Politics? That’s just for those who can afford it

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From Trevor Pitman.

WHILE the introduction of election expenses caps to finally prevent the effective buying of seats in the States by wealthy candidates is to be welcomed, the public should be under no delusion that in its present form this legislation from the Privileges and Procedures Committee will do nothing of the sort.

These still have more holes open to abuse by those possessing significant wealth than an old string vest.

But I believe the real underlying concern for any who wish to see transparency, fairness and accountability in government should actually be the evidence that those establishment figures holding the reins of political power and influence, both within and outside this lamentable Council of Ministers, want absolutely nothing of the sort. Indeed, the thought of a few more working-class peasants high on ability getting into government fills them with terror.

Just look at another example of establishment spin regarding regulations to ‘allow’ those employed by the States to stand for election. In the 21st century most of us, even we States employees, have an annual leave entitlement.

What we choose to do with those holidays are surely for us as individuals to decide, whether this be painting the flat or house or simply trying not to worry about GST, or whether we win still be working aged 70 to try and pay the mortgage.

If someone should alternatively want to offer themselves up for election, then the use of an annual leave entitlement should also be quite acceptable: a person would, after all, be removed from their place of employment throughout the election.

This would also allow a whole new vein of potentially highly capable working people to offer themselves up to serve the electorate – winners all round. But not if our human resources mandarins and their ministerial puppet masters have their way.

As one such professional, employed by Education, Sport and Culture, considering standing for election, I initially had the sensible and sympathetic agreement from Staff Services to do just the above. What is actually being imposed – and please remember the ‘level election playing field’ spin here – is enforced unpaid leave for the entire duration of the elections. No commonsense uses of annual holidays or even owed time off in lieu.

And the reason for all this, according to the Council of Ministers? Because government ‘can’t have individuals campaigning for election while on the public payroll’.

The slight anomaly that multi-millionaire ministers up for re-election will be allowed to draw their desperately needed salaries throughout the campaign is obviously something we peasants really shouldn’t be troubling ourselves with.

Oddly enough, an employee can go out and campaign for a sitting politician or even – yup – another States colleague.

So there you have it, a ‘level election playing field’ for the States employee. Cancel this year’s holiday, take out a bank loan to fund a modest election campaign, then think about how you are now going to pay the mortgage, live, and feed the kids, all with no income.

Fair? No. That is why, having taken legal advice this week, I am in the process of attempting to mount a legal challenge. The opportunity to serve the Island in government should be open to all, not just those with a suitably swollen bank account.


Les Nouvelles Charrières,

St John.

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