Monday, 27 May 2019

Three cheers and one big warning.

My old friend Daniel didn't get elected as a Green MP. Not any great surprise in the East Midlands which is seldom kind to third parties electorally. But two friends from my days in ULS did win seats for the Lib Dems - Martin Horwood and Jane Brophy.  I particularly remember Jane as a strong campaigner  on acid rain and climate change.  Personally I'm also pleased to see Molly Scott Cato returned as a Green MEP.

Inevitably the Euro election results are being seen in the UK as a Brexit referendum proxy.  But I think Brexit just magnified in the UK a trend evident across most of Europe.  The parties that made gains were Liberals, Greens and populists.  The far right surge some had predicted didn't happen though they scored in France, Italy and Hungary.

The big losers were largely the established power holding parties.  It is amazing the Labour has no MEPs in Scotland and came third in Wales  while the Tories could only muster probably 4 (Scottish results pending), and their worst results since they became a party in 1834!

So what of the warning?  There are no pan European parties  in  EU elections currently.  MEP's represent national parties who federate or combine into groups in the parliament.  And likely now the largest national party in the parliament will be Farage's Brexit party!  And that is all too typical of what happens when consensus breaks down and views polarise - populists  gain undue sway.  Of course if Britain does actually leave Farage's influence there will be terminated.  But that's little comfort - populists are a bit like hydra heads - chop one off and a couple more appear.  

If Europe and Britain have started to see the critical need to address ecological and human issues beyond just economics, that's good. But the transition from here to  that being a major force will be turbulent and difficult.  That uncertain ground between the turning of major political tides is an opportunity also for populists and demagogues .  Beware.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Groundhog reform day is June 4th.

Yes there is to be another States debate on  (not) reforming themselves.  Given the criticism made by the Commonwealth observers at the last election, it is hard  to see how no change can be supported.  PPC have a proposal that pretty much  meets all the expected international convention criteria.  You can see the proposal explained at   -voting-reform-cards-again/

I think there is a small wrinkle that can be dealt with in an amendment.  As it stands it is possible in these constituencies that none of the representatives lives, works or has any tie to one of the member parishes.  Most likely to affect St Mary because of it's small population. 

To deal with that I would argue  for  giving the  constables  a right of audience (not a vote) in the States Assembly to raise parish specific matters.  I would also argue they should have the right to make a proposition  but only where requested to do so by a Parish Assembly. 

Of course that still leaves a problem that there is no overall Island wide mandate for anyone.  No change is going to give everyone what they want.  On the plus side, potentially, just nine districts would mean a party or campaign group could realistically aim to have a representative stand in every constituency.  We might get some seriously thought out, comprehensive and detailed competing manifestos and programmes for government.  Wouldn't that be novel.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Where are your chickens?

Yesterday Helen spotted a ferret while she was out tending to the pullets.  They are lethal to poultry, often killing small flocks of birds for no clear reason. It put me in mind of various chicken related aphorisms, and how they seems very appropriate to the state  Jersey is in today.

In the past few days we have had headlines about our water quality, the ridiculously high levels of contaminants in tests at the waterfront, the Environment Minister saying we need a law on air pollution, and the OECD report that makes it clear we are still at the bottom of the league in civil engagement, our disposable income per capita is lower than the average and our overall quality of life ranking is slipping.

None of this should really be news.  Many ecologically minded activists from the former group Concern to  Stuart Syvret  predicted this since the 1990's.    The origins go back further of course to an obsession in the Island that growing the economy is the magic solution to  political problems.  And growing the economy meant growing the population. But we did that without any due planning for the impacts or acknowledgement of the problems that would inevitably ensue once the benefits wore and the ponzi  nature took dominance.  Those headlines they are the chickens coming home to roost....

Jersey is not alone in that live for today and hang the future consequences is far from uncommon.   You can find evidence all over the place, from pitiful household savings and pension provision to the dubious yield chasing strategies of big agi business. 

For thirty years  those of us who campaigned and tried to use the given political structures and tools to avert the growing ecological crisis have failed.  At practically every turn the economic growth argument has trumped the debate.  Yes there have been changes, but not I would say where it matters.  People and businesses  have been persuaded to make substitutional changes.  But no fundamental changes.  So they replace their light bulbs with low energy ones , maybe cut down a bit on meat consumption, and perhaps look to an electric car when they next come to change vehicle.  But they (we) are still consuming and polluting and destroying beyond what is bearable. 

As the odds and risks grow, particularly in respect to climate change and its impacts, the  approach to campaigning has shifted.  Today across 20 or so of the 'advanced' countries of the world, activists will be taking part in events under the banner of Extinction Rebellion


Some readers will be aware I was one of the founders and for some year chair of the Jersey Climate Action Network.  I stepped down as chair a couple of years ago  largely for some of the same reasons the founders of Extinction Rebellion started their set up.  Traditional campaigning wasn't working and the response from governments and businesses in particular wasn't up to speed.  Purely coincidence, but of course their campaign caught my attention.

Clearly they have adopted an emotive and controversial title for themselves.  There is evidence the rate of species loss is much greater than normally expected. So yes extinction in the widest sense.  Rebellion is a bit trickier.  I don't have a problem with non violent direct action, but I wouldn't call that rebellion.  Most dictionary definitions of rebellion specifically cite it as armed or violent. I 'd argue for disobedience.

Another thing that worries me a little about the events I have read of planned in London is that they aim to close streets. I get it  -road traffic is a major contributor to green house gases emissions.   But the target isn't the ordinary people , it is the government , possibly big polluting businesses, not ordinary citizens.   Indeed of the actions are to inconvenient to the public yo might well find it losses support rather than garners it, though you probably will get some news coverage.

My one other niggle is that what they are calling for is a mechanism , and a target, but there is no sense of how it is achieved, or even is achievable.  To my mind the time for talking has passed.  We can keep setting  tighter targets, but targets aren't the problem. It is lack of urgent action to meet the targets that is the problem, and nothing here resolves that. 

The local event today in the Royal Square differs a little.  Because there is already a proposition going to the States to step up its act on climate change the meeting at lunchtime is more a lobby in support of that. That I can support without qualms.  However I certainly will not be wearing black as requested by local organisers.  I can see that might work as a sort of mourning for the habitats and species already lost.  But black at a political/public lobbying event is the signature of fascists and I will not do that.