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What if I don’t have a thick enough skin?

Thick skins are overrated. Being able to be moved, even saddened, by other people’s experiences, is a great asset in a policy-maker. It will help you to make more realistic, more human decisions.

You don’t need to be stony-hearted or thick-skinned. But you do need to be able to cope. So it helps to have some tactics to keep yourself from being crushed by the seriousness of some of the decisions you’ll have to make, or from being needlessly hurt by some of the hate that’s out there.

If you are on a Principal Committee – especially, I think, Health & Social Care, or Home Affairs, or Employment & Social Security, but probably many of the others as well – you will often come face-to-face with really difficult decisions.

This kind of difficult decision-making has played out at top speed during the pandemic – we’ve had to impose major limits on Islanders’ freedom, in order to keep everyone as safe and well as possible.

In normal times, government decision-making isn’t so dramatic or fast-paced, but it still deals with matters of life and death, with questions of whose freedom should be restricted and why, and with issues of poverty, inequality and deprivation. When you are involved in making these decisions, you’ll see that there is often no single good decision. Almost every decision has trade-offs, and you are trying to navigate towards the best possible outcome at the least painful cost.

It helps to talk about it. At least on a Committee, or in the States, you know you are not the only person grappling with the ethics of a problem. All your colleagues are in the same boat. That doesn’t make it easy, but it can make it more bearable.

But the other big challenge that comes with politics can be harder, and more lonely.

It’s this: Some people hate you now!

People you’ve never met, people who don’t know you at all, are all too willing to think the worst of you. They’ll post rubbish about you on social media. They’ll question your motives and your integrity. Once you are a public figure, people have a free hand to criticise and insult you, and many will do so, generally in pretty reductive and ignorant ways.

It took me a while to realise this, but – you simply don’t have to listen to it.

It is important to communicate with constituents, but you can communicate in ways that are constructive, for you and for them. People go on social media forums, or the comment pages of the local media, to vent and let off steam. Those are generally not places where you are going to be able to change anyone’s mind.

But if you prioritise one-to-one communication – whether that’s emails, phonecalls, or face-to-face – you can usually have much more productive and mutually respectful conversations. Sometimes even with the same people who are slagging you off in public online!

If someone has taken the time to call or email you, it’s a good sign (not a perfect one, but there never is) that they want to have a dialogue with you; that they’re not just playing “devil’s advocate” online for the sake of it. It is helpful to hear and speak with people who disagree with you, but you can choose to seek out the productive disagreements and avoid the places where people simply want to vent.

Go back to Getting Into Guernsey Politics
Go back to Section 1.1: Making the Decision
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Guernsey’s iconic women of the future?

Thank you for nominating a young woman or girl for our future iconic Guernsey women campaign to celebrate International Women’s Day!

Nominations close on Sunday 6 March at 17.00.

Please fill in the details below.


Miriam Makeba - South Africa

Nominated by: Christine James

Zenzile Miriam Makeba (1932 to 2008), nicknamed Mama Africa, was a South African singer, songwriter, actress, United Nations goodwill ambassador, and civil rights activist. Associated with musical genres including Afropop, jazz, and world music, she was an advocate against apartheid and white-minority government in South Africa. In 2020 she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 women of the century. 

South Africa is ranked 12th in the world for percentage of women in national parliament: 45.8% (source: 

Are you from South Africa? Please email if there is a social or cultural group for people from South Africa in Guernsey.

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The original image “The Hague Jazz 2008 – Miriam Makeba” by Haags Uitburo is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. 


Jacinda Ardern - New Zealand

Nominated by: Martin Lock

Jacinda Ardern (born 1980) has served as prime minister of New Zealand and leader of the Labour Party since 2017. In 2019, she led the country through the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shootings, rapidly introducing strict gun laws in response, and throughout 2020 she directed the country’s widely praised response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ardern was the world’s second elected head of government to give birth in office when her daughter was born in 2018. ‘An inspiring Prime Minister who brought a nation together with true leadership, empathy and compassion.’

New Zealand is ranked 4th in the world for percentage of women in national parliament: 48.3% (source: 

Other iconic women: Dame Whina Cooper, nominated by Claire Fisher, and Kate Sheppard, nominated by Anna Cooper.

Are you from New Zealand? You may be interested in joining the ANZACs in Guernsey Facebook group

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