Tuesday, February 25, 2014

By-election Speculations

Followers of Jersey politics are in for a feast of fun over the next few weeks, as the Town by-elections get under way. Psephology is a game of guesswork most of the time, anyway, so I may as well join in.

If you only read this blog to keep an eye on the opposition, you know who your people are. Gordon Forrest in No. 1 and Ian Philpott in No. 2 are the “establishment” candidates. Blatant marionettes, but if you are among the thousands who actually like their puppeteers, then they are your men.

But what if you want an alternative? Frankly, you are spoilt for choice. If the name of your game is Beat The Establishment, this will of course be a disappointment, as the three or four of Us will split the vote in a way the one each of Them will not, leaving Them the front-runners. On the other hand, if you are interested in democracy and alternatives, then you may be heartened by the vibrant interest in taking things forward differently.

Should they consider themselves socialists, No. 2 voters need look no further than Sam Mezec. While his youth is no great advantage in politics, he is intelligent, articulate, educated and sensible. Although he can be rather gauche on the internet, this election will be determined offline, and being both a good conversationalist and public speaker will pick him up many more votes than his occasional online gaffes could cost him.

No.1's socialists have a tougher choice though. If the cliches of life coaching, about Wanting It and Working For It, held any truth, Nick le Cornu would not be a candidate, he would already be a sitting member. Sadly, for him, being desperately earnest and enthusiastic is never quite enough. He is a convinced Marxist trying to fight the Class War for the more deserving side. However most of those he would fight for are not Marxists, and do not see themselves as proletarian class warriors, and not all the rest feel a posh lawyer makes a convincing champion.

Also in No. 1's Red Corner, though, is dark horse Maureen Morgan. While she also professes left-wing ideals, she is a radically different personality to Nick, and can hope to collect the votes of both those who like Nick's views but not his manner, and those who like Paul le Claire's attitude without having confidence in his intellect. For her, it will all hinge on the doorstep chats, I think, but I have no idea how well she does them.

There are a lot of voters in Jersey, who like neither the establishment nor socialism, of course. The famous centre ground. They are probably the biggest block of votes, but they are getting more ways to split theirs. In particular, No. 2 have little to separate community stalwarts Paul Huelin and Bernie Manning. I think Huelin will take votes from Philpott, while Bernie is a little more radical. The question is, will his softer persona and political stance than Sam take more votes than Sam's panache and boldness take back?

No.1's middle ground will be fought for by veteran ex-politician Paul le Claire and Roy Travert. The charisma is very unfairly shared between them, le Claire being as dull and monotonous as Travert is vital and animated. However, Travert has seemed rather shallow in previous campaigns, whereas le Claire is an assiduously deep, even if not particularly lucid, thinker who speaks with reams of notes before him. Despite Travert's force of personality, I think people will trust le Claire more. Then again, Morgan is downplaying her left-wing sympathies, and might capture the someone-to-trust vote better still.

If the readers who comment are a fair sample, your votes will be going to the unofficial Reform Party, Mezec and le Cornu. But who will the many non-readers actually vote in?

My guesses, for you to laugh at the following day, are Sam Mezec by a landslide in No. 2, by simply being obviously the highest calibre candidate, while No. 1 will be very close, possibly recounted, with Forrest coming bottom, then Morgan, Travert and le Cornu closely bunched and le Claire scraping in. I think it is a wide open race, though, and the only winner that would actually surprise me would be Forrest.