What do I need to know about Election spending?

You need to feel confident that you understand the rules about campaign spending before you submit your nomination. If you are found to have deliberately broken the rules, there are serious penalties in the law – you could face a hefty fine, and you could even lose your seat. So you need to know what’s expected of you.

Please bear in mind that Guernsey has its own laws which govern how elections are carried out. So if you’ve been involved in politics in another country before, please don’t assume that it’s the same here.

The best place to start is the official candidates’ guide on the Election website. Pages 12 to 18 explain the rules about Election spending.

Remember, every candidate will need to submit a statement of Election expenses at the end of the campaign period, whether you have been elected or not.

This means you need to keep track of the cost of everything you use as part of your campaign, and keep hold of receipts to prove it. It is much better to do this as you go along than to try and pull everything together at the end.

Part of the reason it’s important to keep track of expenses is because there is an upper limit on how much you can spend. For ordinary candidates, that limit is £6,000 (if you’ve got it!). The rules are more complex if you are a member of a party – again, please refer to the official guide to get it right.

You should remember that things have a value, even if you don’t pay for them! Our laws refer to this as “money’s worth”. You might not actually hand over cash for some of the things you use for your election campaign, but you need to account for them in your expenses as if you had paid for them.

If someone wants to help you out with election expenses, you need to check the rules on donations – some kinds of donation aren’t allowed, and you will need to refuse or return them. Other kinds need to be declared, so that your Election finances are transparent.

Finally, the States provides some assistance with election expenses. You are entitled to a two-page manifesto in the combined manifesto booklet (which will be delivered to all registered households); a three-minute video; and a dedicated candidate page on the Election website. You are also entitled to reclaim a grant of up to £500 towards your election expenses – but bear in mind that you can only do this at the end of the process. This assistance is available to all candidates, regardless of whether or not you are elected.

These are some key points you might want to think about when planning your Election spending, but they are only part of the story. I would stress, again, that you need to read the official guidance. If you think anything I have said here conflicts with the guidance, then – obviously – trust the guidance! (And please let me know, so I can make a correction. I don’t want to mislead anyone.)

If you have read the guidance (and the laws – especially the Reform Law and the Electoral Expenditure Ordinance) and you are still unsure about something, your first port of call should be the Elections team. If you can’t find the answer on the Elections website, then get in touch with them, and I am sure they will do their best to help.

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When should I start preparing?


Literally, right now.

I am writing this on August 14th. That means, three weeks from now, the nomination period will have closed. Everyone who wants to stand for election will already have thrown their hat in the ring. There will be a month to go until votes are cast.

What if you haven’t made up your mind yet? Then act ‘as if’ you were standing. It will be far easier to get to the start of September, having done all your preparation, to decide to walk away – than it will be to get to the start of September, decide that actually you do want to stand, and frantically have to do weeks’ worth of work over a couple of sleepless nights.

If you haven’t seen the States in action before, there is still time – we are sitting from 18-21 August and again from 25-28 August, assuming we don’t finish our agenda in the first week. We usually sit from 9.30-12.30 and again from 14.30-17.30 each day of our meeting. You can come and sit in the public gallery of the Royal Court at any time while the States Meeting is going on. (And you can leave at any time too – you don’t have to commit to the whole session!)

It is worth seeing the States in action as a parliament, although that’s only a small fraction of what we do – a lot more happens in Committees, and I will try and shine some light on that in later blog posts.

You will also want to research key issues, and take time to think about your own position on them. You might want to talk to existing States Members to get a more personal insight (you’re always welcome to get in touch with me if you’d like a chat, and I know many of my colleagues would say the same). And you might want to find out more about the Parties that are forming, and decide if you are interested in joining any of them.

And then you’ll want to decide what campaign materials you’d like – will you just use the States manifesto, or will you have a personal one too? What about posters or leaflets? Do you want a website? What social media accounts will you use – if any? Will you be doing video or audio recordings? You need to start thinking about how you will source those materials, and getting the content organised.

There’s a lot to do. As a general rule of thumb, the earlier you can start preparing, the better. I’m the kind of person who needs a deadline, so I’m not terribly good at obeying that rule of thumb – but even I started writing my manifesto in earnest at least a month before nominations opened. The closer the campaign period gets, the harder it will be to do justice to your preparation – so, honestly, there is no time like the present.

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When do I have to make my decision?

As soon as possible!

You have until 21 August 2020 to register on the electoral roll. If you don’t register, you won’t be eligible to stand.

The timeframe for the Election itself is set out on the Election website. You need to know that nominations open on Tuesday 1 September and close at 4pm (four o’clock in the afternoon, for the avoidance of any doubt!) on Friday 4 September. If you want to be a candidate in the 2020 Election, you need to get your nomination in during that short window.

There are some important things you need to get ready before nominations even open. You need to have a proposer and seconder who are willing to put you forward as a candidate. And you need to have prepared your manifesto – especially the bit that goes in the combined manifesto booklet, because you’ll be asked to provide that straight away. (Keep an eye on the Election website for guidance so that you know what to prepare.)

And then you need to hit the ground running. Election Day is on 7 October. Advance polling will open from 3 October. People who are using postal votes might fill out their votes even earlier than that. So you need to be ready to start getting your message out to people from the start of the campaign period, with plenty of time for them to find out more and make up their mind to support you.

If you’re interested in standing, but haven’t quite made up your mind yet, I would be more than happy to meet up for a coffee and talk it over with you, if you’d like to get in touch. I’m sure other Deputies would be just as happy to do so.

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Am I ready to do it?

Only you can answer that. But remember, you will probably never feel ready. If everyone waited for the perfect moment in their lives, few would ever run for government.

So try to ask yourself the question from another point of view, too: What will happen if you don’t do it?

If not you, then who?

If you can make it work, practically and financially; if you have a cause you care about and campaigning from the outside is only getting you so far; if you’ve got this far in thinking about becoming a Deputy and you’re still toying with the idea … then you’re a long way ahead of almost everyone else in the Island. So, unfortunately, you can’t count on someone else to step up and take it on instead.

The most likely way of seeing more people with your values and priorities in the States, is if you stand.

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Do I know enough?

The honest answer is: “No, but that’s all right.”

You might want to start by looking at some of the recent papers that the States has considered. You will find these online at gov.gg/StatesMeetings. (The collection of papers for a meeting is called a Billet d’Etat – the first word is pronounced like the letters BA, and the whole thing simply means ‘States papers’.)

You can see that each paper has a set of recommendations for States Members to vote on. (Everything has its own name in the States! The recommendations presented to the States are called Propositions. If anybody wants to change one of those recommendations, they need to bring an Amendment. If you want to know more about those, I’ll try to cover it in my sections on life in the States.)

Here’s an example, taken at random – the Billet d’Etat from July 2018, two years ago. The topics on that are so wide-ranging: from custom duties in a post-Brexit world, to how we manage our Island’s waste; from the question of open skies or air route licensing, to the future of the Island’s housing market.

How can any one person know enough to make a sensible decision on all those things?

The answer is, of course – no one can. It is simply not possible for one person to be an expert on everything a government has to do. That’s why we have Committees who develop their expertise in certain areas; why we have supporting reports and civil servants who can offer advice; and it’s why we have 38 Deputies in the States … because one person alone can’t ever know enough, but the blend of different experiences and expertise we bring can help us all make better decisions.

You can’t know it all. There’s never going to be a point where your knowledge is ‘finished’ and you feel ready. But that’s OK. If you can ask good questions; if you’re willing to learn; if you recognise quality and integrity when you see it – then you’re as well-prepared for this job as anyone can be. Don’t let lack of knowledge put you off, because nobody on earth will ever know enough. The work won’t wait for you to catch up – you’re going to have to learn as you go along, and that’s all right. Everyone else is in the same boat too.

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Is this blog for me?

I want to be clear from the beginning that these blogs are for anybody who is interested in Guernsey politics. There are no party lines, and I’m not trying to push a particular argument or agenda. Well, except one …

I believe that a small community like ours will only flourish if all of us who live here take a turn at being involved in looking after it, and making decisions about its future.

I happen to think that we in Guernsey should think about government like other nations think about jury service – a duty that we owe to each other as citizens; a responsibility we all share, and which we should all be prepared to set aside time and disrupt normal life for, when it’s our turn.

Yes, a four-year political term is rather longer than a couple of weeks on a jury, and standing for election is very different to being randomly selected.

But I am sure that if more of us were willing to give it a shot, the whole Island would benefit from the insights, the variety of life experiences, and the professional skills that each of us would bring to government. We wouldn’t be so dependent on such a small group of stalwarts being willing, for better or worse, to stand for government year after year.

So that’s my agenda. I’d like to persuade you that you can run for the States – you’ve got what it takes, and you will rise to the challenge – and that it will be far better for Guernsey if you do, than if you choose to sit it out.

Of course I’ll talk about values and priorities – that’s unavoidable. And I suspect that everyone will find something here to disagree with!

But please believe this – I think your integrity is far more important than your ideology.

We may come from entirely different political perspectives, but 90% of politics is problem-solving – and for that, a good heart and fair judgment is far more valuable than belonging to the ‘right’ political philosophy, whatever that looks like.

If you truly care about Guernsey, and you are prepared to put the Island’s interests ahead of your own, then I want to see you succeed and I hope some of the information here will help you to do so. My aim in writing this is to pay forward what I’ve learned over the past four years – as much as I can – in the hope of helping others to hit the ground running and get the best out of Guernsey politics.

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Getting into Guernsey Politics

If you are taking the time to read this, you are probably already the kind of person who understands that government is not “someone else’s business”. You probably already know that democracy is at its best when we all play an active part. You certainly know that the States is only ever as good as the people who stand for it.

You know all that, but you are still asking yourself the question: “Does it have to be me?”

I think the answer is Yes. You are good enough – and you are needed.

That’s why I’m writing this post, and all the posts that follow it. I am writing to share some of the things I’ve learned over the past few years in politics, in the hope of encouraging and reassuring new candidates and new States Members, and demystifying some of the working of Guernsey politics.

It’s not an official guide! If you’re thinking of becoming a candidate in the next Election, and you are looking for good and reliable advice on what this will involve (and what the rules are), please check the Election website. Guidelines will be posted there as soon as possible – perhaps they will already be up by the time you read this.

It’s also not the only version of the truth! You can get really interesting and diverse perspectives on life in Guernsey politics from current Deputies and former States Members. There are also some great non-partisan organisations, like Women in Public Life, which have been set up to provide information and support to people who are interested in politics and other forms of public service here. Read around, and make up your own mind. I’m just trying to do my little bit to help.

I have written these blog posts as a series of questions and answers, so you can dip in and out on any subject that interests you. I’ve grouped them into themes, as much as possible – these links will take you through to the list of questions under each one. There’s no right order to read things in! If you find this kind of thing useful, then this is the post to bookmark and keep coming back to.

Part One: Standing for Election

Part Two: In the States

Part Three: Everything Else

I have started by trying to answer questions about the Election. We are aiming for a date of 7 October 2020 now, and people are starting to think about whether they should stand, and what it might mean for them. So those questions are a priority right now. But I’m going to try and cover the whole lifespan of politics – from the election campaign to the end of term, and all manner of things in between. Some of that will be too much information right now, especially for new candidates – but I want to make sure it’s there for you when the time is right.

It will take a little while to build this up, but I hope you will find it useful, especially if you’re thinking about politics, or you’re just starting out on a new political career.

Remember, this blog is in no way official or authoritative. This is just one person’s take on politics in Guernsey. I’m not speaking formally as a representative of the States, or of any Committee. It’s just me. So, please, take everything I say with a pinch of salt, and above all seek out the views of others who may see it very differently from me!