Yes, definitely. I think it’s called an “onboarding programme” this time, but it’s just a good old-fashioned induction. We (the old States, particularly the States’ Assembly and Constitution Committee) did a fair bit of work with existing Deputies, trying to find out what elements of the previous induction worked well and what elements were lacking. Hopefully that will improve the process in practice – we’ll see!
Remember that your induction is – of necessity – mostly a technical process. You’ll learn about things like your data protection responsibilities and learn your way around States’ IT (a bit). You’ll get some insight into the breadth of services that each Committee delivers, and the kind of political decisions those Committees can make. You might even get some guidance on what “good governance” looks like. But civil servants can’t teach you how to be good politicians, nor would you want them to.
That means you may want to fill the gaps in your formal induction, with informal advice from current colleagues and previous States Members. Don’t assume that, just because someone has been around longer than you, they are necessarily right — but you can learn a lot from people with more experience, without ever having to take their word as law. Some of my favourite early tips from States Members were more about creature comforts than actual political tactics, and I appreciated them taking the time to look out for me. (Jane Stephens: “The Royal Court is blazing in summer and freezing in winter.” Mich Le Clerc: “Don’t waste a lot of money on a new wardrobe. You can get lovely smart jackets from most local charity shops.”) But more experienced States Members can also help you find your way through the maze of complex political processes; reassure you on dealing with the media; and help you to handle difficult Committee situations.
I would just caution – don’t pick one single source of information and take their word as law. Get advice from lots of different people and cross-reference it. Bear in mind that this is politics, and while most people will be generous with advice, there are bound to be times when even the best of people aren’t aware of their own bias, or are hoping to get something positive due to you taking a particular course of action. You need to be just a little guarded, and the best way to do this is not to close yourself off, but to be open to lots of different perspectives.
Finally, a word to returning politicians – for goodness’ sake, reach out to new Deputies, give them the advice you wish you’d had at the start of term, and be willing to be a listening ear or a gracious mentor if you’re needed. You can do this without being overbearing, and without expecting anything in return – by which I mean, be kind to those who are politically sympathetic to you, but also those who come from a very different perspective. Perhaps it’s bad advice on my part to suggest that you should help to make your political foes more competent, but I don’t think so. I think it means that you will have relationships of mutual trust and respect with people on the other side of the political divide, which can only make debates more constructive and friendly, and can help you to build consensus wherever consensus is possible.
About a month into our term, I remember Jennifer Merrett deciding that we’d spent enough time waiting for information to come to us, and she was going to go out and get it. She organised an evening out with a group of new Deputies – of all political stripes – and invited a couple of experienced States Members along to come and share their political experience, and talk through the different States’ processes we still needed to get to grips with. It was a great idea, and we all found it really helpful. Returning Deputies – this is something you can offer to your new colleagues. You don’t have to be shy about it: you’re not pretending you’re”better” than anyone, you’re just sharing the benefit of your longer experience. I would have loved more of that from my more-experienced colleagues in the early days of the States. I’d love to see more of it this time around.