Monday, 30 September 2013

Focus On: Charles Dix Manifesto for Constable’s Election

I've been looking at Charles Dix's manifesto at, most of which consists of quotations from Senator Philip Bailhache, and it raises some interesting questions about his predecessor as well as his own.
"My candidate is a democrat. He would want to represent, as far as is possible, the views of the parish in the States. He approves the old idea of giving parishioners the opportunity to express their views on major policy issues at a Parish assembly before the States debate. He would certainly have represented the views of the 1037 parishioners who voted in favour of reform in the recent referendum, rather than the 264 who voted against reform; and would not have opposed the Bill to bring in those changes. That is what democracy is all about."
Now there's a sleight of hand here that may not be noticed. Sir Philip suggests that Charles Dix would have voted for the Option B proposals in the States, and this gives the impression that he would be taking the views of the Parish to the Assembly. In fact while a casual reading suggests that, it actually says nothing more than if elected, he would take soundings at Parish meetings about major policy issues about the views of Parishioners. That's not the same thing at all.
They will have "the opportunity to express their views", but nowhere does it say that he will be bound by those views, apart from the one instance of the recent Referendum. And we are not told what constitutes a "major policy issue" either, which is a fatal weakness in this presentation. Would the introduction of GST, or a further rise to GST be considered "major policy issue"? We don't know. We can see, however, that Sir Philip Bailhache has lost none of his legal acumen for subterfuge.
As Mr Dix puts as a "challenge" to whoever is elected - "Working families are seeing ever growing taxes on incomes that are hardly rising, whilst inflation is still with us.", any increase in taxes would be of interest to know how he's going to vote.
There's also the suggestion that those who voted against the PPC "Option B" in the States are not true democrats, which is perhaps surprising from someone who took over an independent electoral commission, after the democratic decision of the States was in favour of that, and who nowhere gave any realistic option for retaining the Senators, despite widespread popular appeal for their retention. Banging the democratic drum is something Senator Bailhache does badly.
And I think it is uncharitable to leave the impression that former Constable, the late Dan Murphy, would have voted against Option B in the States. That's the impression one gets from this spiel from Senator Bailhache – if Charles Dix had been Constable, he would "certainly have represented" the views of the Parishioners which implied that the previous incumbent had not.
I had to look up the votes to see how Dan Murphy voted, and in fact, he was absent from the Assembly because of illness. We don't know what way he might have voted, pour or contre or abstained, because he was not there, and to suggest otherwise is to again use sleight of hand to discredit someone who can't defend themselves.
The same veiled criticism of his predecessor can be seen in the following:
"I would like to re-institute the Comite Paroissale, to bring together all sections of the municipality in planning for the future. Decisions based on shared information are usually the best ones."
"I have long advocated the building of a Parish team of those willing, on an ongoing basis; and especially in winter and other emergencies; to give support to the elderly and vulnerable in the parish. Several other parishes and groups are starting to address this need; and I would like to bring all together to find a common purpose and method to help those less fortunate"
It suggests that Dan Murphy supported neither of those things. Charles Dix, as Chef de Police, and also with involvement in Parish events had plenty of opportunities to both suggest these, and sort out emergency teams. In fact, who better placed than a senior member of the honorary police, who often do have to help out on the roads in inclement weather?
We are led to conclude that either Mr Dix was keeping his light extremely well hidden under a bushel, or previous Constables have not chosen to hear his advocacy. What other interpretation can we put on "long advocated"?
He raises three challenges
• Our young people face a shortage of job opportunities not seen since the 1930's.
• Working families are seeing ever growing taxes on incomes that are hardly rising, whilst inflation is still with us.
• Investment income yields for the retired have fallen drastically since 2008.
And states "They look for a Connétable, who is approachable, gets things done, solves problems; and is a really good communicator."
But nowhere in his slim manifesto does he suggest any solutions to these problems. The manifesto is like the "Yes Minister" episode "The Challenge", when Hacker manages to ramble on without a firm commitment to any solid proposals
Jim Hacker: It's a challenge I'm looking forward to.
Ludovick Kennedy:  How will you meet the challenge?
Jim Hacker: It's far too early to give detailed proposals.
While transport is a problem regarding the cycle track, which is not fit for use, Charles Dix also has something to say about the bus service. That's as near as you will get to "major policy matters" in this manifesto, but it is worth reviewing:
"Our excellent bus service: Having lived some 30 years close to the bus routes, and being a daily bus user, I appreciate the superb service we are given. If elected I will champion the maintenance of the helpful new schedules."
The Grouville bus service must indeed be excellent where the reports from elsewhere are for late services, new drivers who do not know the way, and – in the West – incoherent time tables which lead to multiple busses converging on St Aubin at the same time.
I'd have expected to see just a little about the need for more bus shelters, details on when the Avanchi top up card will come online (promised in June), and resolving problems with late school buses, but perhaps as a pensioner who doesn't have to pay bus fares, this is not of immediate concern to Mr Dix.
But what is surprising is that a paragraph should be devoted to a eulogy on Liberty bus, when it could have been better devoted to immigration policy, or even some proposals for environmental matters
"I hope to be able to debate and form parish policy on future development; bearing in mind the need for first time buyer homes: and possible uses of dormant fields: by an advisory subcommittee of the Comite Paroissale."
Where is immigration policy here – surely one of those "major policy issues"? And while there is a debate on future development (with no firm commitments in the manifesto), where is there any recognition of the changes that might be needed for an ageing demographic, as seen for instance, in St Ouen's attempt to get sheltered housing?
And for someone with connections to an IT firm, it is disappointing that there is no online website to see more than the bare bones which are given here.
It will be interesting to see how well he does, and whether the Parish is prepared to endorse a manifesto that has quite a bit more style than substance. Nevertheless, endorsement can be a powerful tool, and the fact that Sir Philip Bailhache, Jersey's equivalent of a heavyweight political boxer, has chosen to endorse Mr Dix will undoubtedly sway quite a few voters in his favour.


James said...

He would certainly have represented the views of the 1037 parishioners who voted in favour of reform in the recent referendum, rather than the 264 who voted against reform.

This is not sleight of hand: it's outright dishonesty.

Only 562 people voted for Option B, not an overall majority of voters (in fact, just under 43%).

This was made up to a majority because the votes of 148 of those who voted against reform were added to the Option B voters, giving 54%.

The other immediate example I know of a party which won 43% of the vote and then went on (with coalition support) to squeeze into the overall majority bracket and implement radical change was a German outfit called the NSDAP, way back in the early 1930s...

(Oh, and before I forget, even 710 votes is in no sense representative when according to 2011 Census figures the population of Grouville is nearer 4700).

Sam Mézec said...

Excellent post and analysis Tony.

I agree with the comment from James above.

You cannot say "My candidate is a democrat" on the basis that you both have given.

Option B did not get a majority in the Parish and barely any Parishioners cared to express a view.

That along with the fact that Option B was less democratic than our present system.

No one can back taking away the voting rights of people in one part of the island and simultaneously call themselves a democrat.

But, what would Sir Phil know about that anyway?