The Importance of Voting in the May General Election

Tuesday 1 May 09:37

April Chamber of Commerce Pre-Lunch Speech, by Chambers Chief Executive.

Pre-Lunch Speech, by Chambers Chief Executive, Gillian Martindale-Parsons

For those of you who know me, you’ll know how passionate I am about politics and even more so about voting. I’m spending a lot of my time at the moment, talking about how influential one vote can be and whether it really matters if people turn out to vote or not.

When I’m asked that question, about whether one single vote matters, my answer is always the same.

Yes, absolutely yes, unequivocally, yes and especially here in Jersey. Why, tends to be the immediate response. How can one vote make such a difference and why in Jersey?

Well for those conversations and for you today, I’d like to plot some voting history, to prove absolutely that your single vote does matter and can make a difference.

In 2011 Deputy Ben Fox was re-elected beating Suzette Hase by just one vote. Just one vote. Quite literally the difference between you or I turning out to vote and putting a cross in a box. If ever you needed proof that your single vote does make a difference this is it and it’s not alone:

Also in 2011

  • Tracey Vallois was first elected beating Glenn George by 17 votes
  • Jeremy Macon was first elected beating Tony Nightingale by 24 votes

 2014

  • The Connétable of St. Mary was re-elected beating John Le Bailley by just 16 votes
  • The Deputy of Trinity was re-elected beating Hugh Raymond by 16 votes as well
  • Peter McLinton unseated Deputy Rob Duhamel by just 26 votes

So you see, politicians in Jersey do get elected on the slimmest of margins and your vote counts.

So why is the general election so important to the Jersey Chamber of Commerce? Well as a lobbying organisation, reviewing legislation and policy proposed by government is at the heart of what we do and what we were established to do 250 years ago. Quite simply it's our job as the largest independent business representative organisation in Jersey, to be the voice of business. To provide insight for the island's politicians and civil servants, regarding the impact their policies will have on commerce and highlight the often overlooked, unintended consequence.  

For lobbying to be effective, relationships have to be formed with each party willing, able and ready to listen to both sides of the debate. This sort of relationship building takes time and on the eve of a new government, now is that time when commerce and islanders alike must engage with all political candidates.

It’s a rather sad statistic, that during my last two years at Chamber, only one States member has pro-actively got in touch with us to meet with the President and myself at our offices for a general conversation about business. To discuss commerce, current challenges and to understand why Chamber and its members reach their conclusions about certain policies.

Yes, myself the President and Vice-President have regular quarterly meetings with the Chief Minister and other Ministers, as you would expect but those meetings are at the request of Chamber.  

For the benefit of the candidates in the room, our offices are in St Helier on Pier Road, just a stone's throw away from the Royal Square. There’s always an open door, a hot cup of tea or coffee waiting, we’re a friendly team and we don’t bite.

We don’t bite, but if you choose not to engage with us regarding your propositions, our bark, our lobbying bark is far worse. In fact, it’s deadly effective.

In the last twelve months, Chambers lobbying has defeated two major pieces of proposed legislation in the Waste Charges and Jersey Infrastructure Levy and almost rescinded the Retail Tax, again just one vote would have made the difference. All ill thought out proposals with either none, little or ineffective consultation or thought as to how they would impact commerce.

To be clear, Chamber doesn’t want to bark, our members want early stage discussion at the point policy is being proposed. The forum for discussion between government and commerce already exists at Chamber, with seven committees made up of senior business leaders and emerging talent. Chamber is a rich resource and government must pro-actively reach out more.

But communication is a two-way conversation. Whilst Chamber wants the island's politicians to engage with commerce, so too must commerce engage and that time is now at the hustings.

Each of us has a responsibility to push would-be States Members for their views on population, migration and taxes. Questions must be asked by the business community of how supportive the candidates are of commerce and to what extent they’re aware of current critical issues such as recruitment and the impact of Brexit.

If we don’t engage now in order to make an informed decision later on election day then we’ve only got ourselves to blame. If on the 17th May we wake up to a new assembly of States Members who have little or no insight into commerce and have been elected by a handful of votes by the slimmest of margins, then those islanders who haven’t exercised their right to vote can have no cause to complain.

To have the right vote in a free, democratic society is something to be cherished and celebrated. It’s a privilege that some women gave their lives for so that others could enjoy the freedom to put a simple cross in a box.  

Your one single vote really does matter, and I hope as business owners and leaders each of you will play your part in actively encouraging your colleagues to vote and the time out to do it.

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