After a row involving two Jersey politicians which was described as "unedifying" by many came to light this week, a reader has reflected on standards to which we hold our elected officials.
Here's what Robert Wareing-Jones had to say...
The brilliant Dr. Ruth Fox in her contribution to the former Archbishop of York, John Sentamu’s book ‘On Rock or Sand’ discusses at length ‘Improving the Health of our Representative Democracy’. I can highly recommend both the book and Ruth Fox’s chapter in light of the recent public spat between two of our own elected representatives.
Fox explains that there has never been a golden age in politics and historically politicians have rarely been held in high regard. Sadly, as records attest, engagement with politics or indeed our elected representatives is woeful with turnout at elections in Jersey at the lowest of most jurisdictions in the OECD. This is something that should cause us all a great deal of concern, not least the politicians themselves.
There is now overwhelming evidence that we, the electorate, have become extremely pessimistic that no matter who is in office, what they do, or promise what they will do, in the final analysis, in the end nothing really changes.
Politics matters, and the decisions politicians make affect us all yet it seems few of us take much notice as there is now a collective distrust in government and those who govern. The perception of politicians and the reason they choose to serve is seen as the means in which they can advance themselves at the expense of others. We see them as out of touch, with self serving agendas and corrupted by self interest.
When the media is full of stories about bad or inappropriate behavior by our professional politicians here or elsewhere then it's open house for everyone to engage, share their dismay and pass judgment usually these days via social or online media. We feel let down because they are the privileged people of whom we expect much higher standards.
Dr Ruth Fox states that 'the reputation of our politicians is rooted in public perception built on past experiences as well as anticipated future behaviour and the public don't expect much to change'.
Pictured: Deputy Moz Scott of St. Brelade was found to have breached the rules governing States Members' behaviour.
But! Says I, is it actually fair or indeed realistic for us to hold our elected representatives to higher standards than those to which we might hold ourselves. Do we expect them to be just ordinary people like us doing their best or far more than that, even extraordinary or even exceptional?
It's a bit of a dilemma nay even a conundrum. However, what's clear is a public spat between two of our only fairly recently elected politicians can at least be described as unedifying. And, will hardly improve the reputations of either them or the assembly as a whole.
Perhaps it's time to adapt and change the way politics is done?
Putting the emphasis on a more 'value' based politics rather than 'ideological' division. When Jersey reclaimed its much cherished freedoms on the 9th of May 1945 it was widely acknowledged what took place across the British Isles and here at home was a new and overarching vision for the future that delivered social progress. The adoption of a value driven approach will of course require rethinking our collective approach to political engagement itself.
However, the need for good and sound leadership will be critical if change is to come and we can all do with much less negative comment or the excessive hype and silly nonsense that dominates the headlines these days. Good leaders lead by example.
Pictured: Deputy Max Andrews of St. Helier North is facing a vote of censure for breaching the standards that govern States Members' behaviour.
Yet surely this applies to us all and we too, the electorate could do much more by taking part, engaging with our politicians and being much more vocal in what we want from our government. And that means at election time.
I hope the two warring deputies end their spat and can return to the Assembly even more committed than ever before to leading by example and governing for the common good.
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