For your election campaign:- quite a lot about what the States immediately before you has done, almost nothing about earlier States.
To be effective once you’re elected:- dive deeper. The more you know, the better equipped you are. I’m hoping to give you the tools to do that in Part Two. But let’s concentrate on the Election for now.
The reason why you need to know a fair bit about what the States before you has done (or failed to do), is because that’s what the public will think about first when they’re asking about your plans for this term. They’ll want to know what you’re planning to continue, or what you’re planning to undo; or if you’re going to pick up the baton on something this States has failed to progress.
Luckily, it’s easy enough to build up a picture of what people will be concerned about. Most local news organisations – Bailiwick Express, Island FM, BBC Guernsey, ITV, Guernsey Press (let me know if I’ve missed any!) – have online archives of local news. Skim back through them, and remind yourself of the headlines and issues you might have forgotten.
I recommend using the media at this stage because that is what most voters will use – not (necessarily) because it is accurate. That’s an important distinction to bear in mind!
Most people are politically interested, but not so interested that they will actually follow what’s happening in the States – so they rely on the local media to let them know what’s happening here. That’s why reminding yourself of the headlines is helpful – because it will clue you in to what your voters are likely to be worrying about.
But – especially on topics you have a personal interest in, and want to speak confidently on – it helps to be able to refer back to what the States has actually done. This means you’re going to need to learn your way around the States website. The two most useful sections will be the News pages (available in the menu bar at the top) and the record of States debates (available under Government > States Meeting Information).
But here’s a tip, before you get too frustrated with the hopeless search function on Gov.GG. If I don’t know where to find what I’m looking for, I use a regular search engine. I will put in something like “gov.gg” or “States of Guernsey” (or “Billet”, if I’m sure it was a States debate) to narrow it down, and then search for what I want to know.
For example, to look for more information about Guernsey’s Equality legislation, I typed in “gov.gg” and “equality” to Google. The first four pages that came up were the general page on Equality, the general page on Discrimination, the details of the Discrimination Law consultation, and the Policy Priority page for the Disability, Equality and Inclusion work. Not perfect, but pretty relevant. But try searching for “equality” on Gov.GG itself, and you get a far more scattered bunch of results…!
If you’re a first-timer, no one is expecting you to know everything the last States has done. But it helps to have a general idea, because it gives you a sense of the kind of questions you’ll be asked, and it helps to prepare you for what’s going to be on your agenda in the early part of the new term.