our little parliament. That is actually pretty strong democracy, that most of the world would envy, despite the awkward structure benefiting the kind of candidates, that people who read blogs like this would not want. Now, cuts in Senators bring our shares down a little, but I can still look forward to ten votes at the next election. Even so, that is still almost a quarter, a real say in the make-up of the States.

What, in contrast would I have to look forward to on the first election day after an implementation of Clothier? Possibly, one single seat to vote on, and in my particular locality, if it were contested at all, there would still be only one potential winner. Thus, as an avid follower of politics and current affairs, I would find myself denied any significant power to contribute to the success of those I would like to see in government.

All around Jersey, others like me would find the same disengagement foisted upon them. Each district would put forward its popular local bigwig, with or without the bother of seeing off a no-hoper or two, and except in a handful of less predictable town seats, effective democracy would be wiped out. That prospect saddens and scares me.

A “Yes” vote for Clothier would certainly blast the present political establishment, but it would be a suicide bomb that takes our own hopes for better democracy with it. Don't do it!


  1. 1 vote, 12, does it matter? Unless I can vote for all of them, or at least more than half, then I don't have any effective say.

    1. In the UK they can only vote for one out 650 MPs, which makes what you've just said sound fairly ridiculous.

    2. At least with a party system you feel you've had a direct say in which national party gets to form a government and put their manifesto policies into action. You don't get that over here with 50-odd different independent personalities most of which you can't vote for/against.

      Whatever you argue, the fact remains that the majority here feel that voting won't change anything, and they don't want to have anything to do with it. You should seriously question whether any proposed changes will make any difference to that!

    3. Well said Anonymous. That was the point I was getting at.

      As Ugh It's Him! says below, the UK system isn't perfect. It would be much better if it was more proportional. But the point I make about only elected 1 out of a large number of representatives isn't unusual in any democracy, and it isn't that aspect alone that makes our democracy a farce.

      The proposed changes definitely aren't the be all and end all, but hopefully they'll help foster a more democratic culture in the island. At the moment, most people involved in politics here have contempt for the idea of democracy, they'd rather we were just run by the old boys club, a set of good chaps.

      Party politics is the way forward, but I suspect we are quite far off that point at the moment.

  2. No, that is exactly what is wrong. It doesn't work well there. In the 80s I lived in Kent, and there was an election just before I returned to Jersey. I voted Green and got Anne Widdecombe! If we had had a regional slate of 10 from 40-odd, I might have got someone I wanted amongst the winners.


We shall not accept comments that are offensive in language or content, libellous, irrelevant or deranged.
We have no means of editing comments -it is all or nothing. So, if there is any of your comment we can't use, we can't use any of it.