Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Vote Vote Vote

Why is there a low turnout in elections? By-elections, in particular, often have low turnouts in general, but even general elections have low turnouts. But is this peculiar to Jersey?

I’ve been reading “Political Choice in Britain” by Harold D. Clarke, David Sanders, Marianne C. Stewart and Paul Whiteley. In it they look at the “widespread concern that electoral participation in Britain, as in other advanced democracies, is undergoing an accelerating, long-term decline. “

They note that “In the British case, turnout trended gently, if irregularly, downwards between 1945 and 1992, before falling significantly in 1997 and then dramatically in 2001. The post-1992 decline in turnout appears to be very broadly based, affecting virtually all socio-demographic and political groups. “

One reason, they suggest, is because there are no clear cut and distinctive choices before the electorate. In the case of the UK, the closeness of Labour and Conservatives under Tony Blair’s “New Labour” suggested that this was “reducing differences in the perceived benefits that could be expected should one or the other of these parties form a government.”

They comment that: “ In circumstances when the outcomes appeared to be foregone conclusions, and the leading contenders were offering 'echos' rather than 'choices', why bother to vote at all?”

That is not necessarily a fit in Jersey, where candidates stand as individuals, but in a by-election, the question  still arises as to whether the outcome will achieve anything. There is only 18-20 months to go, and in that time, one new vote for or against parts of the Medium Term Financial Plan will probably not achieve much.

Candidates with some degree of experience, however, might be expected to have read the MTFP and be able to lodge amendments as soon as they are in the States, whereas outsiders will have to learn the ropes before they can make a difference. That, of course, benefits Sarah Ferguson and John Young, and potentially Guy de Faye, although his chances of polling well are, I suspect low.

The man  who botched the end of the Avenue, who signed off on the incinerator when voted out of office, and only able to sign by reason of a legal technicality, and who failed to produce a transport strategy, hardly has a good track record as “Mr Fix It”. Indeed, the one thing he did try to act with Ministerial decision as “Mr Fix It” was to sign an order allowing utility companies to dig through people’s gardens, which was very useful to property developer David Shepherd who wanted that. Fortunately Ben Shenton brought a proposition to the States to rescind the order which succeeded.

On the other hand, this could be seen as a short-term chance to take with a new candidate, to see how they measure up over a short period, rather like a probationary period in a new job. The electorate can see how well they measure up, and decide on the basis of that.

This argument benefits in particular Christian May. Is he, as has been suspected, and claimed by some, to be a stooge of Philip Ozouf, someone set to become a “nodding dog” member of the establishment elite? He says he is his own man, but how far would he oppose the Council of Ministers on population control, for example? The probationary nature of the short term would allow the electorate to see how he did measure up, and might be a good guide to seeing if he was re-elected.

Sam Mezec stands as the one real candidate on the left, and will certainly gain votes in town, albeit with a low general voter turnout – I predict 15% in St Helier, average 25% elsewhere - but with less chance in the country.

On the other hand Reform’s recent stance against means testing nursery education shows they can support “middle Jersey” and the more prosperous families. Will that have gone noticed? And is the public in the mood to stomach a further election in St Helier for Deputy? It will be interesting to see how he polls in his own seat, where his supporters will actually be voting for him to leave their district.

I really don’t see the other candidates as placing very high. Mike Dun with his “Jabrexit” slogan on his posters may have highlighted a significant issue, but is it really something he would be expert upon resolving? Hugh Raymond is probably out to raise his profile in Trinity, where he was within a cat’s whisker of defeating Anne Pryke; I’d venture to say there will be a re-match in the next election.

Mary O’Keefe Burgher has been insulting to a fellow candidate, tried to prevent a parishioner from asking a question, and for all her “intelligent woman” approach, does not understand the difference between median and mean. What hope does she have with the MTFP?

Alvin Aaron can’t manage the hustings: how will he manage speaking in the States Chamber? Stevie Ocean is a fantasists who comes out with a startling revelation (which appears nowhere else) about a multimillion deal on a movie in Jersey starring David Hasselhoff. One of Hoff's latest films was the stinker Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens, and he also had a deleted scene in Ted 2. Even if true, it is hardly stuff to set pulses racing.

Meanwhile Nick Le Cornu, while representing the “hard left” in politics, actually represents the reputation of Jerseymen for thift. “The banner is one from 2008 and is dutifully serving after all these years,” he said.

Having put up an old banner with “Time for Change”, when it was torn down, he described it as not vandalism but a “political act” aimed at him, gave the cost of the banner, and put up a new banner, but actually one that also like the first was not new, as it said “Vote Nick Le Cornu, District No 1”, a leftover from his Deputy election in 2014!

Has the public forgiven him for his tweet back then? Or will it be a defining political feature, haunting him like Michael Fish’s hurricane? I don’t think he will poll well, but it will be interesting to see how he does in his former district.

And finally, this description of the candidates in Bailiwick Express certainly deserves another airing!

"From ‘Brexit Man’ (Mike Dun) to ‘Fixit Man’ (Guy de Faye), 'friend of the stars' (Stevie Ocean), ‘the candidate the ministers are praying doesn’t win’ (Sam Mezec), ‘we need an immigration app’ (Mary O’Keeffe-Burgher), ‘we have lost 10,000 tax payers’ (Sarah Ferguson), 'a fresh perspective' (Christian May), 'the socialist lawyer' (Nick Le Cornu), 'Mr honorary service' (Hugh Raymond) to ‘I’m not part of the establishment’ (John Young). Continuing his disappearing act throughout these hustings, the ‘mystery man’ was Alvin Aaron, who is standing, but not attending."

Please go out today, and vote, vote, vote! Well, actually, just vote. If you vote three times it will be a spoilt ballot!


James said...

To quote Oliver Cromwell, dismissing the Rump Parliament (h/t Richard Murphy):

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place,which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.

Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government.

Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess?

Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?

Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You who were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.

Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.

I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place. Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!

James said...

And yes, I will vote, even if I have to spoil the ballot paper in doing so.