Couldn’t I be more effective on the outside?

Unfortunately, the narrow answer to this is yes – if there’s one particular issue you care about, then as a campaigner you can pour all your efforts into persuading the States to take action on, say, climate change, or housing, or transport links, or poverty …

As a person campaigning (or coaching, or protesting, or lobbying) from the outside, you can use your skills and expertise to advise on the issues you know well. And you don’t have to burn up a lot of time and energy on issues that are of no interest to you at all – unlike States Members, who are always dealing with the whole of government.

But! – and it’s a big one – your efforts to persuade the States, and the actions that the States then takes, are only ever going to be as good as the people who are in it.

If the States is made up of people who are unsympathetic to your cause; unable or unwilling to accept the evidence that shows how important it is; or unconvinced that the action you want to see is needed – then no amount of campaigning is ever going to achieve what you want it to.

I completely understand why staying on the outside is the most appealing option. But if everyone does that, the States – the actual place where decisions are made, and resources are put to use – won’t have enough people in it who care about the same things you do, who are willing and able to make the changes you want to see.

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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 (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 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 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.

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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!