JLC Launch speech by Susana Rowles

St Helier, 8th July 2021

I’m a businesswoman, an ed-tech entrepreneur, so those of you who know me won’t be surprised when I tell you that the JLC will be the party of business.

We also have a deep social conscience.

The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we believe that it’s the success of enterprise that will enable us to fulfil our socially liberal agenda.

When businesses succeed, we can all succeed. We want businesses to feel confident and able to grow and continue to create opportunities for Islanders. We value individual success as well as business success, and we want Jersey to continue to be a place where it’s easy to do business.

We want more people to be able to start their own business, try out their ideas.

As an Island, we need to increase productivity to escape the dependency ratio trap we are currently in, meaning we don’t need to rely on such large numbers of working population.

The way to increase productivity is to embrace technology and invest in educating our workforce. We will not get there by preserving the status quo.

No, we need to improve our educational output significantly.

We need a workforce that adapts quickly. We need to prepare young people for a different world. We need to draw out creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking, reward investigation and curiosity, develop positive attitudes to learning and we need to improve employability. 

As a group, we feel Jersey needs to move on from the rhetoric of “putting children first” to the action of changing outcomes.

We want to develop policies that create opportunity. We want to support children and young people with early intervention, focus on improving wellbeing, creating diversion and outlets for young people.

We want islanders to know that we find it wholly unacceptable that in an Island as prosperous as Jersey, there is a school (there may be more) where it rains inside; That we find it wholly unacceptable that looked after children are not being supported well enough to reach their full potential; or that social services are still not being appropriately resourced.

Investment in services and in infrastructure will be needed. Schools and colleges should be re-positioned at the heart of our community, as places for children and young people to learn and enrich their lives, as well as a place for parents to access services without being stigmatised, get help, embark on their own learning journeys.

Education is the strongest driver of social mobility, but it’s a hard sell politically because there are no quick wins.

Politicians know that the public won’t see the effects of any changes for years, so they rarely focus on it enough to have any meaningful impact.

We need to create opportunity for our young people otherwise they won’t stay. If they don’t stay, we will need to continue to import carers, teachers, waiters, nurses and chefs.

Similarly, we need to make it affordable to stay and live in Jersey, which brings us to housing.

It’s simply not right that a family earning an average salary cannot aspire to own their own home.

This is a highly challenging area of policy. It requires balancing a range of conflicting interests, from protecting the value of existing homes to avoiding uncontrolled or inappropriate land development.

But if we fail to ensure that the market works in favour of lower-income households and first-time buyers, we risk continuing to lose our homegrown talent.

The liberal in us also believes that businesses should pay people properly and that government should set the minimum wage on par with the Living wage.

We intend to work with businesses for whom this is more challenging, namely agriculture and hospitality. Current staff shortages are already pushing salaries up in these industries.

The conservative in us prefers a smaller government. We don’t think that government is the vehicle to deliver much of the change we need. Instead, we believe in enabling the third sector to drive the positive change our community needs without being tied to government agendas.

Finally, in terms of policy areas, I would like to touch on the most pressing issue of our time: the environment.

Our environment needs active, long-term protection for it constitutes our wonderful heritage.

We must conserve the stunning beaches, cliffs, headlands, and countryside which make up our Jersey. Developments in our green zones should be resisted.

The Minister for the Environment should be the advocate for cleaner air and water, well-designed and greener homes, thriving biodiversity, sustainable agricultural practices, sustainable fisheries, and green recreational spaces for people, particularly those living in urban areas. We need government reports that include fully costed plans for delivering our agreed objectives.

In short, the JLC is pro-business and we have a strong social conscience.

We stand for progress and innovation and the conservation of our environment and our cherished island culture.

We prefer a small government and a thriving voluntary sector.

We underpin our values on a shared purpose of creating an environment where every person has the opportunity to thrive. This can only be delivered through competent leadership based on our values and aims.  

Ultimately, we intend to lead Jersey into being a better place for everyone.

We are in the process of developing our policy areas further, but I hope you now have an idea of what we stand for and what our key focuses are.

I would like to finish with some final thoughts on the need to engage with the broader community once again. Voters are disenfranchised, and we hope that political parties will help by bringing people together under one banner.

We will take heed of people’s frustrations and take great care to address their issues without increasing divisions in our society.

I believe that we need to work hard to change the public’s perception of politicians

Economic insecurity and an increase in social deprivation have fuelled this resentment of the political classes. A  sense of entitlement, no purpose or motivation and lack of personal responsibility makes it easy to think of the better-off as puppet masters controlling everything. The “haves” taking away from the “have-nots”. 

Political discourse is destroyed when we pit people against each other. It’s easier to blame all our misfortune on others than is it to roll up our sleeves.

Social mobility is not an easy process, but I am proof that it can be done. Having started adulthood as a single mother and an economic migrant who needed the help of tax credits to cover the bills.

We are at a crossroads with politics in Jersey. With the start of political parties and movements like ours, we have a choice between two paths. We can choose to pander to populism – tell people what they want to hear.

We can choose to feed identity politics and sow even more divisions in our society.

We can choose to attack and denigrate each other.

We can choose to back demagogues intent on exploiting any fracture in social cohesion.

Or we can choose to focus on rebuilding relationships, on re-enfranchising the community.

We can choose to be thoughtful, gentle and polite.

That is the only way we will be able to attract the right people into politics.

That is the only way to attract people with the right experience, be it professional or lived experience, whose heart is in the right place.

Voters want politicians who can deliver action, not politicians who are good at being politicians, at shirking answers, managing their image, and doing backroom deals.

In a democracy people get the government they deserve, and I think the people of Jersey deserve better, which is why we are here today asking you to support a better future.