This week's “swivel-eyed, frothy-mouthed rant”(Thanks, Other Exile) is going to be more introspective. Although, I am going to keep to my self-set brief that this blog is about content, not me, and draw some general conclusions from my musings.
I have been an active member of the Jersey Democratic Alliance for some years. Although I am temperamentally inclined to stand up for myself and be counted, irrespective of who is with me, I understand the importance of collective action and teamwork, both pragmatically, as a means of achieving ends, and morally, by fulfilling my human nature as a member of a social species. Thus, I have embraced the opportunity to work with like-minded people on trying to influence the development of Jersey into a better place, or at least defend against its decline into a worse one. It can be frustrating to actually achieve so little, for so much effort invested, but one never knows when one will cross a tipping point,and it all start to come good.
Because, by and large, the JDA is a team of fairly like minds, there is a lot of consensus on how we do what. However, we are not realistically going to all agree about everything all of the time. If somebody is having frequent disagreements with the majority of other members about big issues of principle, there comes a point where it has to be admitted that they are out of sympathy with the party generally, and it would be hypocrisy to cling on when the decent course would be resignation. Occasional differences of opinion are inevitable, though, and are the fuel on which meetings and discussions run. Sometimes one can be really disappointed with a particular decision, but the disappointment has to be weighed against one's commitment to the larger long-term project of the party. Were it obligatory to quit any time one did not get one's own way, the party would soon dwindle to nothing. They show must go on, even if you have to sing a song you don't really like, now and then.
I have been having to keep those priorities in the front of my mind this week. Neither myself, nor the party's other main spin-doctor, liked the principle of putting up a sitting States Member in a by-election. For one thing, it seemed a waste of time and effort to run a campaign, when the inevitable result, win or lose, will be that same person in the States after the election. Beyond that, it is an abuse of process: Because our member is in the States anyway, voting for him is tantamount to spoiling your paper with the message “none of the above”, when the ostensible purpose of the election is to choose a new member to fill the vacancy. However, the will of our colleagues was almost unanimous, that Geoff must run, so we had to accept it, or flounce out in a sulk.
I mentioned the ostensible purpose. What changes things is, that it is becoming very clear that many of the public want to project other purposes onto this election; to make it an opinion poll or unofficial referendum on some of the candidates' pet issues, rather than just selecting them for their fitness for the office. In my last article, I argued that it was about choosing the best candidate, and that Stuart Syvret was no longer up to the job for numerous reasons. I never knew who, if anyone, reads this blog, but I suddenly found out that I have intelligent and articulate readers, who retain complete confidence in, and loyalty to Mr Syvret, and put up a forceful defence of his position. The best comment thread I have ever seen on any blog, to be honest. And their conclusion was that no, it was very much about the pet issues.
If a voter wants to keep things as they are, then it is clear that the establishment's man is Francis le Gresley. I think he has the background and ability to make a good politician, but the taint of Rod Bryans' endorsement rings alarm bells about his true sympathies. Or, if they want a right-winger from outside the clique, there is always Patrick Ryan. If the voter wants protest and rebellion, then it is equally clear that Stuart Syvret is flying that flag for them to rally to. But suppose the voter wants orderly and constitutional progress. Nick le Cornu has awesome intellectual capacity and a tenacious commitment to his very left-wing ideals, but most people are daunted by his cleverness, out of sympathy with his aims, or both, so he is an unlikely candidate to succeed. So, there is a gap for a serious progressive candidate in this by-election. Despite the absurdity of fighting for a place he already has, Geoff can be that serious progressive, and now that their private falling out has released him from any loyalties towards Syvret, he has stepped into the breach.
As a democrat, I have had to accept firstly, the will of the party, to put Geoff up, and secondly, the will of the public, that it is about more than who gets the job. So I have been typing with gritted teeth to call for a vote for Southern. I am not happy to sacrifice my vote on who the new States Member is , just to send a message, but it is now obvious that sending a message is really what this by-election is about, in the eyes of my fellow islanders. So, I shall have to put my democratic principles ahead of my desire to vote for the new member, and vote Southern. If you want serious progress, I invite you to send that message too, even if, in your heart, you would have liked to vote for Syvret because he is a rebel, or Maguire or Risoli because they are nice men