We are now half way through the senatorial hustings and I want this evening to talk about democracy in Jersey, which seems to me to be at a low ebb. People do not have much confidence in the States. Voter turnout is lower than in almost any other small democracy. There are too many States members and the political structure is unnecessarily complicated. Reform of our electoral system is urgently needed.

At election time one should know what the political choices are. I said in St Martin that income tax should stay at 20% and GST at 5%. The Reform Jersey party manifesto says “We support progressive taxation”. What does that mean? 30% or 40% income tax if you earn more than £30,000 p.a.? Wealth tax? Capital gains tax? They do not tell us. We would probably be frightened to death if they did. The manifesto is as empty of detail as the platitudinous promises on election posters to work for you or to use good sense. What do candidates really stand for? It is difficult in most cases to tell, and the only hints are the manifestos and the minimal exposure at these hustings.

Democracy involves accountability to the people. There are at least two parts to that social contract. The first is that candidates tell voters exactly what policies they believe in and the voters elect or reject them. The second is that if the people are asked for their views on a particular issue, the politicians (unless it is a matter of conscience) should listen and act. Some may not have liked the referendum questions on electoral reform, but there was a clear choice and 17,000 voters took the trouble to vote. 81% wanted reform. A majority of politicians ignored the result. They gave effect, by doing nothing, to the option chosen by 19% of the voters. It was a complete denial of democracy. Indeed, it has undermined confidence in the political process itself. People have said – “Why bother to vote? They take no notice.”

It’s an understandable reaction, but of course wrong. I hope people will vote in the Constables’ referendum despite the fact that some politicians think they know better than the people. If re-elected, I will respect the outcome, whatever it is, and continue to work for electoral reform because it is the only way in which true democracy can begin to reassert itself.