Happy New Year. Perhaps it’s getting a bit late to say that – we’re already double-digits into 2019. But I’ll say it while I can: if you are reading this, I really do wish you and yours every good thing for the year ahead.
I’m trying something different for 2019. Hawk-eyed watchers of this site (but who’d do that?) might already have noticed some changes – a fresh mission statement on the front page, and the creation of a “resources” section (though it’s pretty empty right now). So what’s going on?
We are only eighteen months away from the next General Election, in June 2020. I have said from the start that I won’t be standing again. So the clock is ticking for me – there are things I want to get done while I still have the chance to do so. But, perhaps even more importantly, I have always tried to use my time in the States, and the platform it gives me, as a way of sharing information about how Guernsey’s democracy works – getting islanders interested in local politics, and showing what you can do to help influence it, and make change in our community. I want to really bring that work into sharp focus in these last 18 months, to help pass the baton on to another crop of committed people who are willing to serve this island.
That means it’s all about communication, communication, communication – even more than usual. I’m throwing all my energy into those two things: pushing forward my priorities (I think I’ve boiled them down to seven, though it’s a “States’ seven” – quite a lot of work falls under each heading!), and encouraging people to get involved in government. I’m doing so completely separately from any party or political agenda – I think our democracy is enriched by diversity, and I’d be delighted if people from all manner of different backgrounds, with all kinds of values and priorities, were willing to get involved. Nothing in this is aimed at getting a specific candidate, or a specific kind of candidate, into the States.
I’m going to be using this blog a lot more, and the website as a whole. I’m trying to improve the way I use social media, too, although I feel very self-conscious about it at the moment. I hope to do some tailored stuff for Facebook. And wherever I can, I’ll share the work of fellow politicians and others who are working towards similar goals.
Unfortunately, I’ve also got to be ruthless about what I don’t do. For example, ahead of every States’ debate, I try to produce a blog explaining what’s on our agenda. I’ve always thought of this as a good way of letting people know what their government is doing. But it has the unfortunate side effect of giving a lot of air-time to our parliamentary work, and next-to-none to the equally important (and much more intensive) work which we do behind closed doors in Committees. And it means there’s a bit of a mismatch between what I say my priorities are, and what I actually spend time researching and writing about – I find myself reacting to what’s on the agenda, most of the time, rather than actively pursuing the things that are being left out.
That’s changing – I won’t be writing those blogs in the same way this year. But there will still be something! A couple of weeks before each States’ meeting, I’ll still publish a heads-up about what’s on the agenda – it’ll be much shorter than before, but hopefully still useful in letting you know if there’s something critical about to happen. And I’m going to try and write short sketches of what happens in the debates, as well, to give a bit more colour and context to the dry words on paper. (That’s not my strength, though, so it may be a bit of a challenge to get started!)
I hope the “Resources” section will more than make up for the change in those blogs. I’m willing to bet that most Guernsey people know more about UK politics, and how their system works, than our own – and I’d like to try and help change that. I’m going to try and build up a little library of ‘How-to’ guides for getting the best out of our democracy … It’ll be small, and slow, and my own perspective on things, which others might well disagree with. That’s fine. But everything there is available to be used, shared, and remixed by anyone – I’ll be using the Creative Commons licence on the materials I put up there, to show that I’m happy for it to be taken and reused by anyone anywhere, so long as it’s not for commercial gain.
Maybe now is not the best time to be publishing this, or pushing for people to get more interested and involved in local politics. After all, the headlines as I write are about threats that have been levelled at Guernsey politicians and our families: hardly the greatest advert for the job. That abuse cannot be excused, but the slogan “feel the fear and do it anyway” might have been written for this. At the best of times, government is hard and its consequences are mixed. But, without a doubt, bad government happens if good people don’t stand up to do it. It does come at a high personal cost, and four years is a long time to give – no one can be blamed for shying away from it. But to put it in the words of the Lorax, who says it better than I could: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”