How do I know who to choose for other roles?

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Get to know them, as much as you can in this short space of time. Get a sense of their track record, and also of their character. Is this someone who’s going to be in a position of particular responsibility, as a President? Will they be able to knit together a functional team, and manage disagreements without it all falling apart? Would you enjoy working for them yourself – or with them, if you’re both standing as ordinary Committee members? Are they competent and essentially decent?

Values matter, and there may be some issues that are red lines for you. It’s reasonable not to want a climate change denier on E&I, for example, when their ignorance could cost people on this Island their future. But if that kind of red line is not crossed, then don’t rule out someone for a role just because they’re very different to you – Committees are teams, and a diversity of views and experiences can enhance the way they work.

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How do I put myself forward for a role?

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You will need a proposer and a seconder. If you want to be a Committee member, you would normally ask the President to put you forward. I would suggest doing this even if you are consciously standing as a counterbalance to the views of the President or other team members. It is good to have constructive disagreement on a Committee, but you need to be prepared to work as a team throughout it.

If the President doesn’t put you forward  (or you don’t want to ask them to), anyone else can nominate and second you.

Be sure to approach your proposer well in advance, because they may need to make a speech proposing you – if the election is contested – and you will want them to be prepared. You can help by providing them with a few bullet points about you and why you’d be good for the role – it will be appreciated!

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Will I be more effective on a Committee or outside it?

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The answer is almost always inside. There is more you can do, more effectively, if you are close to it.

But you can also be effective from the outside – for example, amending Committee policy letters to address the issues that concern you, or moving Requetes to get an issue debated if the responsible Committee is not moving on it.

Bear in mind that, when you’re on a Committee, you have to compromise with the other members to achieve a set of proposals you can all live with, before you bring it to the States. If, like me, you’re inclined to be more radical, then you either need to work with a team who can tolerate dissent (as I was blessed to do on all the Committees I served on) or consider if you’d be more effective pushing for progress from the outside. But bear in mind that a lot of stuff within Committee mandates never even comes to the States, so if you sit on a Committee, there are lots of small victories – things you can do to make people’s life better from day to day – that you wouldn’t even get close to if you weren’t part of that Committee.

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How do I know which role is for me?

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You probably already have some idea of what you want to achieve in the States, so that will help to guide you towards where you want to work.

I’d say think about the soft stuff as well as the technical stuff. Maybe this is the Committee that interests you, but will that President or that team allow you to function effectively? Are you comfortable being on board even though you know you won’t be able to toe the majority line?

Also, take soundings from others. Try to figure out where you’re *needed*, as well as where you’d like to go. 40 people is actually a very small number to run a whole government, whatever the nay-sayers on social media think, and we need people with good insight and good work ethics evenly distributed across Committees, if possible.

(On which note, my pet hobby-horse. Please think about putting yourself forward for the DPA or the TLA. These bodies are elected towards the end. This means that – especially at the start of term – people who hadn’t been elected onto other Committees are usually shoehorned into them. That’s not to say they don’t turn out to be good at the job, but this is not the right way to populate bodies that can make decisions with very substantial consequences – for our air connectivity, and for our environment and economy. We need competent people who are willing to take one for the team, who will put themselves forward for those roles alongside service on another Committee.)

Finally, do your research on the actual Committees. By all means, go along to the formal induction events, and talk to the civil servants involved with them – again, this will give you a sense of whether this is a team you can work with. But also talk informally to the outgoing politicians who have served on Committees you’re interested in. Not only will this give you some insight into the political reality, it may help you to understand if the thing you want to do is *actually* part of the remit of the Committee you assume it is, or if you’d be more effective elsewhere – or pushing for change from the outside.

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What’s the time commitment like?

It’s substantial. If you watch the States from the outside, you will have seen Deputies show up for a meeting every three or four weeks, spend two or three days in (often long-winded and repetitive) debate, and go home. But that is really only the tip of the iceberg.

If you are on a Committee, you can expect to meet formally at least once a fortnight. Most meetings last about half a day, and your meeting pack could easily include up to 20 papers – somewhere between 100 (in a good week) to 300 pages of advance reading. In addition to that, you’ve got reading and preparation to do for each States Meeting. Many Deputies are on two Committees, so have double the workload.

There’s also a significant volume of emails to deal with every day, especially ahead of controversial debates. And constituency work – providing one-to-one assistance or advice to people who contact you for help – can consume as much or as little time as you’re willing to give it.

I kept a time log for most of 2019, so I can say with some confidence that I average a 45-hour working week. I have a bigger workload than a lot of States Members, because of the number of Committees I sit on, but I work pretty fast, so it balances out. I would guess 45 hours is fairly typical for a conscientious Deputy – I’m sure some work considerably more.

The job isn’t 9-to-5. You’ll have evening commitments (especially if you’re a President – that comes with some figurehead responsibilities, to show up at related charity events, awards ceremonies and the like) and the occasional very early morning radio interview. Meetings usually happen during office hours, which pushes reading, emails and admin to the corners of your day.

Very little of the work is repetitive, and a lot of it involves careful thought, so you have to concentrate – this makes it harder to work in long, solid blocks of time (if you can get one, between travelling to and fro for meetings). Your workload will peak ahead of Committee and States meetings, meaning evening or weekend work is fairly inevitable at those times.

On the other hand, there is a flexibility to this role that you don’t get with other jobs. There are definite quiet periods: a couple of weeks over Christmas and Easter, and in August, when the States is formally in recess (though Committees usually continue to meet). You can get stuff done then, or take advantage of the quiet to give yourself a holiday.

And you’ll learn that a week has its own rhythm – the day before a Committee meeting you’ll be flat out trying to finish your reading; the day after, you’ll probably be at a bit of a loose end. You might work ten hours the day before, and maybe only three or four the day after. Don’t be embarrassed by the quiet periods; you’ll more than pay for them in work during the peaks. But use them to take care of yourself, to catch up on household stuff or neglected emails, or just to get a breath of fresh air or a bit of exercise.

Go back to Getting Into Guernsey Politics
Go back to Section 1.1: Making the Decision
Register to Vote