What Makes a Good Politician

Published in Politics - 4 mins to read

Now faced with the somewhat overwhelming nature of having 38 possible votes to give 119 possible candidates, and in a time when voting seems more important then ever, I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently trying to work out how I’m actually going to spend said votes. The local election differs greatly from say, UK or US elections in that there aren’t political parties (well, there are, but also there kinda aren’t) who have an umbrella of policies with which their members align. Voting in the US, as far as I can tell, is broadly a binary choice - your views either align more with the Democrats or the Republicans, and then you broadly just vote for whichever candidate in the relevant race belongs to the party whose ideals you ascribe to most.

Given the large degree of independence afforded to the majority of Guernsey’s political hopefuls, it isn’t as easy as that. The electorate have to sift through the very personal, and very varied, views of the candidates, to try to work out whether or not they will best represent the interests of the community. And it turns out… that’s pretty difficult.

Before the election began, I told myself that I would choose candidates based on their policy, and their views on specific topics. Obviously safeguarding the island as much as possible from the pandemic is a top priority, as is education, which has been a hot topic for the whole of the last political term here. The environment, equality and inclusivity are all areas I think have been prioritised far less than they ought to be by existing politicians, so again showing any kind of engagement with them will earn candidates points with me, and obviously anyone who pledges to make mental health services on the island better is also unlikely to be consigned to the “no” pile. The thing is, even if I apply those filters (and the, “I don’t think there’s a reasonable chance that this person is a racist/paedophile/fraudster/anti-vaxxer/climate change denier”, all of which trimmed the list by at least one), I still have nowhere near 38 candidates.

And there’s other problems. I, and most of my friends of my own age, frequently lament the current status quo of Guernsey politics. It is very white, very male, and very middle class. It focuses very much on “the economy”, and keeping the island’s financial services sector thriving is often a top priority; it’s hard to feel like these people are anything other than self-interested. However, the election of the bad orange man showed that just because the existing status quo is bad, doesn’t mean you should vote for an alternative just for the sake of it. I do think that demographic diversity ultimately breeds the best decisions, and that’s true for politics as much as anything else, but there’s a decent number of candidates who are a departure from the status quo whose platform is largely that, with their manifestos often being light on policy.

After having thought a bit about what I want out of the politicians representing me, I ultimately want them to be able to absorb large amounts of information, from a variety of stakeholders, and use it to make informed decisions on complex and nuanced issues. And… that’s a hard thing to do I think. I couldn’t do it. It’s also a hard thing to be convinced of just be reading a manifesto. Annoyingly, perhaps the only thing that does somewhat convince me of it is previous political experience, even if I know that some of the decisions made by existing politicans might not have been well-liked, they have at least made the decisions, which I do think is a noteworthy thing in their favour. If you were hiring for a job and you had the choice between hiring someone with experience and without, the majority of the time you’d hire the former, unless the latter candidate was exceptional in other areas (obviously to extend the analogy a little further, you would hopefully be more likely to hire the latter if she was a good “culture fit”, which is perhaps equivalent to how a candidate’s policies match up with one’s own views).

The nice thing about having so many votes is that I can have a bit of both. I will certainly be voting for some sitting deputies, even if they are middle class white men, and I will be voting for some people who have no political experience and are a departure from the status quo in one way or another. I think an assembly entirely comprised of one or the other would cause problems either way, but I’m hopeful that if a balance of both get elected, perhaps I might be more optimistic about Guernsey’s socio-political future.