Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Sam Mezec: A Candidate of Promise

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"
Some of the answers to questions posed to Sam Mezec have been rather buried on his blog, so I thought it would be a useful exercise to give them here. Even if Sam is not elected, I think his hard work in campaigning here, and the work that went into organising debates on the Electoral Commission, should stand him in good stead in October.
I know that some people say he is too young (a year younger than Tracy Valois was when elected), or has too little experience of the wider world (but the same remarks were given, with the same justification on Pitt the Younger - and Pitt had even less experience). But Sam is one of the few young people (James Rondel is another) who take Jersey politics and the public good seriously and think it is important.
Question: I know a lot of the issues you are raising are outside the Island's control though but to change anything you need the support of over half the Chamber. This is a real question young Sam, say you get in, how will you get support from the minimum voters needed to get a proposal through? I don't like dampening things but I fear you may have already fallen out with too many people in the States already to make any valid presence.
Sam: It's a valid point. At the end of the day, what is achievable in 7/8 months will be limited, especially when my political perspective will be a minority in the States.
I actually have a very good relationship with a lot of States Members that you wouldn't assume I would who I will be able to work with and be honest but courteous with. I don't believe that there is any point in ever not being civil to the people that I disagree with, and it always worth focusing on common ground when there is something achievable in sight.
I have always gotten on with Senator Bailhache and been able to chat frankly and honestly with him, even when we disagree. Senator Ozouf and I have argued before, but are absolutely able to sit in a room and deal with each other in a civil way (we both monitored the St Saviour ballot count at the referendum). Senator Le Marquand was very nice to me during the referendum campaign and were able to speak frankly. Deputy Power and I had a few good chats during the referendum. Constable Rennard is absolutely lovely and I've always enjoyed chatting to her.
Despite one of my last blogs calling for a split in the dual role of the Bailiff, I also get on with Michael Birt. I spoke at a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting and was sat on his table during the dinner and had a nice chat.
I like to think I'm a reasonably nice guy who is easy to get along with and politics will always come before personalities when it comes to getting results for people in St Helier.
Question: I'm delighted you are standing and I wish you great success. Your strength is your social conscience. However, the economy is absolutely crucial to Jersey and some of us believe that there are not enough 'grey haired businessman' in the States. We have a few but (with one or two exceptions) they are pretty lightweight. Sadly, decisions that are in the economy's best interest are often the least popular and so the politicians who make them are unpopular, often unfairly. It doesn't mean they don't share your social values.
An effective government needs people like you but it also needs people with high level experience in the business and finance world. Our economy is our oil. We have great members like Le Gresley, Tadier, Southern etc who represent the 'left' with great integrity but in comparison the 'right' is fairly weak. Where are the captains of industry? Where are the finance leaders? Why are they not standing?
There's always room for people like you in the States to provide some balance but the 'right' must be encouraged to improve as well because if either side dominates then few will benefit.
Jersey may have stupid amounts of money in the hands of a few (mostly 11K) residents but the majority of residents are just ordinary people who have benefitted from the opportunities that this great island has presented them with and now have very comfortable lives. Lots more can be done for those less fortunate but only with a strong economy. We need more people like you and we need more grey haired businessmen (but better ones). And we need both sides to recognise that the other side is just as crucial to the future wellbeing of the island and all its current and future inhabitants.
Sam: This reminds me of something my grandad often recalled, when one of Jerseys top farmers (he didn't say who) was elected to the States and appointed head of the Harbour Committee, rather than anything to do with agriculture! Interestingly, Deputy Sean Power tweeted today saying "Is a new political party system now needed in Jersey? Some like minded colleagues may well agree."
One of the benefits of a party (especially a party on the right) is that it allows people without a political background to enter right away with an apparatus of support that independents can't have. If we had parties, then some of our leaders of industry who wanted to get involved politically, would find it easier to get involved and quickly get the political training to convert their talents to politics. Likewise it would also help people who are from different backgrounds to get in too, so we could end up with a politics that is a lot more representative of the public it is meant to represent.
Question: The trouble with businessmen in politics is that it is possible to succeed in business with a wholly different character and skill set than those needed to be an effective parliamentarian. Some "captains of industry" have the insight to realise that they are not the right stuff and don't waste their time.
Sam: Agreed, which is exactly why I think it's candidates politics that matter, not necessarily their experience and success in business.
Commentor: When campaigning you should really stress how much it's a short term post, and the electorate have little to lose by allowing you a short stint to prove your worth. Good Luck!
Sam: That's a good point, thanks for that! I hope people in St Helier see it as worth taking a chance on me and giving me the opportunity to prove my worth. Some States Members elected in 2011 have not asked a single question or lodged a single proposition/ amendment since being elected. Many took over a year to give their first speech in the States. I'll be active from day 1, and that is a staunch promise.
Question: Could you please explain why you have found it necessary to drastically amend the 'about me' part of your blog to remove all references to your passionate support of socialism and the Labour Party ?
Sam: I amended it months ago. I didn't think it read very well and didn't get the points across in the way I wanted them to. I'll probably amend it even further.
Using the word "socialism" will inevitably leave the wrong impression in people's minds. I need to come up with a much more effective way to describe my politics than just pigeon holing in a term that is far too ambiguous.
The Labour Party's constitution says -
"The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect."
That's pretty much what I think too
Question: Do you think REFORM JERSEY will be of assistance in your campaign or a liability?
Sam: I think it will definitely be of assistance. I'm putting my involvement with Reform Jersey on all of my literature.
The principles that Reform Jersey was founded on benefit the people of St Helier more than any other Parish in the island specifically because St Helier is the victim of the greatest unfairness of our electoral system.
St Helier voted Option A by a 2:1 margin in last year's referendum and I hope the electorate will remember me from that campaign and see that I am absolutely committed to fairness and equality for St Helier.
Question: I am local man in my mid forties.  Personally I think the quality of life in Jersey has got worse, especially the last 5 or so years. I believe this deterioration is down to overcrowding a small island. I believe this current uncontrolled immigration is down to tax. No company tax means the tax burden has clearly been shifted onto the individual. This change of tax base has been well documented. Ii believe the states secretly want as many people paying ITIS and GST as possible. But if we had some form of business tax or charged 11ks a responsible percentage we wouldn't need to keep trying to encourage people to come and live here. Isn't it time the tax burden was shifted more onto those that can afford it. What are your thoughts on this?
Sam: I believe in progressive taxation - i.e. the more you earn, the more you pay and the less you earn, the less you pay.
As a point of principle, I think it is immoral to tax food and utilities. I will support any viable measure to get GST off of essentials and I will never vote to raise GST. I know that is a promise that islanders hear a lot and it gets broken, but all I can do is give you my word.
I also think that if it can't be proven that a 1(1)K is creating economic activity in Jersey, then I am not happy with them paying a lower tax rate than their cleaner.
At the end of the day, we can't tax people through the roof and we can't put businesses off coming to Jersey, but whatever system we come up with has to be based on FAIRNESS.
Question: Looking at the various online comments via Twitter / JEP online etc.., what do you think it is about you that has divided people's opinions, to the extent that, excluding the usual brainless insults, quite a large number of people have taken the time to write negative comments about your candidature ?
I must admit, I have never before seen such polarisation of views on a candidate. Is this something you have considered or are concerned about ?
(If your answer is 'oh it's the same old troll etc', please don't bother replying, because that would insult both of us)
Sam:  I haven't looked at the comments online. With the JEP and CTV it is impossible to verify an identity and in my experience they are filled with the sort of extreme comments you get when you offer someone anonymity, not just on this subject but any subject with the vaguest air of contention. (Sorry if that insults you, but it doesn't insult me).
On Twitter, some people are very upset that I'm too busy to engage with them when they are purely trying to antagonise me. I'm focusing on speaking to voters and people who are interested in a constructive dialogue and honest disagreements.
Some people just genuinely disagree with my politics and have expressed that view. Fair enough. In the world of politics some people just have different outlooks and values. That's entirely healthy. Especially when my outlook and values are probably a minority in Jersey (though I think they are a majority in St Helier). Also, the fact I am young is a perfect excuse to be cynical for some people.
As far as I'm concerned, the only people whose opinions matter are the voters of St Helier No. 2. Every one I've spoken to whilst out and about has been incredibly positive. I'm even getting strangers come up to me in the street to shake my hand and wish me luck

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