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.

Go back to Getting Into Guernsey Politics
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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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Have I got the skills?

Yes! There is no job description or recommended skill set for being a Deputy. Your ‘CV’ is your manifesto, and anything else you use to persuade people to elect you. The election period is your job interview. You will soon find that people across the Island have very different expectations of what they’d like from their States Members, and you won’t please everyone – but that’s okay.

Of course, there are some skills it’s very helpful to have, from public speaking to using a computer… You’ll find that some training is offered in the pre-Election period, and more training will be available once you are elected.

You will also be able to ask for help when you need it. So don’t be put off by thinking you lack an essential skill – there’s always a way to learn it. Mostly, practice helps – and you’ll get a lot of practice over the next four years!

Don’t be afraid to ask a more experienced States Member for advice. Most people would be delighted to be asked, and would try and help you fairly, even if they disagree with you politically. But if that’s a big deal for you, there are many retired Deputies who still play an active role in Guernsey community life – you could try approaching them instead, and I’m sure many would be glad to help.

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What does it take to be a Guernsey politician?

To start with, I want to try and answer some of the questions you’re bound to be asking yourself when you are weighing up whether or not to enter Guernsey politics.

Of course it’s important to think through the consequences of taking on such a big commitment, and to recognise and prepare for the impact it might have on you and on your family. There are very valid reasons why politics might not be the right choice for you now, or maybe ever. Your wellbeing, and the happiness of those you love, comes first.

But if that’s not an issue, I hope this will also prompt you to think about the kind of future you want for the people you love, and for our beautiful Island, and ask yourself – can I afford not to?

So, first: What does it take to be a Guernsey politician?

The simplest answer is “it takes all sorts”. A democracy works well if people from all parts of society feel that they have a say in government. For this to happen, the mix of people in the States needs to be pretty varied. If you look at the 38 Guernsey Deputies and 2 Alderney Reps who make up our States right now, I think you will agree that any voter with a view on a particular issue is likely to find at least one sympathetic ear in the States.

You don’t need special qualifications. You don’t need to belong to a party. You don’t need previous political experience. You do need to be on the Electoral Roll. And you do need to be at least 18 years old. For details on the technical side of it, please check the Election2020.gg website. But there’s no secret or science to it. You just need a good heart, a willingness to work hard, and a genuine commitment to this Island.

If you want to get a sense of the States, you can watch our meetings in person at any time. We meet in the Royal Court at the top of Smith Street and there is a public gallery which is open to anyone. If you need a reasonable adjustment, please get in touch with the team at the Greffe, who should be able to assist. The calendar of States’ dates is published on the gov.gg website .

If you’re thinking of becoming a politician, it’s worth reminding yourself that States Members are just ordinary people. You will probably see us in action and think “I could do better” – and, you know, I’m sure that’s true. But if people like you don’t run for the States, you will just continue to be governed by people like us. Really, that’s at the heart of the decision you’ve got to make.

Go back to Getting Into Guernsey Politics
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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.

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

Before we start: Register to Vote

You have until Friday 21 August, 2020 to get yourself on the Guernsey Electoral Roll.

You can sign up to the Electoral Roll at election2020.gg . If you have any problems with the online form, you can get in touch with the team here and they will do what they can to help you.

You must sign up again, even if you have been on the Electoral Roll for past elections. If you don’t sign up, you won’t be allowed to vote in the 2020 Election, and you won’t be allowed to stand as a candidate.

Please don’t leave it until the last minute!

You will be able to vote for up to 38 candidates in this Election – our first experience of Island-Wide Voting. In past Elections, you only had 5 or 6 votes. This is a big change – it means a lot more manifestos to read, a lot more candidates to consider, and possibly a lot more time spent deciding who you want to vote for.

This means we are trying to offer more options for the way you cast your vote, to give you the time and space you need.

You’ll have the option of voting in your parish on Election Day, just like you’ve always done. Or you might want to vote at an island-wide “Super Polling Station” closer to your workplace or school, if that is more convenient for you.

If you would prefer, you can vote at an “Advance Polling Station” before Election Day (at the weekend and on the Tuesday before the final Election Day on the Wednesday). Or you can sign up for a postal vote, fill it out at home, and send it or drop it back in.

You can get in touch with the Electoral Roll team to request a postal vote, even if you didn’t ask for one when you originally signed up to the Roll.

More information about polling station venues and voting options will be available on election2020.gg. If we need to take any special measures because of COVID-19, closer to Election time, election2020.gg will also be the place to look for information about that.

If you don’t sign up to the Electoral Roll, you don’t have a vote and you don’t have a right to stand in the Election.

Please encourage your friends and family to sign up to the Electoral Roll if they haven’t yet done so.

And please register to vote today.   

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

1.1 Making the Decision

Part One – Standing for Election
(Section 1: Making the Decision)

Go back to Getting Into Guernsey Politics

Before we start: Register to vote
Is this blog for me?

What does it take to be a Guernsey politician?
Have I got the skills?
Do I know enough?
Am I ready to do it?
Couldn’t I be more effective on the outside?
How much can I achieve?

Am I old enough?
Can I afford it?
Can I cope with the stresses?
What if I need a reasonable adjustment?

What’s the time commitment like?
Will I be able to keep working?
What will it mean for my family?
What will it mean for my health?

What are the risks?
Should I be worried about skeletons in my closet?
But what if it’s me in the closet?
Will I be employable afterwards?
Can I make a career out of this?

What if I don’t have a thick enough skin?
Does it matter if I’m not from Guernsey?

What is the hardest thing I will ever have to do?

What if I really can’t do this right now?

When do I have to make my decision?
Why did you do it?

Go on to Section 1.2: Getting Elected