Thursday, 23 October 2014

Some Local Political Matters

Recounting Election Night

On Saturday, the Senatorial elections are recounted. I’ve heard it said that it is unlikely that Sarah Ferguson’s loss could be out by around 250 votes, and if one thinks of individual votes counted, that does seem improbable.

Unfortunately, the count is not just about individual votes all counted up. It uses various techniques to tally the vote in blocks, and I have heard, from a reliable source, of someone in Trinity who nearly used the wrong figure in a calculator at one stage of the totalling. Fortunately, this was spotted by an eagled eyed and very numerate observer. But what if it had not been?

Both Rob Duhamel and Adrian Lee on BBC Radio Jersey’s Election Call after the election noted that this general election had not been run as smoothly as previous elections. Rob Duhamel intimated that the oversight of the process, and announcement of results, had not followed the same pattern as all the previous elections he has been at.

Adrian Lee also said there had been problems with one of the St Brelade Parish, and one of St Saviour, while St Helier 3&4 managed to initially overlook the whole of the pre-poll votes until they were fortunately discovered just after what was thought to be the final count. He also said the long delay in providing election statistics on numbers voting, turnout, pre-poll and postal votes was unprecedented.

My Trinity friend, who spotted the mistake and was able to correct it, thought that there was also a problem to do with the competitive nature of getting results out ahead of other Parishes. Accuracy might have been sacrificed for speed.

There seems to have been a certain degree of slackness in the election night, and it will be interesting to see if the Senatorial results come out with the same tally. Clearly significant enough errors could have crept in to make the result different. If I was Sarah Ferguson, I’d want to make sure the counting was accurate, and I’d be watching as an observer on Saturday.

And on related slackness, Scott Wickenden sent in his nomination paper which should have been checked by the Town Hall. Someone evidently failed to check it properly, but I suspect we’ll never know the official concerned.

The electoral roll itself is, of course, riddled with inaccuracies. These are probably not significant in the larger scheme of things, but perhaps amount to around 10-20 wrong entries where names have been input into the wrong district, or people have moved but their old name and electoral number is on the roll in their old Parish. This is what happens if you simply update sheets held on Excel rather than using a central database. If Digital Jersey is to have any credibility, this needs to be put right.

Dinner Date

One matter that seems to have escaped everyone’s notice about the Bailiff’s Dinner is the cost of cancellation. Usually there is a price to pay, especially if it is a set meal, for a late cancellation, especially if the numbers attending are in double figures.

But what I want to mention here is a quote from the Bailiff:

“The Bailiff's Dinner is a traditional way to mark the retirement of those States Members who are leaving the Assembly. I have spoken with the Chief Minister and the Chairman of the Privileges and Procedures Committee and we are in agreement that this year's dinner should go ahead.”

That was reported on CTV News. What crucially they did not say was what else the Bailiff said, and by leaving that out, I think they gave an extremely misleading representation on what Sir Michael Birt said.

At this stage, cancellation would probably not be a viable option. But what Sir Michael Birt did do was to make a suggestion that the incoming States review this tradition before the next election, and decide if it is to continue, and on what basis. That seems eminently sensible.

And also the diners are asked to make, on the night, a donation to the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal. This is again the Bailiff’s initiative, and I think is a sensible compromise this time round.

In fact, I was discussing the whole matter of the dinner with some colleagues on Tuesday night, and I made the same suggestion that there should be a collection for charity. So I am probably biased! But it does show that while States members get the meal for free, they are expected to dip into their pockets and make what I trust will be a generous donation to the Poppy Appeal.

I think than rather than a protest as such, a formal and dignified handing over of the petition should be arranged to take place, perhaps before or just outside the dinner. The point would have been made.

The suggestions and steps made by the Bailiff show that he has taken the concerns of the petitioners into account, and has not – as the CTV report seems to imply – ignored them. He should be commended rather than condemned for his response which, if you will excuse the pun, is a judicial one.

John V Taylor, a former Bishop of Winchester, once wrote these words:

“Our enemy is not possessions but excess. Our battle-cry is not ‘nothing!’ but ‘enough!'”

The Bailiff has taken this into account by his actions in asking for diners to donate. It is up to the States to decide what to do next, but I would suggest along the lines of John Taylor’s quotation, that the tradition be continued, but not in a form that smacks of excess.

And that of course, is surely the key issue here.

Referendum Conundrum

The results of the Referendum are a resounding victory for keeping the Constables. Even in St Helier, the gap was only 22 votes. The States may well be asked for a proposition to endorse the result, so where does that leave those who voted no?

Clearly if they said they would simply endorse the results of the Referendum, their only option, to keep faith with the electorate, is to vote to endorse that result, even if they personally disagree. So Montfort Tadier should clearly vote to endorse the Referendum.

In St Helier, 3 of the 4 districts voted against it, but the vote was narrowed overall by the result in St Helier District 2, where the Yes vote was more than the No vote. So will Geoff Southern and Sam Mezec respect the wishes of their own electorate? Or will we get excuses? It will be interesting to see!

Immigrant Representation

Some discussion this morning on radio about whether the Polish and Portuguese communities were somehow missing out because they didn't have their own nationals standing in the States of Jersey. We were told that the one Polish candidate failed to get in. And there is no Portuguese member of the States. 

Isn't there a foreign language bias here? After all, the Irish from Eire are not part of Great Britain or the United Kingdom. Strictly speaking, they are just as much immigrants as Polish and Portuguese. And they have just lost their one Irish member of the States, Sean Power. But we don't notice that because Irish people speak the same language as the rest of us. Well, more or less, that's the craic!

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