The general election to be held on 22 June 2022 (five twos!) will be quite different from those which have gone before. The position described below is complicated and changing. It shows how complicated ( & undemocratic?) Island elections can be.
Themes which may explain what is happening:
- Uncontested elections are undemocratic.
- The incomplete emergence of party politics has complicated things.
- They have been complicated still further by Deputies’ ability to choose where they can stand, which has become something of a political game
Last time Grouville residents had ten votes, eight for Senators and one each for the Constable and Deputy of Grouville. However both John Le Maistre and Carolyn Labey were returned unopposed in Grouville, which, of course, was one of the criticisms of Jersey’s “partly-democratic” political system. As the return of both Constable and Deputy was unopposed, Grouville voters in practice had eight votes in anger, those for the Senators elected on competitive Island wide mandates.
This time Grouville voters will have only four votes, one for the Constable and three for the three Deputies representing the new electoral district formed by putting together the Parishes of Grouville & St Martin. There will certainly be an improvement, as both Mark Labey and Sarah Howard are standing as Constable for Grouville, so for the first time in three elections, there will be a real choice for Constable before voters. Indeed, as I write, Grouville will be the only Parish in which there will be a contested election for Constable. Sarah Howard has confirmed she will not be standing for a political party, as she believes this is inconsistent with the Constable’s responsibilities to represent the Parish community as a whole. Mark Labey hasn’t confirmed whether he will be standing as Constable for a party or not.
Whether there will be a choice for the three Deputies of the new Grouville-St Martin electoral district remains up in the air. Carolyn Labey is the sole Deputy for Grouville under the existing system, Steve Luce the sole Deputy for St Martin. Both were returned unopposed in 2014 and 2018.
The question of who may stand as Deputy is complicated by the uncertain emergence of party politics in Jersey. Carolyn Labey has said that she will seek election as an independent non-party candidate for the new two-Parish three-Deputy electoral district. Piers Sangan, a younger ecologist who was brought up here, in 2021 had said he would stand as a member of the Alliance Party. However, with its association with an unpopular Island government, Piers has now confirmed he will be standing as an independent. Steve Luce is standing for the new Progress Party, of which he is Party Secretary and apparently Chief Whip, but has not said in which electoral district.
My understanding is that Guy de Faye a former broadcaster and Deputy has now confirmed he will stand in Grouville & St Martin. His recent political record is unimpressive. In 2002 and in 2005 he failed as a Senatorial candidate & under the electoral system then in place was elected as a Deputy in St Helier. He stood again as a Senator in 2014 and in a Senatorial by-election in 2016, in both cases failing to be elected. In 2018 he came last out of 10 candidates for Deputy in St Helier District 3 and 4 and again failed in a by-election for Deputy there in 2019. He is impressive only in his resilience, so does he consider Grouville & St Martin an easy target? If no one else stands in Grouville & St Martin, we would be left with three candidates for three seats. Surely we can do better than that ?
Sir Philip Bailhache lives in Grouville. He was successively elected as its Deputy here in 1972, and served the Island as Bailiff and then Senator, topping the poll in 2011 and coming second to Ian Gorst in 2014. Sir Philip is leader of the new Jersey Liberal Conservative Party, vying for the centre-right vote with Alliance but, unlike it, distanced from the present government of Jersey. Sir Philip has confirmed he intends to stand for election as a Deputy, but without saying in which of the new nine electoral districts. He has said he would like to stand against the other knight, Sir Mark Boleat, who has returned to the Island after a glittering career in the City of London to be crowned as leader of Alliance. Sir Mark has now confirmed he will be standing in St Clement.
The situation has been made less clear with the recent news that Steve Luce’s Progress Party will form an electoral alliance with Sir Philip’s Liberal Conservatives. It does seem that by both Sir Philip and Steve Luce declaring that they would stand in Grouville and St Martin, would ensure that there is a competitive election for the new electoral district, which would be a victory for democracy with five candidates Sir Philip, Steve Luce, Guy de Faye, Carolyn Labey and Piers Sangan, competing for three seats as Deputy, and a real choice for parishioners.
It would not help if Sir Philip and Steve Luce agree, say, that only Steve Luce would stand in Grouville and St Martin, so with Carolyn Labey, Guy de Faye and Piers Sangan already committed, there would be four candidates for three seats.
For Sir Philip to confirm he too would be a candidate in St Clement to face Sir Mark would, in my view, be unhelpful.
Finally I would not only ask Sir Philip and Steve Luce to stand in Grouville and St Martin but also urge other candidates to put themselves forward. Two, with ability who come to mind who live in Grouville, are former Senator Ben Shenton and former St Helier Deputy, Jennifer Bridge.
However much you dislike the new less democratic system, without voters having an Island wide choice, it will be even worse if there is no competitive election for Deputy in electoral districts like Grouville and St Martin.