Eliot Lincoln – So why did I get involved in party politics?

Jan 8, 2022

I’m not sure I can say anything else that hasn’t already been said about Gary Burgess.

What a truly inspirational person and someone who will be sorely missed in Jersey and further afield. It is with great sadness (as well as keen interest) that I read Gary’s piece published posthumously in this very paper on Tuesday of this week. In it, Gary eloquently summarised the situation in terms of party politics. As someone who got involved last year with party politics, I’d like to take up the baton and respond to Gary’s piece.

So why did I get involved in party politics? It’s a good question. And one with only a single truly important answer: to make a positive difference to our beautiful island and those that live here.

Over the next six months we will have a run up to the first General Election of its kind in Jersey. There are a number of parties in place already some incumbent some relatively new, we have lost the senatorial position and the electoral districts have been carved up in a different way. What I see in front of us is a confusing landscape that will make it difficult to attract the voter to turn out at the polls on 22 June. But as a democracy it’s so important for all of us to be represented at the ballot box.

I’m not sure there are many (if any) jurisdictions that have a similar set up to Jersey. I have heard our system of government called “the ultimate democracy” with effectively 49 independent candidates each standing on their own manifesto. But as we have seen in the past, it is difficult for Jersey’s population to hold to account individual politicians for voting contrary to their manifesto pledges. In 2018 we struggled to get slightly more than 40% of people to turn out at the ballot box (with some districts in the low 30%’s), so how do we expect our population to be that deeply involved in the day-to-day political wrangling in the States’ Chamber?

The answer must be party politics. Let me give you two reasons why:

First, we need to ensure we have the calibre of candidates to fight at the next election. To many, it is a daunting prospect to put themselves forward for election, to work through the process, creating a manifesto, the electioneering, hustings, and the lead up to the election. A significant amount of work with (obviously) no guarantees at the end. I see party politics being a catalyst to support many who are “on the fence” about standing for election. It is imperative that as an island we seek quality candidates to stand, and if joining a set of like-minded individuals and working with a collective effort to become elected, then that is a win in my books. A party can offer a framework and support to those willing to take up public office and a valuable sounding board for their members in the next Assembly.

Secondly, we need to make it easy for Jersey’s population to engage with the political process and ultimately cast their votes at the ballot box. I see party politics as a key part of that process. There will always be a place for the independent candidate. But as a voter, to be able to see a party’s manifesto, to align to those ideals, and to know that the candidates running in that party align to your way of thinking is a good way of simplifying the process and ensuring that Jersey’s population takes up its democratic right to vote. A party system ultimately provides voters with the power to hold members in the States ‘accountable’ for their actions. A concept that is currently lacking in the Jersey political process.

You only need to open the letters page of the JEP, look through the pages of Facebook, or read through Tweets to see how vocal Jersey’s population can really be about the matters that affect them. Unfortunately, it looks like a fraction of those commenting in the media and social media actually cast their vote at the last election. If you truly want to make a change on this island and are unhappy with how things are then you must get involved (at least in a small way) in the political process and voting the people who aligned to your way of thinking. It’s difficult when you’re looking at 5 to 10 individual manifestoes and your ability to sort the wheat from the chaff. But being able to see a single manifesto, a single set of policies must go some way to simplifying the voter choice and helping this island to make the right decisions.

No one person party or group has the answer here. There are lots of competing priorities on our island and I take my hat off to some in our States’ Chamber for their ability to manage their way through whilst suffering at times vitriolic and often anonymous attacks from the side-lines. The Council of Ministers, scrutiny, back benchers all have a role to play, but the public have a massively important role which will be muted if we don’t participate.

22 June is our chance to make a change; make sure you grab it now and do something to improve things for Jersey and our interests further afield.

Eliot Lincoln | Party Chair 

First published | JEP 8 January 2022

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