Stand and deliver

Having pored over the guidance note for prospective candidates, Horace Camp offers some words of advice to those considering standing in the coming election.

Shutterstock picture. (28574296)
Shutterstock picture. (28574296)

THE States of Guernsey, as helpful as ever, has produced a guidance note for prospective candidates in the soon to be upon us general election.

The guide runs to 38 pages plus appendices and contains a myriad of links to even more information.

The guide is in two parts, the first being information that candidates will need to make their application and the second is about the role of a people’s deputy.

The first section is 28 pages long.

It isn’t as easy or as enjoyable as reading one of JK Rowling’s epic tales of a young wizard but it is, for a States document, reasonably brief, even if it doesn’t follow the spirit of Winston Churchill’s famous call for brevity in official reports.

The next 10 pages are, I think, designed to put off as many candidates as possible.

It explains that deputies will be hit with hundreds of pages of A4 to read every month, just to prepare for the States Meetings. Add to that, the reading workload for committee members and dealing with communications from constituents and clearly there will not be a waking moment when a deputy isn’t reading something.

A young Winston reading the guidance note would probably have been deterred from entering political life, given that he later wrote: ‘To do our work, we all have to read a mass of papers. Nearly all of them are far too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points. I ask my colleagues and their staffs to see to it that their reports are shorter.’

Could it be that the States of Guernsey’s idea of a model politician and Winston’s differed to a great extent?

Perhaps potential candidates should get together and draft a guidance note for the civil service on preparing reports for deputies?

Just what is the role of a deputy? And will the role change if a party wins 21 seats and is able to form a government?

Far from dissuading potential candidates by emphasising the volume of work, and particularly reading, I would have thought the States would have been more inclusive and try to attract candidates with a diverse range of interests, education and talents.

It is fair to warn candidates that their lives and the lives of their families will change but to highlight certain requirements, such as the ability to read complex documents, digest the information contained therein and rely upon the knowledge gained to cast a vote in the Assembly, could be enough to stifle the ambition of the self-taught individual who left school at 15 to make their way in life.

There can be only 38 deputies and to ensure they are representative of the whole community we must encourage candidates from all walks of life, educational achievement, wealth and abilities.

The role of a deputy is pretty much what any deputy cares to make of it.

Some want to lead, some want to manage. Some want to be practical, others theoretical. Some want to champion single causes, while others may want to help individual islanders in distress.

Our system of government allows for all of these things, or a combination of them, and more.

There is no single template for a deputy and it will be a sad day when there are no characters sitting in the Assembly.

The role of a deputy is to serve the people of Guernsey as best you can by the application of common sense combined with integrity.

We all have different talents. Perhaps your talent is as a disruptor and you will spend your time trying to undermine policies you don’t agree with.

Or you are a talented orator and can spin the insights of cleverer deputies better than they can to win the day.

It could be that you have little enthusiasm for committee work but will devote all of your time to helping islanders as best you can in a practical way.

Possibly you are a big picture person and can see where the little picture people are going wrong by focusing so much on the detail they can’t see the real world any more.

What I’m trying to say here is if you are considering standing and have been made to feel inadequate by the guidance note, take heart and rethink your decision.

Not every candidate can be a Gavin St Pier and if we had 38 Gavins it would be a bloodbath.

It takes all sorts and you could be the Bertie Bassett of the 2020 Assembly.

There is one caveat to all this and that is if a party is successful enough to win a majority.

Imagine you are the leader of a party with 21 confirmed seats in the Assembly.

Who do you propose and elect as chief minister?

The best candidate, who is the leader of another party, or yourself?

And when it comes to committee presidents, do you nominate and elect only your own people?

You realise that 21 members is not enough to fill all the other committee seats so you ensure that your party has a voting majority on each of them. You could make your candidates go further by just expecting them to vote at committee level but not to work too hard otherwise?

Do all of your deputies have to read and be knowledgeable about everything that comes up for debate?

Of course not because they will be instructed how to vote once the party has decided.

This means more of your people can be used for party political policy making and other such progressive tasks.

The other 17 deputies can spend their days scrutinising, being frustrated on committees and calling out the chief minister in the media at least once a day.

What a nightmare scenario.

Please, people of Guernsey, don’t let it happen.

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