Following every election there is a honeymoon period which invariably brings a burst of newfound energy not only amongst the public but within the civil service and amongst new and returning politicians. I have observed elections from the outside in the past and having worked for over a decade within the civil service, and more recently within the charitable sector, I have often noticed that this initial burst of energy tends to fade away rapidly as elected politicians revert to type and fall out of listening mode.
As the Council of Ministers mark the first full year in office and after having spoken to civil servants, I asked if that usual burst of energy is magnified on this occasion or is it just that I am so actively involved with it, that I notice it more acutely? The response from those whom I have asked has always been – there is undoubtedly a bigger buzz around the office, and indeed the Island, than most people can ever remember. The 100 days programme being singled out for particular high praise.
It is often said that governments who are constantly in campaigning mode tend to do better when it comes to election time, I would change the slant on that statement and say that governments who are continually in delivery mode are the ones that are more likely to be successful with the electorate and are more likely to continue to be able to make positive changes, if re-elected.
One thing is for certain, this government has been in delivery mode from the get-go and there has been no time wasted in defining clarity of purpose and delivering for the people of jersey and, in particular, for the most vulnerable in our society, who are most affected by the rising cost-of-living. A better life and brighter futures are being created. It will not all be plain sailing, though, and we need to ensure that the sun continues to shine on all of us.
The package of financial measures that were passed in the States last year have undoubtedly improved the lives of many Islanders, this is continuing with the Social Security Minister’s scheme which reduced the cost of surgery visits to GPs, and I am proud to have played a part in that transformational change.
When out canvassing and knocking doors before the election, one of the big issues which was regularly discussed was the loss of the Island-wide mandate and, as a consequence, voters feeling disenfranchised. I agree that the perception of democracy is an especially prominent issue and I found it particularly difficult when some people who have voted religiously for years were put off voting last time purely because of the loss of the Senators.
However, I do try to look at the positives that the new electoral system has produced and one of them is that no Deputy seat was uncontested, indeed, one could argue that with the advent of ‘none of the above’ no Connétable seat was uncontested either. As a result, voters have elected a broader and more diverse spread from our community than ever before. All these are steps forward but that does not mean that we cannot incorporate some form of Island-wide mandate into the new system, going forward.
Getting back to the first year in office, we continue to place ourselves firmly in listening mode and Deputy Elaine Millar and I have held numerous meetings with stakeholders to continue canvassing opinion and to seek out innovative solutions for the problems that we are facing. This goes all the way to individual people with specific issues and while it is not always possible to provide complete satisfaction, we are able to improve communication and understanding. That in itself can bring relief.
The same applies to my appointment by Deputy Karen Wilson, as a second Assistant Minister for Health and Social Services, working alongside Deputy Rose Binet. The Health Roadshows which were held in every parish have been a great way to bring the whole ministerial team to the frontline.
There will be benefits to be gained in bridging these two large portfolios and I see the challenge of squaring this circle as my main mission in this electoral term.
I am always mindful that having a hand in two portfolios is a terrific amount of work, which can run the risk of taking the focus away from parish affairs and constituency work, this is why I have endeavoured to keep close contact with the staff, honorary police and the municipality of the Parish of St Saviour. I also hope to pay regular visits and get involved with the fantastic activities that are arranged by volunteers within the district, many of whom are the very people who voted me into office.
Finally, for clarity in relation to the Jersey Liberal Conservatives, the party continues, and we will keep pressing the case for expanding our influence as we look forward to what the next three years will bring.
Malcolm Ferey, Deputy of St Saviour
Assistant Minister for Social Security – Assistant Minister for Health and Social Services.