This an important question. the establishment use this all the time – look the States is at each other’s throats, it is unseemly, it is bad for our reputation, it is bad for the island, so vote for me! But do these politicians who make these appeals offer any analysis of what has gone wrong?
So, how has this arisen? Why so unruly? Why the aggro? People’s perception is that the States no longer works in harmony, as they believe it used to.
First, it worked in apparent harmony before because a few “giants” sorted things out, and the rest basically went along with it. Major policies went though in minutes. Maybe things were simpler then! Also the differences in policy approach were simply not there in the States. Norman Le Brocq for example was a lone voice for social justice. Now the range of members is far far wider, and there is real debate on big issues. And yes people do get passionate and excited when debating the future of our island. Surely this is all basically a good thing?
Second, the Ministerial system has created a them and us situation. Scrutiny comes along afterwards and reviews things which have already been worked out and chewed over by departments. And yet Ministers are completely isolated, having to direct their departments on their own. All the power, maybe, but can they actually supervise their departments effectively? Does the present system use members’ talents and energy well? The consensus is that no it doesn’t.
I think all States members now agree that we need to move back to something far more like the committee system, where the responsibility is shared out, where the Minister is not isolated in his/her department, where there are more eyes on the job. Scrutiny re-looking at everything the departments are doing is a duplication, why not review policy and programmes as they are being prepared? Scrutiny could then look at the big issues which need a fresh look, or which are not being tackled by departments. An example was the early report done by Scrutiny into the funding of elderly care, which led to the present policy.
Third, some Ministers mislead the States. I give 9 examples in my proposition to make Ministers and others think twice before misleading the Assembly. (after using this link, click on propositions tab, then go to P169). This is guaranteed to create a bad atmosphere. Why would they do this? Are we not working together for the good of the island, trying to arrive at the right decision? Apparently not. apparently there is some game where “winning the argument” is deemed to be more important that getting the answer as right as possible.
I look at this more closely in a new page here.
Fourth, there is the fact that the new boys and girls in the States simply refuse to put up with the “way it has always been done.” For example, Clothier said that an essential part of moving to Ministerial government was to provide proper support for backbenchers, including support staff, and proper library facilities, this is especially relevant as the States website is so clunky. Of course this clear recommendation was ignored, but we do not see why we should be treated as second class citizens. This is the cause of some of the anger and frustration felt within the Assembly, the utter mismatch between the roles of the Ministers and the backbenchers.
Fifth, there is a blame game going on. When you read about the little spats in the States, and about “long speeches” of which there are very very few incidentally and a very good reason for them when they do occur, (see footnote) but you do not see so much about the deceptions of the Ministers, there is an agenda. The new boys and girls need to be discredited, as they are a nuisance to the Council of Ministers. It is tedious to see politics in this way, as a game of manoeuvring, discrediting the “other side”, of spin. But the evidence is elsewhere on this site. sadly.
Sixth, some of our 53 colleagues are simply not pulling their weight. They do not do their share of the work, principally some of the Constables, but also some Senators and some Deputies. When you are working all hours that god sends, and there are people keeping their seats warm and collecting £44,000, it does not lead to peace and harmony.
FOOTNOTE re “long speeches”
The reason for these “long speeches” is that in an Assembly of 53 there are often only two or three people who really understand the issue in detail, the Minister and the one or two back-benchers who have chosen to investigate that particular topic – we cannot all be expert on everything, we specialise. In a parliament of 650 as in the UK you would have say 12 people expert in any field, they would speak for 10 or 15 minutes each and the ground would be covered, the necessary points made. And of course the party system would ensure that such expertise was known about, valued and organised. Also I suspect that their select committee system is more highly developed than ours, so things are pre-digested more than is the case in Jersey.