Reform Jersey
Reform Jersey
Rob Ward

The new year brings a number of challenges for us all. Not least, the outcome of Brexit for Jersey. But there is much more that we have to address as this year comes along.

This blog is a look forward to 2019 and a chance to raise some of the issues for discussion.

I want 2019 to be the year where we really engage people in politics and get the message across that voting now, and in the future is vital for all sections of our community. There is an obvious opportunity with the by-election on 27th February.

I would particularly like to get more young people involved in politics this year. Jersey gives the right to vote from the age of 16. Yet we have a very low young voter turnout.

The only real data we have for 2018 is from a voter engagement survey that concluded:

  • Whilst 67% of adults say they are interested in Jersey politics, those aged 55+ are more likely to have voted in Jersey’s 2018 General Election than those aged 16-34, with a 73% and 32% turnout respectively

  • Half of 16-34 year olds say they aren’t interested in Jersey politics (51%) – this is significantly higher than the other age groups (35-54 28% vs 55+ 24%)


So, what do we do?

I believe that people both younger and older need to see the relevance of politics to their lives and have a trust in political representatives beyond just the personality of that individual. In other words, an understanding and subsequent trust in the underlying politics. This is important because the denial of underlying political belief leads to empty discussion and confusion. Let me explain.

I have been called a number of political names in the past. Socialist, leftie, liberal, social democrat, Trotsky and even tax avoiding Tory by friends in the UK. Given the very broad spectrum here, it's no wonder that some avoid all classifications.

I am quite happy to be called left wing. I believe in equality and social inclusion. I am a proud trade unionist and will always support policies that promote a fairer society that uses all of its communities skills and abilities; rather than allowing isolation of the vulnerable and the waste of human talent.

Without a foundation to our beliefs, we risk simply being a follower of random opinion, fads and fashions. And it is here that I believe our political system fails. Politicians influences are too often hidden. There are unnamed and undefined driving forces that determine their political direction. When combined with politicians who claim independence, changing these denied and hidden underlying influences becomes impossible and therefore any involvement is pointless. So why engage?

Our politicians and the subsequent political discourse simply do not inspire our younger people in offering real influence or the possibility of change.

Now, I should be clear that to me one solution is party politics. As a Reform member of the States, you know my manifesto. You can read it online. It should have been no surprise when our proposition to change the tax system was brought forward within the first 6 months of this Assembly. And indeed, no surprises when we work for the other pledges made and the key features of the wider manifesto. It is in this clarity that we have the opportunity to engage more of our community in politics itself. But this clarity is rare. We are also very aware that we need to engage our membership and the wider public to inform future policy.

We need more political parties in Jersey. A centre-right alternative will give people a genuine comparison of policies rather than personalities. This may seem strange to some. Why would I encourage opposition?. To put it simply, we would know where the opposition is and what it stands for. The chameleon nature of Jersey politics stunts political discourse. And here’s the controversial bit. I believe that this is what young people want. They want something to argue with. A side to take. A political position to align to. It may change over time, and with experience, but at least it's there.

Let me be absolutely clear. Politics is life. It drives your wealth or lack of it. The quality of your home and indeed your rights or not to that home. It determines your right to be in Jersey and your rights to be heard. Equally, it will provide the reasons why you may be ignored. The only way to ensure that you maintain your rights is to be part of the process that has defined these rights. And that is politics. Have a voice. Use it. Get involved and be positive about the future.

Reform Jersey in 2019

We have been working on a number of initiatives for 2019. Here are some:

  1. We will be launching a helpline for islanders. It is there as a first place to gain advice and assistance on the wide range of areas constituents contact about. We have trained volunteers who will staff this facility.

  2. We will be launching our new membership system. It is vital that we have a source of income and an active membership if we are to build reform as a grassroots party that truly represents and engages islanders in our policies and politics. Members will be asked for a a small monthly fee of £2 to help fund the helpline and campaigns in general.

  3. We will be fighting a bye -election in St Helier No.  3 and /4. I am very pleased to be supporting Lyndsay Feltham as the Reform Jersey candidate. She is intelligent, articulate, organised and has the underlying political foundations that I have been discussing above.

  4. We will continue to pursue our election pledges and be a consistent voice in the States Chamber.

  5. Reform members of the States will continue to work hard as ministers, assistant ministers and as key members of scrutiny panels holding government to account.

  6. We will have more social events where we hope to see you.

So what can you do? Join the party. Get involved. Whatever your age. Come along to social events, to ‘pint and politics’ and to any other events you see. Make 2019 the year you become political. Who knows, you could be standing in the next election.

Here’s to politics in 2019.