I awoke this morning (Tuesday) feeling absolutely wonderful. This feeling wasn’t dampened when I looked out of the window and noticed that autumn had arrived earlier than usual. It wasn’t until I began listening to the States debate that I began my slide into the Slough of Despond.
Not only did they sound as though they had run out of steam but they also put on a fair impression of how I imagine the Brexit negotiations are getting along. After four long years all the tensions of a divided Assembly were brought to a head with petty squabbles and point scoring clearly in evidence. I accept that much of it will be electioneering and the last opportunity to get some populist sound bites carried by the media, but is that any reason to drop the bar quite so low?
I shrugged my shoulders and told myself not to worry because their time is almost over and surely a new Assembly will kick off with new energy and enthusiasm. But, hang on, what if the majority of this lot get back in again? Will they shed their 2016 skins and begin again with an open mind and all hatchets buried?
I doubt that will be a likely outcome. I worry now that island-wide voting will indeed favour sitting deputies and our new Assembly will be dominated by the same tired and feuding deputies who will just pick up where they left off. Luckily some of the more obviously divisive deputies with extreme views (extreme from the very (c)onservative Guernsey Way) will not be standing again.
But how can we prevent a new Assembly being split right down the middle again and probably made up of the same main players? For instance if we re-elect both Deputy St Pier and Deputy Ferbrache will the same rivalry once again undermine the efficiency of the States?
New deputies with no previous Assembly experience will be all at sea without a paddle for some months after taking their seats and are likely to align themselves with the big boys and girls who know their way around. This will likely lead to some choosing the light and others the dark side of the chamber.
At the time of writing it seems to me that political parties will not really exist and shouldn’t hugely impact the outcome. The Partnership of Independents is neither fish nor fowl but is clearly designed to prevent the 2020 Assembly being as fractious as the current one. At first I was extremely supportive of an attempt to bring consensus government back to our island.
The concept of a group of true independents, each of whom would vote as their conscience dictated but win or lose would then support the decision of the States, takes us back to a previous time when by and large that is how our States of Deliberation operated.
My early excitement quickly subsided when I thought about the named candidates. I’m not certain that their politics and general beliefs are aligned enough for the pledge to always support decisions made by the Assembly will stand up when some of those Independents just cannot accept the principle of the decision.
And as a voter I can’t see how I can vote for a candidate who wouldn’t be prepared to campaign to overturn a decision which they see as wrong. Therefore at this time I will not be voting for any block of candidates but will cast my votes for the individuals who I think are right for the job. I doubt very much that there will be 38 such candidates and I expect to use very few of my votes.
This doesn’t mean that I will not vote for any candidate in Deputy St Pier’s party, I will treat them as individuals and ignore the grouping. I do hope to see a last-minute influx of good candidates and I’m keeping my powder dry until I know exactly who will be standing and I ask anyone who is unsure about throwing their hat into the ring to just do it.
I particularly would like to see younger candidates because, after all, the future Guernsey they will be building is more theirs than it is the Guernsey of the oldies in the States. I was very much made aware of this when I visited the excellent Vintage Agricultural Show with my 14-year-old grandson. The historical past the show was celebrating was hardly history to me. I had used many of the ‘vintage’ implements and vehicles on show in my working life. The ‘old’ cars which he found quite amusing didn’t seem that old to me. A Citroen 2CV was on display, surely that can’t be old?
When I was his age I certainly couldn’t have imagined 2020 Guernsey. Not only how the industries and infrastructure would change but also how social norms would change. He is a member of GenerationZ (5-24 year olds) and in a conversation over lunch it became clear to me that he is as challenging of the opinions of Millenials (24-39) as I am.
How do we build a Guernsey that will be attractive to GenerationZ? Z is our future and if we can’t retain them, get them to return or attract those with no Guernsey links then we have no future. Is an Assembly of Boomers (56-74), GenerationX (40-55) and a handful of Millenials equipped with the vision to prepare Guernsey for GenerationZ?
Or is the fractious nature of the States a battle between Boomers and GenerationX/Millenials each trying to build a Guernsey in their image?
What’s the chance of at least one Z candidate and even more what’s the chance of getting the GenerationZ voters out in great numbers on election day? I doubt a single 16-year-old will read this column but if you know a GenerationZ of voting age I urge you to encourage them to engage in this election and do all they can to keep this island community alive.
Each generation has become more global in its views and the special link which ties us to our island becomes weaker. It will take more than money to make Guernsey the centre of the universe for our GenerationZ. And loading them with debt, which they abhor, is not going to do it. We must get it right on October 7th. Time is running out so please don’t just vote the old lot back if you want things to change for the better.