Sometimes, you’ll be surprised how much of a positive impact you can have. A lot of the good stuff politicians do never really gets onto the public’s radar, because it doesn’t happen within the States. A lot of good, solid work happens at Committee level, or helping constituents one-to-one.
States debates – which are often frustrating, gruelling, repetitive – give a very skewed (and offputting!) picture of the breadth and the potential of political life.
Just to give one example, among many, of the wonderful opportunities you might have in the States:
This term, the Committee for Health & Social Care (led by Heidi Soulsby) and the Committee for Employment & Social Security (led by Michelle Le Clerc) worked together to introduce free cervical screening for all women aged 25 to 65, in Guernsey and Alderney.
That issue never came to the States, because it didn’t need that level of approval – so it wasn’t really on the public radar, and you might never have heard about it, unless you use the service yourself.
But without hard-working politicians on the two Committees, it would never have happened. It involved quiet hard work behind the scenes, but it could have a major impact – substantially improving women’s future health outcomes, and maybe even helping us to stamp out cervical cancer altogether. You could be part of those life-changing decisions, too.
But there are two sides to this. Sometimes progress is unbelievably hard to come by. Sometimes you feel you are in the States, not so much to make good things happen, but simply as a buffer against things getting worse.
If you are swimming against a political tide, you might feel you’ve done little but kick against the waves and exhaust yourself for much of your term. Sometimes, when things feel especially futile, you need to regain your courage by asking yourself: How much worse could it have been? Perhaps all I did was to hold back the worst, but what if there had been no one like me to do that?
It’s important to go into this role with the right expectations. You’re going to be one person out of 40 (38 Guernsey Deputies and 2 Alderney Reps). You need to be prepared to do the slow, patient work of building consensus – or at least majority support – for the issues that matter to you, so that you can get them through the States.
If you want to be an executive leader who snaps your fingers and gets it done, you will be frustrated from the word Go! – even if you are in a very senior role within the States. The team workers and organisers in politics are much less visible than the charismatic political leaders, but they’re generally the ones who can make change happen, just by keeping on plugging at it. Keep that in mind, and keep going.