The Letters To The Editor page of this newspaper is one indication of the kinds of issues that are getting Islanders hot under the collar. Another was the interview with the Chief Minister by Jess Dunsdon at the IoD Jersey Leaders’ lunch last week, which has been watched by over 750 people by livestream. For those of you who were unable to do so, the recording can be found on our website www.IoD.je under the “news” section.
However, for every letter writer, there are tens of thousands of others who wouldn’t put pen to paper. Sometimes it’s because they don’t feel strongly enough about a subject, but quite often it’s just that they don’t want to go public with their views. This is something which I have particularly heard from IoD Members since the first of my articles dealing with the need to try and eradicate the toxicity in local politics and within our social media culture, if we are indeed to “build back better” for our beautiful Island.
In this regard, I commented at that time and subsequently when interviewed by ITV News Channel TV after the Chief Minister’s Leaders’ lunch, about how we really do need to start to put the steps in place to affect a mind shift and to change the culture and create a “Team Jersey”. Otherwise, we are simply scoring home goals as an Island.
This is a real shame when we are otherwise so well regarded on the world stage for being a stable, consistent and resilient jurisdiction and one of so many talents. Instead, we should all be proud of what we have achieved collectively and work more collaboratively not only for our own generation but for future ones too, particularly when we have all been trying to advocate the message of “being kind to each other” throughout the last few difficult and challenging few months for all concerned.
I am not for one moment saying that the public is not entitled to their views in a democratic society. However, it is the “keyboard warriors” to which I am referring. We need to try and avoid a repeat of recent unfortunate events going forward and refrain from mirroring the vitriolic campaigns which we have seen recently fought in America.
I have had a tremendous response to that article and my subsequent social media posts, in which members have thanked me for “Flying the flag” as “it is something we all know exists but no one until now has highlighted it so publicly.” Furthermore, that “IoD Jersey has an important role to play” in trying to reduce the amount of toxicity within local politics and the social media culture “and raising important issues” such as these.
However, one way we can all have a say on the issues important to us, is by voting to elect our States members – and that is anonymous and private.
What our elected States members do once we’ve given them the mandate to lead us, is a whole different matter. This is why it’s so important to choose the right people for the job, and that means looking carefully at what those individuals are standing for and ensuring their values align with our own, and with the best interests of our Island.
Not writing a letter to the Editor of this paper won’t have a consequence (other than if nobody does then Mr Sibcy won’t have anything to publish) but not voting does have consequences. It means someone whose skills and values are not in your best interests, could get the job of leading us and making the vital decisions that could make our Island successful - or not.
Running a business, an Island, or indeed an organisation like the IoD, has similarities. A good leader needs to listen and to take into account the views of all their team and clients, not just a small vocal minority or their own agenda. They also need to have more than one axe to grind. History is littered with leaders who have been voted in on one issue only and then failed to look after all the other issues that arose in their term of office. Or elections where a passionate minority has monopolised support and won, while the apathetic majority thought they didn’t need to bother and lost. Voters and candidates also need to think strategically, looking ahead to the future and not just at what’s happening today. All these reasons are why we should ensure we use our vote and do so wisely. They’re also the reasons why at the IoD Jersey, we created several new sub-committees when I took over as Chair.
Industries for us all
We created an Industries sub-committee because whilst our finance industry is critically important to us all because of what it contributes to the economy; it isn’t the only industry in the Island. We not only need other irons in the fire economically, but we also need variety. Not everyone wants to work in finance and it would be a pretty dull place to live without our amazing hospitality industry, green fields and herds of Jersey cows; or if our only shopping experience was being handed a box by the postman. Plus, let’s not forget the world-leading connectivity that allows us all to communicate and entertain, educate and work. We need our States members to understand that all of our industries are important – some admittedly more so than others – and ensure those we vote in will understand, represent, and champion for us all.
Technology for all
We also created an Innovation/Technology sub-committee, because if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that digital resilience and innovation are critical. Whatever industry people work in, digital can enhance it, and innovation is what will bring us future success. I still sometimes hear people saying they are a ‘techno-phobe’ or ‘digitally illiterate’ and wearing those badges with honour. None of us are incapable digitally because we have all had to embrace it to some degree. Tech doesn’t mean complicated, we control it, but what it can mean is increased productivity, innovation and tools to make all our lives better. We and our States members don’t have to be techno whizz kids, we don’t necessarily even have to like it, but we do have to understand the importance of investing in and supporting it.
A sustainable world for all our futures
The need to support our future workforce is one reason we created a new Student committee. It builds on our existing Jersey Future Leaders’ work experience scheme and allows young members to have their views heard. One area that young people are particularly passionate about is the environment and sustainability. It’s not difficult to see why they’re interested in this because whatever damage we cause now will be theirs to deal with in the future. Our Environment sub-committee aims to educate and support businesses with their sustainable practices. Jersey has a strategy to become carbon neutral. It won’t be easy. Even if we struggle to get interested in voting based around these issues, we must choose wisely for our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Inclusion for all
Finally, one of the achievements I am particularly proud of this year, is our IoD Vision Statement on Diversity and Inclusion from our new sub-committee, for which my sincere thanks to Dr Emiko Caerlewy-Smith, Julia-Anne Dix and their sub-committee. 2020 hasn’t just been the year of COVID-19, it has also seen the world light up with the call for equality and inclusion. Our strategy, launched in February, aims to set the standards for this and to support businesses to achieve that goal. It’s not because it’s fashionable or politically correct, it’s because every piece of data shows that diversity and inclusion help organisations succeed. For centuries, the diversity within Jersey has helped our Island succeed too. We need States members who will represent every one of us, who won’t denounce others for their differences but celebrate them. We need to work together, whatever our colour, gender, religion or sexual preferences. That also goes for how we treat our States members. They deserve our tolerance and respect for standing up and taking on the role we have elected them to do.
Votes for all our futures
Whether healthcare, jobs, housing, the environment or any other issue is the one you think is most important, what is critical is that in 2022 you use your vote to choose the best candidates as your Deputy, Senators or Constable. Those people will lead our Island in a time of unprecedented change. There is much opportunity coming in the post-Covid world, and Jersey needs a strong team to make best use of it. Who that team is will be in your hands.