Reform Jersey
Reform Jersey
Rob Ward

There seems to be a dialogue that exists in the public domain over the experience of States’ Members before entering the assembly to represent their constituents.

Unfortunately, it is being fed by the media and some members of the assembly; who have a very fixed view on who should be there. And one that is quite contradictory at times. 

The argument seems to be based around the concept of a perceived lack of experience of ‘senior leadership’ in the ‘real world’. 

So let's analyse these ideas. 

First of all, it’s not clear what is meant by senior leadership. I could assume (and I am trying to avoid this) that this refers to senior leadership in commerce, banking, finance or simply the business entrepreneur from the private sector. Now I agree that this experience may well be useful. But so is leadership in the public sector. Remember that the government is responsible for the delivery of a wide range of public services. Some experience of working in this sector would give a valuable insight. 

Then there is the term “senior”. I will again assume that this is not simply a reference to age, but more to the level of responsibility. And here lies a problem. It is clear that boardrooms, management and leadership across sectors is not representative of our population. Women, young people, those with disabilities, care leavers, ethnic minorities, LGBT individuals are amongst the groups under represented. So, are we suggesting that this under representation will be reflected in our governing structure? I would suggest the opposite. A classic Catch 22 situation. Perhaps those who have so rightly highlighted the imbalance of representation across business should remember this.

Having said, that age itself is not what is being referred to here. The assembly does not dispel this idea. Indeed, to be young in the assembly comes with a challenge to constantly prove your worth. Beyond that of older members. 

And then there is the concept of leadership. Leadership of what? Is this classic “man management”? And I use this term on purpose. The macho world of competitive private enterprise where the alpha male (and yes I use that on purpose) dominates. Is this what we want to run the island? Indeed, is this what we have? 

The qualities needed for leadership are varied. I would list organisational skills, intellect, the ability to analyse a situation, the ability to multitask, empathy, a caring nature, and communication skills to be key for any leader. How many people have these qualities and only get to demonstrate them due to chance changes in their work and private life?  

And now we get to the ‘real world’. What a concept. And the first question here is ‘Whose real world’? 

To assume that any of us can define the ‘real world’ is arrogant to say the least. My experience of the world is real to me. I hope that in my role, I will meet as wide a range of those I represent as possible in order to get a picture of their world. From the wealthiest to the poorest in our community. To assume I represent the real world is nonsense. I represent a worldview that should be informed as much as possible. It's similar to the reference to ‘the public’ made by politicians worldwide. 

And how will we truly represent the myriad of “real” that exists? The answer is the opposite of narrowing our political representatives to senior leaders of the type I have mentioned. 

We need leadership. And that requires a variety of skills, people and experience. The real danger with the dialogue being created is the underlying drive to limit the representation of our population. To turn the States assembly into a corporate boardroom, with all of the under representation and limited ideals that entails. Remember the banking crisis? That was not caused by public sector workers, young people or those with no experience of the corporate world. 

The real factor missing from this dialogue of the media and some politicians are the underlying political motives’. Yet again, they are hidden under the smokescreen of so called ‘independence’ or media balance. This dialogue is overtly political and designed to undermine all but those who fit into the privileged world view that they will inevitably over represent. Be careful what you wish for. 

So, rather than a narrow group of corporate and/or big business representatives, lets encourage nurses, doctors, teachers, care workers, manual workers, shop workers,  parents at home with their children, tenants rather than landlords, young people, those with disabilities and the so many others who are under represented in the States Assembly. 

So, the assumption that there are too many members with too little ‘real’ world experience is not spot on. It is misdirected. Misinformed and too simplistic a viewpoint to merit the coverage this concept gets. 

Do not be afraid of difference. Embrace it and try to understand the skills and world view we all bring. Bullying comes in many forms. To undermine those without a voice before they try to use it is perhaps the most insidious. 

Get involved. Bring your skills, Bring your world views and remember that politics is about people. In all or their shapes and forms. 

Until next time.