Thursday, 4 August 2016

Guernsey Watch

A brief look at some of the stories from our sister Island.

Travel Blues

The Guernsey Press reports disappointing figures:

“Figures show a fall of 1.5% from last year to 154,350 when cruise passengers and visiting yachtsmen are included. Excluding cruise passengers and visiting yachtsmen, the figures are even bleaker at minus 8.7%. This was largely driven by a 18.7% drop in visitors travelling by sea, a fall of 7,450.

Air passenger numbers fell 1.2%, or 600, in the same period. “

Marketing and tourism director Mike Hopkins says that “the decline in the number of visitors departing by sea having made the biggest impact”.

If it might be wondered why he mentions visitors departing, it is because Guernsey has a much more accurate statistical method that Jersey has had. Instead of counting arrivals, which after all, will also include a fair number of local passengers, they look at departures of visitors who are leaving the Island, and split it between locals and visitors. They even can collate visitors who pop over to Jersey for a day trip.

See this for  more details on how they do it:

It is unclear how much the volume of local passengers in Jersey statistics conceals any decline, but the figures about a good year have to take that into account. It is also notable that travelling by sea has seen the biggest decline, as the unreliability of Condor becomes more widespread. As Condor provides a much cheaper means of getting to the Islands than by air, this is a serious dent in the market of both Islands.

One of the commentators on the article noted that:

"The holiday-maker from the UK, particularly with children, is beginning to choose southern Spain over the British Isles purely because warmth and sunshine, the pre-requisite of a holiday, will be assured. And it's becoming cheaper and easier to get there AND stay there.”

There are now opportunities because of the higher cost of travel owing to the catastrophic fall in the value of sterling compared to the euro. However, that is short term, as fuel is sold in dollars, and the rate against the dollar is also at an all time low. Once that hits the market, I would expect both sea fairs and air prices to increase.

Voting Changes

Guernsey is changing its electoral districts to one super island wide district by a Referendum. As the Guernsey press reports:

“The last lot voted, in their dying days, to elect all 38 deputies in one giant poll, by IWV (Island Wide Voting), with electors able to vote for up to 38 of the candidates. But they also decided to bring in such a system only if it is positively endorsed in a referendum.”

The States Assembly and Constitution Committee is looking into making the referendum a reality. Peter Roffey has this to say on the matter:

“In the past I have been quite cynical over the practicality of expecting voters to appraise the relative merits of 70-90 candidates and decide which 38 are best suited to govern the island. Some people have suggested that’s insulting to the electorate. I think it’s quite the opposite. Rather, it’s crediting them with having a life. In reality, I suspect only a very few of the most politically engaged citizens will really carry out that assessment in depth.”

“The upshot? It will hand a huge advantage to well-known candidates. Talented but lesser-known individuals will tend to be rather lost in the crowd. Also, I suspect many voters will use only a fraction of their 38 votes, leading to those elected in the last few available positions getting into the States with really miserly public mandates. But I am a democrat and I will put my shoulder to the wheel and do my best to minimise those problems.”

As well as all the elections on the same day, the options which he suggests should also be considered, but he suspects will not be, are also as follows:

“Split elections. Maybe voting for half of the deputies every two years. That would be disruptive to the work of the Assembly but far more manageable electorally.”

“ Only elect some members by IWV, with others still representing districts or parishes. Far more manageable but it creates sheep and goats within the States. Also, should there be a separate election for the island-wide deputies or should they be chosen on the same day? Either way would create problems.”

“Moving to fewer, larger constituencies. OK, this still wouldn’t be full IWV, but it would be an evolutionary step towards it which would allow any practical issues to be properly evaluated.”

Well, Jersey has some experience of both. The Senators were traditionally – when there were 12 – elected every three years for a six year cycle. This, of course, led to the first two Chief Ministers never facing the electorate just before being elected by the Assembly. I think that whatever the advantages of the old system, this was a serious failing.

Indeed, apart from the current Chief Minister, both of the first two incumbents retired from the States before facing their next election, and effectively having a vote on their record. How well they might have done is a moot point, but there was perhaps a hint of desperation in the decision, to get out before the voters told them the game was up, especially as neither came that high in their previous Senatorial standing.

We also have had the separate election for Senators and Deputies, which led to a back door, in which failed Senatorial candidates could regain their seats – and even their government positions – when voted out on precisely that record. Current candidate Guy de Faye is a recent example of that, having tried for Senator, he got back in as Deputy.

The other side of the coin, however, was that those who did stand for Senators on an Island wide election day could no longer remain Deputies while they did so, leading to the loss of three Deputies – Sean Power, John Young and Sarah Ferguson, who all tried to make the leap and lost.

The option of placing Senatorials after Deputies a month later would mitigate that, but it would mean an extra bi-election for Deputies who made the jump successfully, unless the law was changed for this special occasion so that the nearest runner up automatically took their place as Deputy. It is one of the factors that dogs this by-election, that if Sam Mezec gets in, another election for Deputy will follow.

The third step of fewer larger constituencies is something our own Referendum voted for, but was then sabotaged by the States, a decision that will go down as infamous in the history of Jersey democracy. It is something that no MP, even though a majority are in favour of remaining in the EU, would ever contemplate in the UK, but our elected representatives went on to do it with much special pleading about the sovereignty of the States. Consequently, the trustworthiness of the States and electoral apathy rose – why vote if it makes no change at the end of the day?

If Guernsey does move towards an Island Wide Vote, it will be interesting to see just how it works. Jersey politicians, such as Senator Philip Bailhache, have considered the system unworkable. On the other hand,

Council Elections in the United Kingdom have large numbers of candidates. The way it works there, of course, is via a Party Politicial System, and Peter Roffey suggests that would be the only way it could work in Guernsey:

"In the red corner were those who had always favoured IWV and who think the problems I have highlighted above are grossly exaggerated and that it will all go off swimmingly. I don’t agree but I fully accept that as a principled stance."

"In the blue corner were those who don’t believe the proposed system of IWV can possibly work without political parties. But that’s peachy because that’s just what they want to see anyway. For some reason they are coy about calling them political parties. Instead they mutter sagely about ‘groups of deputies coalescing around different sets of policies’. But you know what they say. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it probably is a duck."

It looks like the next General Election in Guernsey will be an interesting one, if IWV wins the day, and the States implements it. Unlike their Jersey counterparts, I suspect post-Brexit Referendum, the Guernsey politicians will be less likely to reject the electorate's wishes.

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