I have been so disgruntled with what has been going on in the States of Jersey in the last few weeks that I have been lost for words. However, Ben Shenton said something in Tuesday's paper that quite shocked me. Not the content, everybody who follows local politics suspects there is too much of that about, but that he openly said so.
I have dashed off a letter to the JEP about it, but, on consideration, I have decided to blog it as well:-
Senator Ben Shenton(JEP, 26th October) has really hit the nail on the head, as to why there is so much dissatisfaction with our government amongst the general public. Two telling phrases, that were worth banner headlines rather than quietly tucking away on page 9: “The States Assembly is becoming more and more irrelevant as the seat of government” and “the real decisions are made outside of the States”.
There, at last, we have it admitted by one who should know; it all gets sewn up in behind the scene fixes. For decades, the number one excuse of the politically disengaged has been that it is a waste of time, because the real power is, they believe, exercised at the Yacht Club, Golf Club or Masonic Temple. Indeed, it does often seem as if votes are cast in accordance with a prior plan, rather than on the merits of the arguments raised in debate, and the “opposition”, such as it is ,seems just as guilty in this regard.
Yet the essence of a functional parliamentary democracy is that the debates do matter, and that the members cast their votes in good faith on the strength of the points made, and the background reports read. The worldly wise may harbour suspicions that sometimes the motions are gone through for show, while the real negotiations happen in private, but it is those motions that carry the actual authority; the backroom dealing only subverts that authority, not overrules it.
Now the players are starting to admit that it is just a show, the basis of the States' authority, as the democratic representatives in a real process, is vitiated. Our centuries old tradition of governing ourselves has been shown to have broken down. Now we need real and urgent change to repair it, or else we shall have to admit that it has failed us, and throw in our lot with Westminster, instead. Downgraded to borough council status, the States would have to toe a much straighter line.
However, it would be better, if we could contrive to set our own house in order. Senator Shenton's idea of external decision making is just a recipe for corruption, and a hazard to Jersey's viability in a world where the ethical expectations for financial centres is rising ever higher.