Jersey Senators axed after calls to save them were rejected

Senators will not return to Jersey States Assembly after calls to save them were rejected by politicians today (21 April).

Senators Gorst and Farnham both brought amendments to the proposition seeking to retain the Senators.In December the Assembly approved in-principle reforms which would see the island-wide role of Senators axed, and replaced instead by 37 district representatives from nine electoral districts and 12 Constables.

Plans agreed in December would see the island-wide role of Senators axed, and replaced instead by 37 district representatives. Credit: ITV Channel TV

The States sitting was meant to be the first step towards making that a reality, with the Privileges and Procedures Committee proposing amendments to the Assembly's Constitution in the first instance.They are also proposing to move the date of the next election back by a month to June 2022, to enable an uninterrupted five week run between nomination night and election day, without the impact of Easter, the May Bank Holiday and Liberation Day getting in the way.

Senator Gorst said it "would provide a more balanced, democratic and representative Assembly".

Senator Farnham, lodged an amendment which supported Senator Gorst's position, but suggested adding another three Deputies to the Assembly to increase voter equity.

Both Senators argue the island-wide office of Senator carries the most democratic weight, being accountable to all voters rather than just a district.

The island-wide mandate gives us all a shared, direct and equal influence over the make-up of the States Assembly and, albeit more indirectly, the Government. I believe this is positive for engagement in politics and for turnout at elections, and it is my contention that our democracy will be poorer in its absence.

Senator Ian Gorst

An example, according to Senator Gorst, is in the election of Chief Minister. A convention has developed that the Chief Minister will be a Senator, which means all islanders get to have a say in the general election "as to who is to be the leader of our next Government".The Privileges and Procedures Committee opposes the amendments stating that the "main driver" for the proposed and agreed changes "has always been to simplify the existing system and make it more accessible and understandable".

In their view, Senator Farnham and Senator Gorst are seeking to reverse change which was "embraced" by the Assembly in December 2020.

They also say the Senators are ignoring the obvious democratic deficiencies of the office, such as the cost of island wide campaigning being beyond the reach of many candidates.

In trying to encourage quality candidates, from all walks of life, to come forward, PPC is aware that the current system is not fair. Senatorial candidates face a greater financial outlay than their Deputy counterparts to ensure their message reaches the entire island, which may be a deterrent for those with limited budgets. The nine districts will be more compact, even for those where several Parishes come together for electoral purposes.

Senator Ian Gorst