Thursday, 31 May 2012

Open Government

Bernard Woolley: "Well, yes, Sir...I mean, it [open government] is the Minister's policy after all."
Sir Arnold: "My dear boy, it is a contradiction in terms: you can be open or you can have government."
(Yes Minister)

The vote for an "Open ballot for Ministers and Chairmen" went through the States yesterday, and it was voted in by 27 votes to 18, with one abstention.

The comment by PPC about delaying it to be part of a larger review didn't really stack up, expecially as that was the reason given back in November last year - said review is still being prepared, no doubt, but it's taking its time. It's not even been tabled for debate, so there is no deadline, and consequently, plenty of opportunity for it to drift along. Fortunately the Chairman of PPC, Simon Crowcroft, seems to have realised this, and there was no attempt to vote for a further delay.

It's like one of those open votes in the House of Commons - the kind of vote which doesn't divide up on Party Political Lines. Of course there are no parties in Jersey, but there's a spectrum from left to right, and anyone looking at votes on certain matters can virtually predict the outcome. So it was good to see two establishment figures, along with the Chief Minister, voting in favour:

Senator Paul Francis Routier M.B.E. Pour
Senator Philip Francis Cyril Ozouf Pour

Meanwhile, it wasn't perhaps surprising that Senators Le Marquand and Bailhache voted against. Senator Bailhache came out with a terrible argument - people cannot vote without fear or favour if it is an open ballot. Actually, I think that's precisely what they can do.

Chancellor: Jim, we're on the same side, aren't we?
Jim Hacker: Yes.
Chancellor: Good. I'm going to win and I never forgive people who let me down.
Jim Hacker: I can't make my support too public.
Chancellor: It doesn't have to be public.

It frees them from the underhand, behind the scenes, mixture of cajoling and implied threats - "you'll scratch my back" - that otherwise will take place. Does Senator Bailhache really expect us to believe that it doesn't go on? It stops politicians thinking - "it will be to my advantage to vote for X, and besides - no one will ever know!". Instead, as the voting is in the public gaze, everyone will know, and the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing may still go on, but that kind of lobbying will not have quite the same effect.

Meanwhile, the "old guard" of Constables came out against it, no surprises there:

Connétable John Le Sueur Gallichan Contre
Connétable Leonard Norman Contre
Connétable John Martin Refault Contre
Connétable Juliette Gallichan Contre
Connétable Philip John Rondel Contre

Nor was it surprising that James Baker (fast being seen as a lap-dog of Sir Philip Bailhache) or Kristina Moore or Sean Power came out against it. But what was surprising perhaps was Deputies Jackie Hilton and Deputy Carolyn Labey. What were their reasons? It will be interesting to find out when Hansard is published.

There have been some interesting changes of voting patterns:

The following voted for "Chief Minister: Election by an Open Ballot" but against "Open ballot for Ministers and Chairmen"

Deputy Jacqueline Ann Hilton

The following voted against "Chief Minister: Election by an Open Ballot" but for "Open ballot for Ministers and Chairmen"

Senator Paul Francis Routier M.B.E.
Senator Philip Francis Cyril Ozouf
Senator Sarah Craig Ferguson
Senator Alan John Henry Maclean
Deputy John Alexander Nicholas Le Fondré

1 comment:

Mark Forskitt said...

It is most worrying that the chair of the Electoral Commission seems to be unaware of or unable to grasp the important distinction between casting a personal ballot and casting a vote as an elected representative.

His argument is a good one in the former case, where one casts a ballot on ones own behalf. It is a particulalry poor one when one is casting a vote on behalf of constituents. Those constituents have every right to know how their delegate or representative voted, since it was done in their name.