This is one of Nick Le Cornu's observations on Option A (which he is supporting) and the Status of the Constables, with some of my comments:
"There is no doubt that Option A will change the status of the Constable and of the Parish. Whether that is to the detriment of those institutions depends on their ability to modernise and democratise. Meager attendance at parish meetings and the absence of contested Constables elections in 9 of the 12 parishes in 2011, are indicative the system is moribund. It is part of the malaise that sees 60% voter abstention at elections."
"To date, the Constable in the States, has been the political veto to alteration in the power balance. Structures and institutions have been protected that would otherwise have been reformed and possibly abolished long ago. The Honorary Police have survived against the logic of an island wide Paid Police force."
Nick sees the Parishes as moribund, and a reactionary force in the States, and most of the Parish structures are ones that "would otherwise have been reformed and possibly abolished long ago." As for the honorary police, they have "survived against the logic of an Island wide Paid Police force", which is what he wants.
Simon Crowcroft was one of the Constables returned in the last election unopposed. Presumably he is therefore an example of the moribund system, or just perhaps he was doing a good job as Constable so that an election would have been more or less a foregone conclusion. That of course, is an option that Mr Le Cornu doesn't seem to see.
This also rather goes against what other supporters of Option A are saying, that they want to strengthen the Parish system. Mr Le Cornu doesn't - he wants an end to the honorary system, and a weaker Parish system, and sees Option A as a step in that direction. It's a sharp contrast to Simon Crowcroft's comment on a "unique living tradition of Honorary Police".
"Parishes and Constables will not disappear overnight were Option A to be implemented. Constables will undoubtedly stand and be elected as New Deputies, but their role will change. They will be expected to commit fully to their work in the States. In a reduced Assembly that will be even more vital if the legislature is to function. Scrutiny risks marginalisation to Executive fiat."
"The larger electoral Districts are in effect creating miniature Senatorial elections. Senators have in the past been the more strategic thinkers and policy makers; an altogether higher caliber of individual capable of representing the interests of the political class. It has been possible for them to control and win Senatorial elections through the strategic use of the media."
I'm sure the Deputies in the States enjoy being told that they are less strategic thinkers and policy makers. Still, I'm sure Sir Philip Bailhache, and Senator Philip Ozouf and Senator Alan Maclean will like hearing that they are an "altogether higher calibre of individual" than the likes of Deputy Trevor Pitman and Geoff Southern, for example. I didn't really know Nick was so right wing!
"Parish elections have too often been subject to local issues and personalities. This is the favoured option of the political class, but for reasons of real politique and the balance of forces, they know they cannot exclude Constables. They may not pull their weight, but they vote loyally for the Executive."
I'd like to see some statistics to back this up. An equally good case can be made for the Senators largely voting loyally for the executive, or a particular cluster of Deputies. I did some work on this in 2008, after that election, and there were actually a group of Deputies who tended to vote for the Executive more than the Constables did. Of course, as the Constables are a different class of States member, their voting pattern tends to stand out more, but that's a false perception. The pattern is about the same as that of the Senators, but that isn't so noticeable, in voting the same way as the Chief Minister. There is a greater spread of votes for Deputies, but of course, there are more Deputies.
More analysis can be seen at:
And really have Senatorial elections never been subject to personality matters? I think Nick would like political parties, but without them, of course, you are going to get personalities in the Senatorial elections. The giant cardboard cutout of Chris Whitworth that appeared at a few of the last hustings rather demonstrates that. But also Senators are selling trust in themselves, and their vision of Jersey. It's very much a personality matter.
"The real advantage of Option A is that through one category of States Member, it will create an individual who will be dedicated to doing that job exclusively. This, hopefully, will diminish the silo mentality and blinkered vision that limits horizons to the parish boundary and issue of yellow lines and speed limits."
Again, according to Nick, the Parish Deputies and Constables tend to limit their horizons to "yellow lines and speed limits". In that case, the Constables should be very silent when it comes to debates about any other issues, but they are not. It also suggests that the one category of States member won't be bothered about what Nick calls the limited horizons of Parish matters.
"What may emerge are individuals capable of dealing with island and international issues. It has to be said, that Finance has tolerated the absurdities in government structure and expense, because it has delivered political stability for decades. Now it is seen as an obstacle to good government, as they would perceive it. An electoral system that returns large numbers of backwoodsmen to the Assembly is regarded as detrimental to modern conceptions of business friendly government."
So here is Nick's idea of the current Parish system, one that "returns large numbers of backwoodsmen" who are rural yokels who cannot understand business friendly government and international issues. Obviously if you think that, you don't want to strengthen the Parish system, you want to take power away from it. And this is confirmed when he says:
"What we see is a cultural battle, but it is not a new one. Today is a repetition of the battles of the 19th century, of Liberals against Conservatives, of the Town against the Country, of the Manichean struggle of Jersey nationalism against the incursions of modernity in the guise of Englishness. Yes, the Jersey Beans, love their quaint institutions, and some Englishmen even go native and join the Honorary Police, but it's on its last legs. Like the Jersey herd, it only takes an outbreak of foot and mouth for it to disappear entirely."
Nick's idea is that the Parish will become more like a County Council, with lesser powers, delivering "a lower tier of quality public services", and if it doesn't, those will be taken over by central government. He doesn't use the word "feudal legacy", but he might have done with his invective about "quaintness". He sees the Constables as a "quirky detail of provincial identity".
"The Parish is not going to disappear, provided it continues to provide a lower tier of quality public services. Constables will just have to up their game if they are to survive. No more special pleading will be tolerated."
Nick is a supporter of Option A. His vision is to remove a lot of what the Parishes do and centralise it, and remove the honorary police, and he sees Option A as a good step in that direction; clearly he would like rubbish collections to be collected by the States and not the Parish, and taken away from the Parish:
"So many of the island's institutions remain only partially modernised and democratised. It explains why we have two Police forces, a Paid Police and an Honorary Police; twelve rubbish collection services all ending up in one incinerator in St Helier"
That's not to say that all Option A supporters think that; clearly they don't. Sam Mezec says "Having a local administration is an effective and cost efficient way of delivering services at the lowest level possible to the people." So who is right?
Nick has stood for election under a banner of "Time for Change", and has a blogsite in which his opinions are noted. He's quite a prominent political campaigner.
So it would be interesting to the general public, I think, to know how representative his options are within the Option A camp, or whether he is very much out on a limb. Or is it about evenly divided?
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