Will the previously elected States Members, who have formed new political party ‘Progress’, represent and serve islanders better as a result?
A report by ComRes in 2018 found 80% of Jersey adults were more likely to vote if candidates better represented their values and priorities.
Fair representation is essential to a democracy. Yet, political parties, like trade unions, are clubs. They restrict membership to select invitees. What ensures they represent their members adequately? What ensures those not in such clubs are fairly represented?
Both States Members and unions already ‘represent’ those employed in the public sector (a quarter of all working islanders), with union Unite having previously given funding to Jersey’s Reform party for election campaigns.
Pictured: The leaders of Jersey's two parties - Senator Steve Pallett of Progress, and Senator Sam Mézec of Reform Jersey.
The advantages of such double representation seem clear when you look at pay and job security in the public sector. Its staff receive more than the minimum wage. They haven’t had their pay slashed by a fifth during the pandemic.
No-one has required their senior managers to ‘volunteer’ their own salary cuts to help avoid redundancies. On top of that are platinum-style pension benefits funded by taxpayers, who cannot fund or achieve similar benefits in their own sector. No wonder taxpayers who are ‘represented’ less grumble at footing the bill.
Yet, in 2018, a report found public sector staff had been bullied and harassed by senior managers in a ‘significant’ manner. Acknowledging this "serious issue", Team Jersey said staff were afraid to speak up. A clearly deficient whistleblowing policy was approved in response.
In the private sector, demand for employees has exceeded supply. Training, and being supportive of employees, helps to retain them. An average annual training spend of £10 per person in the public sector has made some of its staff less marketable and prevented their career progression. The Hay system, used by government to evaluate jobs, has been found to devalue ‘feminine’ management traits like listening skills, suggesting institutional prejudice towards female employees.
While union and States Assembly ‘representatives’ fought for public sector workers’ rights, how many have been devalued and trapped in their jobs until retirement? Could some union members have been oppressing others?
Unfair representation is an abuse of power. How much time and appetite do women have for the whole business of hustling in elections, compared to men? In 2018, the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation found women perform more than three times as much unpaid care work than men. Economic power between the sexes is unequal.
Yet, for women to campaign effectively in Jersey’s elections, or obtain funding for campaigns, they have to jump through hoops or comply with requirements which have been designed, controlled and continued, by men.
Cultures feed cultures. The way in which organisations and their representatives gather and filter information is key to how well they represent those they claim (or aspire) to represent.
If the founders of Jersey’s political parties truly want a more democratic, egalitarian and politically representative system, they need to think outside the ballot box.
They could start by improving their listening skills.