This is a manifesto for change. A road map of sorts designed to put the needs and interests of the people of the Island of Jersey at the very heart of Jersey’s public policy.
It may sound astonishing to even suggest such a thing might be necessary but for far too long our political class have treated the people as an afterthought, an inconvenience, as vote and tax cows wheeled out every few years to give legitimacy to a permanent, unelected and unaccountable establishment determined to carve our home up in accordance with an agenda very few of us are privy to. As a result, a massive gap, a yawning democratic deficit, has opened up between the governors and the governed.
Never before in the modern era have politicians been so distrusted. Never before in the modern era have the people felt so leaderless. More and more, politics it is felt, is something done to the people against our will rather than for us and with our consent. This coupled with a crippling lack of confidence at every level of Government has manifested itself in one of the most secretive, self-referential and insular Administrations in living memory.
That needs to end and end quickly for the sake of our beautiful Island.
We believe that what follows is a blueprint to put right many of the manifest ills that have beset our beautiful Jersey for decades and which remain, to date, unresolved.
Giving Jersey Back To The People
There was a time, some of us may even remember it, when people saw great honour in the performance of their civic duties. But like everything else fouled by the stain of socialism and “progressive” politics, “the State” became demonised, branded an instrument of oppression, something to be smashed, derided, circumvented and ultimately abolished, by any means necessary.
While the State was under attack, from inside and out, with few exceptions the commonest and most self-serving amongst us seized control of it and passed themselves off as politicians.
Repulsed or poisoned by apathy, everyone else turned away from government service, leaving politics in the hands of the most objectionable specimens imaginable. And so, Government became nothing more than a make-work scheme for a privileged class of insiders and their cronies.
But this is our fault and we cannot avoid taking our fair share of the blame. Can we really denounce greedy, opportunistic and objectionable people for simply doing what is in their nature, when it was we who turned our backs and left them to it?
Our children, the dependant, the weak and the vulnerable pay the price today and will pay again tomorrow for our failure to take our politics more seriously.
We are all paying a heavy price for the fact that we were too good, too ambitious, too clever, too greedy, too busy, or just too damn lazy to go into politics.
How many times have we heard friends or loved ones state they aren’t interested in politics? Well that may be, but politics is very much interested in them, whether they like it or not. And whether we like it or not, the State is a necessary evil, and as with all evil we should suffer as small a dose of it as possible. For all of our sakes.
This manifesto aims to shine a light on a path to a Jersey that’s proud of its identity and confident in its outlook. A fairer Jersey where the elderly, the disabled and those who care for them are taken care of, properly by all of us. Where every child, at every school has access to a world class education and the diversity of opportunity they deserve once they enter the world of work. A place where Government recognises and appreciates the full value of private, commercial enterprise and then gets the Hell out of the way, allowing business to create the jobs and the prosperity we all rely upon. But a Government which recognises the full value of human beings too.
Zero-hours contracts should become the rarest of rare exceptions and not the norm. We want an Island where the disadvantaged are given every opportunity to build stable, prosperous futures for themselves. A hand up, not a hand out, but balanced by a rise in the minimum wage to encourage those who might view an economically inactive lifestyle favourably, back into work and to stay there.
We want to see a Jersey, confident enough to decide both who comes to share this beautiful Island with us and who does not. A radical overhaul of the immigration system is therefore, long overdue, despite the manifest challenges this will present us.
We need to have a serious conversation about serious matters. Matters we have dodged and neglected for far too long. We need to recognise that we live on a vastly overcrowded Island, the 13th most overcrowded space in the world, and our lack of social and affordable starter homes is absolutely diabolical.
On an Island the size of ours there are only so many solutions to that problem. We either build a lot of new houses or we lose a lot of people. Neither solution is particularly palatable but sooner or later a decision will need to be made, the sooner it is the easier it will be, for all of us.
Similarly, with regard to employment. We would like to see a diversified range of employment opportunities and believe this Island is being woefully undersold. High tech, bio-tech and clean-tech industries should be beating a path to our door but they aren’t. Why not? When all the wrong people make all the wrong decisions for all the wrong reasons, we all suffer.
Again, we need to recognise the fact that we, as a community, are dangerously overexposed to the vagaries of the global finance industry. Therefore, job market diversification is absolutely essential for the continued health, wealth and prosperity of our community. But encouraging the type of technology firms we need, to create long term, stable and sustainable employment for our children and theirs, requires deals to be made, politics to be done, premises to be found, new buildings built or existing ones repurposed and again, some of this process will be unpalatable to many.
Such squeamishness aside, we need to have these conversations and make these decisions together. We are not afraid of Democracy, and by Democracy we mean real, inclusive, direct and yes “populist” Democracy. We strongly believe that our citizens have a right, not only to participate in these decisions, but to make them entirely of their own accord.
For far too long our political class has refused to allow “we the people” to vote on the things that really matter and when, on the rare occasion we have been permitted a say, we have invariably voted “the wrong way” and they’ve ignored us and done what they wanted anyway.
It is evident that our ruling class fears us. Populism is a dirty word used to describe views other than a politician’s own. We believe populism means “the will of the people” the opposite of which is “elitism” and that is much worse for it goes against the will of the people. More than our populism however, they fear our ‘stupidity’. We would only use our “freedom to choose” to make the wrong choices after all, and that would never do.
So why are they so afraid? Why do they balk and tremble at the idea of recall, direct democracy and referendums? It is because they know that the vast majority of us do not share the same opinions as the vast majority of them.
To them, “we the people”, are merely a stumbling block, something to circumvent on the way to their ambitions. “We the people” supposedly don’t know anything about the difficult issues and questions which knit the furrowed brows of the ruling elite.
It’s best to just let them get on with it.
But letting them get on with it is precisely what got us here in the first place.
We however, believe that “we the people” can make judgments on decisive matters and many times better than our ruling classes, who too often live in a privileged or ideological bubble, or are compromised by too much politics and politicking and too little ambition and achievement to match.
We also put more faith in the people than they do. Even where we may not agree on all things, we come from the people, we speak the same language, live the same lives, know the same struggles, and feel the same pain because it is our language, they are our lives, our struggles and it is our pain too. We grew up in poverty, we grew up knowing what it was like to go hungry, knowing what it was like to not have electricity for days on end. So we are not afraid of the real democratic will of the people, for it is our will too.
None of us are so naïve as to believe that we can change the world with a single vote. To most people, politicians are all the same and everyone as bad as any other. They all say the same things, “Vote for me and your problems will be a thing of the past”. How quickly all those promises turn to dust when the count is done and they are returned to the first class carriages of the Gravy Train Express.
Is it any wonder that we all look for something… anything else to do on polling day than actually vote?
They steal our good names, cloak themselves in them to legitimise their rule; and then game the political system for themselves and their accomplices, despite us. They don’t care about us and so we should not care about them.
We are happy to look back, to a time before them, to the days of honour in one’s civic duty, to a time where power borrowed temporarily from “we the people”, was used exclusively for the benefit of, “we the people”, and look forward to their return.