Reform Jersey
Reform Jersey

As 2022 draws to a close I have noticed several political commentators saying that this was the year political parties failed in Jersey. Most will caveat that by adding ‘new’ or ‘except for Reform’. Having to include that must irk some of those writers. Some might wonder how it was possible in a conservative island for the centre-left party to come out of a general election in so much better shape than all the other parties. Of course, many will brush that off as party politics not being the way we do things here, but whether they like it or not, Reform Jersey has proved otherwise, and we are here to stay. Here are some of my reflections about why we succeeded when others failed.

I became Party Chairperson in 2019 and held that position for three years.  The role of a Chairperson that wasn’t an elected States Member was established to respond to the increase in parliamentary party members achieved in the 2018 general election.  Our party Leader (also Chairman), Sam Mézec, had recognised that the organisation needed to evolve to grow further.  I think it’s important to recognise Sam’s organisational leadership here.  It’s brave for a leader to split their role and place their trust in other people, particularly when you care as much for the organisation as he does.


Upon becoming Chairperson I quickly learned that no playbook is available to tell you how to run a political party in Jersey.  Party rule books from larger jurisdictions can’t be copied and pasted, and party politics is more established in other similar jurisdictions, so while we could learn from them, we were operating in an entirely different space.  As with any organisation, we needed to establish internal policies and procedures suitable for our circumstances and manage the change process and its effect on our people.   In that sense running a political party is like running any other organisation; another similarity is the need to establish a leadership team that works well together towards a shared vision.  As an organisation, our shared vision is critical to us and part of our constitution, as individuals we may have different ways of working or approaching things, but it is our commitment to the vision and our shared values that bring us together.


Whilst we may be the most established party on the island, we are still a small organisation that relies on volunteers and goodwill to get things done.  Most of the Management Committee work full-time and commit time out of working hours to run the party.  Like many other small (and larger) organisations, we were affected by Covid restrictions during the last few years.  Our ability to connect with potential members and voters was hampered; we could not hold regular face-to-face meetings with members, and our Management Committee met mostly over zoom.  It was a frustrating time, particularly with a general election looming, as we could not meet with members as often as we would have liked to, and we had to rely on a relatively small group of committed people to do things that needed doing. 


Working towards the election we knew we needed to establish a good process for recruiting and selecting candidates.  Deciding to stand for election is not a decision to be taken lightly, and the Management Committee also had to ensure that the party only put forward quality candidates that would be good and hard-working States Members.  It was also important for us to involve candidates and other party members in developing our manifesto.  Conversations with candidates from other parties during the election campaign made it apparent that our approach here had been very different to other parties. 


During the campaign itself, our team of candidates met together weekly to share our experiences.  Election campaigns are hard work, and it's an emotional time, so I was surprised to learn from other parties’ candidates that the other parties hadn’t put regular team meetings in place.  Teamwork is integral to how we work as a party; perhaps that is what sets us apart from the other parties?  We have learned a lot from our campaign; there are many things we could have done better and many that we did well.  As with everything we do, we are always learning and wanting to improve how we do things and support other team members.


Whilst the party had significant success on election night and doubled our number in the States Assembly, it cannot be forgotten that some of our team didn’t win seats, with some very narrow losses.  I am very pleased that Helen Evans, has now become our party Chairperson and that other unelected candidates continue to be involved on the Management Committee and as party members.  This brings me back to the importance of our shared vision and individuals' commitment to working towards that in any capacity.  It's that which makes our organisation continue to strengthen.


Following the election, the size of our parliamentary party doubled from five to ten.  Our States Members are seen within the States Assembly as a well-organised group surrounded by a supportive team.  I am incredibly proud of that.  Our party continues to face the challenges of all growing organisations, and our structures and processes will need to change and adapt to suit the organisation we are becoming. I know that our Parliamentary Party and Management Committee members are committed to doing this so that we can deliver on our current manifesto and grow the party further with our eye towards the 2026 election.