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james hampton rushen

standing for election to give people choice

The Manifesto…

Isle of Man – GENERAL ELECTION

 22nd September 2016

Manifesto…

James

Hampton

BA(Hons), MSc

This manifesto is available online, in print and video formats. Videos of the public meetings & interviews are also available online. Please visit…

Facebook or Twitter…     @jameshamptonrus

or…

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRXG1jrMSHqY7NjIjB_SX4A

or…

https://jameshamptoniom.wordpress.com

Key commitments as an MHK… If elected I will…

  • Make every decision open to public debate and vote if desired. I do not anticipate the public will need or want to vote on every issue, however the power to do so if desired is key to improving decisions across the board. Most critical in the short term will be post general election votes on a Policy Program for Government & potentially a new Chief Minister.
  • Attempt to contact every household on the Island immediately (by post), in order to achieve the public engagement required. Engagement is the only way to ensure the significant changes we desperately need.
  • Commit to recall. If those who elect me don’t feel I am doing a good job, or doing as I promise I will step down on the basis of a public vote. I will attempt to respond to any enquiry within 24 hours if physically possible, and produce a public log of all enquiries and how they are being handled.
  • Record and publish every action taken for the public – including a full time sheet. I will remain at my current hourly rate to avoid decision making being clouded by financial considerations. Any surplus from paid salary will be offered back to the public for use as directed by them.
  • Not accept a public sector pension. I will submit all expenses claims for inspection by the public in the first instance. 100% transparency at all times.

Overview of key policies for public approval…

  • Implementation of the recommendations of the Lisvane Report on Tynwald reform – including a public vote on a new program for government. I would also seek public support for a fully elected Tynwald, and go further to give the public real power over every decision made. Without this, and a broad base public engagement, everything else that follows is nothing more than a wish list. Your island needs you!
  • We need to push for diversification of the economy and push fast. Focus the Economic Development Fund and any future investment on supporting ideas and innovative production in ways which will do more to ensure these businesses develop deep roots in our economy. I do not feel government is the best body to be making inherently risky cash investments. However we can provide the rest of the ingredients to create the best possible environment for these start ups (legislative flexibility, premises, quality of life, security, training facilities, data connections, cheap renewable energy) for less money and less risk.
  • Produce a full and clear picture of all government finances presented in layman’s terms. From there it will be possible to conduct a fair and open debate on the level and costs of all public services and public sector pensions liabilities. If it is clarified that the reality is we could default as a nation as a result of the liabilities then negotiation as to how to resolve that must happen and happen fast – the alternative is both parties stand to lose significantly. Only full engagement of the public will ensure this – many years of inaction prove this.
  • Push for the implementation of the recommendations of the 2010 AEA report – see below for links – which will allow the IOM to start producing its own energy for conversion to electricity, and selling it to the UK (who desperately need it). This will not only potentially reduce local carbon emissions but also provide a vital market for local agriculture & forestry. At the same time it will produce revenue to help pay for the infrastructure, the cost of which is currently being loaded on to the electricity consumer and rate payers.
  • Call for support for a change in the law to ensure that anything sold as Manx produce is guaranteed as such. Farmers already comply with a mountain of red tape to ensure that produce is traceable from birth or harvest to abattoir or wholesaler, this data could so easily offer valuable marketing information with very little or no further government investment. Systems are already in use elsewhere which could allow the consumer to scan a code on any product and know everything about it in an instant. This level of food security and traceability is valuable, both locally and in terms of export.
  • Seek opinion on the establishment of a government supported and locally run co-op ferry company. Co-ops are the most stable form of business across the world, and all profits would stay on the island. There is no logical reason to continue with services that are outside our control, and simply syphon money away from us. Given the current position it may be possible to pick up and convert the existing company structure. If found to be viable, the same model could be used to improve air links.
  • Push for a revision of planning policy to ensure the wishes of the majority are enforced above all else. There are few issues as divisive as planning when the public perceive that there is one rule for some, and another for everyone else. This is not to say that the public will necessarily want to clamp down on all development. Development is needed, but it needs to be seen to be in the interests of society first.
  • Call for a review into abortion law – abortion is happening and is going to happen whether or not the law is changed. Without a local service this is putting Manx women at increased risk. However, the overall level of care provided in the UK with regard to this issue falls a long way short of an ideal model to follow. All possible steps should be taken in terms of care provided to ensure that abortion is always the last resort – this should be legally binding if the law is changed. This doesn’t happen in the UK. My hope is that the Isle of Man can show what a caring society really means. The decision should ultimately rest with the public by open vote.
  • Ask the public to demand a complete, clean sheet review of health and welfare services – this should focus on the level of provision desired, the most efficient way to provide it, associated costs and how we pay for them – in simple terms. Dissatisfaction with services (often due to lack of information) and the risk of dangerous failures is only going to rise if this debate does not happen. The debate should be centred on frontline staff and the public, not an external review or commission with no reference to realistic funding debate. The time to grasp this nettle is now.

 

 

Dear Rushen Voter,

It probably makes sense to start by outlining why I am standing for election. I was born on the Isle of Man in 1981, and throughout most of my life it has felt like politics has never really been much of an issue. Up until very recently I have never felt a lack of support or opportunity. Sadly it is often the case that it’s easy not to question things when everything seems to be going well. However, from my own perspective, it doesn’t feel like that any more.

It is probably something to do with the arrival of my own children – the third arrived this week – which made me start to pay a bit more attention to how things are run, and how decisions are made. The more attention you pay the more concerning it gets…

Like many people I have serious concerns over the pensions deficit, health services (which are at breaking point) and government inefficiency. However, when you actually stop and analyse why these things are happening it soon becomes clear; these are merely symptoms of the real problem. The real problem is that the system of government formation we use on the Isle of Man simply does not incentivise good decision making. More fundamentally than that – it allows no choice for us as voters in our national policy direction. This is not a matter of personal opinion; it has been perfectly summarised in the recent full review of The Functioning of Tynwald by Lord Lisvane – which is available here…

https://www.gov.im/media/1352029/review-of-the-functioning-of-tynwald-gd-2016-0047.pdf

My favourite quote from the review came from the then Speaker (now President of Tynwald) Mr Steve Rodan…

“It is a bit of a blind-date relationship between the public and the elected representatives: you do not know exactly what you are going to get until an administration has been formed post-election.”

It shouldn’t really have come as a surprise given the reality of the disconnect, but it’s become abundantly clear since I started canvassing that many people simply don’t know how our government is formed and how therefore our policy direction is set. This is the single most important factor in any issue you are concerned about; it’s about to be decided in the next month and you have NO say in it!

As this is the main reason I am standing for election it is probably worth a quick re-cap – apologies to those who already know the ropes. The truncated version – on 22nd Sept, twenty-four Members of the House of Keys (MHKs) will be elected. The very first job for these new members is to elect a new Chief Minister. This is also voted on by the unelected upper house – The Legislative Council (MLCs). There is actually no rule to ensure the Chief Minister is an MHK; it could be an MLC who has never been popularly elected. The first job for the new Chief Minister is to form the new government. The new government takes charge of policy direction and all key decisions therein. As a voter you have no say in the selection of the Chief Minister and therefore no say in the decisions which will follow.

What does this mean? In short it means that no single candidate can promise you anything – not a single thing in terms of major government decisions. If you don’t believe that is the case please ask your candidate how they plan to deliver on any issue – listen carefully to the answer! Your candidate could have the best solutions to the issues of most concern to you but upon election they will essentially have two choices. They either take up the financial incentive offered to join the government – and enter the lottery of consensus – or they take the hard road and stay outside the government. The fact that the majority of members will have a role in government in one form or another, means there is an inbuilt majority vote in almost all cases due to the process described above. Again, this is not a matter of personal opinion. The Lisvane report does a brilliant job of highlighting the inadequacy of this process and indeed makes some great recommendations to resolve it. There is no requirement for these recommendations to be taken up, and without public engagement they almost certainly won’t be.

As voters we are playing dice. We are simply gambling that the right combination of new MHKs (and existing MLCs) will fall into place in order to resolve the issues we are facing. Until very recently this didn’t seem to matter too much, but since the loss of the VAT sharing agreement (prior to the installation of the last administration), the results of this gamble have really begun to matter. Over the next five years they could potentially make or break the Island as we know it. Given that the pension liability issue has been known about and remained unresolved for nearly a decade, how much longer do we want to keep playing dice? The consequences of getting the wrong combination in the next House of Keys could be as serious as the Isle of Man defaulting, resulting in a serious economic downturn affecting everything from house prices to basic services.

How then do we resolve such an apparently insurmountable problem? History tells us that the traditional approach on the Isle of Man has been via attempts to instigate party politics, establishing a political agenda before the election. In principle this is a good idea in terms of allowing the electorate to vote on policy (if not actually allowing them to select the exact policy choices that truly represent them on a fluid basis). However history also tells us this hasn’t worked on the Isle of Man. There are many different opinions why that is the case but the fact remains, it hasn’t worked up to now and it doesn’t look likely to change any time soon. In order to solve this issue we need to go one step back and look at what maintains the current status quo – the answer is you, the voter.

As voters we are the people who provide the political power to maintain the current system. Only we can change it and only if we do it together. Every single new candidate elected on the 22nd Sept is relying on the power contained in your votes. If you want to see changes to health care, to education, to pensions, to spending prioritisation, the only way to guarantee it is to vote again immediately after the election. If we as a society vote together in the same numbers in the immediate aftermath of the general election – to say “this is what we want”, the new administration will be forced to pay attention. If we don’t we are just rolling the dice again.

What follows are my own opinions on political issues. If elected this is the direction I would naturally be pushing. The commitment to direct democracy underpins everything – if the majority of people disagree with my view I will put my case forward as strongly as possible, but I will always go with the majority in every decision.

My hope is that if elected we can keep the people who vote on the 22nd Sept engaged for just a few more days, in order to convene a further public vote on a new program for government as soon as possible. Once this is approved by the public it will be my job to make sure this is adhered to. I do not anticipate asking the public to vote on issues week in week out. However, if I or anyone else feels a government action is not in line with the program, or the program needs to be adjusted as a result of changing requirements, we must call on the public to make this happen. The public must be the ultimate enforcers / guarantors, otherwise we could sit on the fence over public sector pensions for another five years!

THE ECONOMY & EDUCATION

The Manx economy is too heavily reliant on potentially volatile sectors such as finance, e-gaming and related service sectors. This type of work can be relocated in an instant – which is a major risk factor.

Global trends in advancing technology mean it is almost certain this type of service sector work will require less and less labour input. The future of productivity lies in innovation not in human labour (no matter what sector you are in). Piling more and more people on to a small island is therefore simply not going to solve our problems and may in fact make them much worse.

After 30+ years of lauded continuous economic growth this mantra has now clearly failed, as we watch our public services crumble. The phrase ‘low taxation economy’ is probably the most toxic in Manx politics. It implies not only that we must constantly compare ourselves and rely on others for support (undervaluing  our unique strengths in the process), but also that we expect something for nothing. I do not. I expect a high standard of living and I expect to pay a fair price for it. Unfortunately a ‘pragmatic’ or ‘fair taxation economy’ doesn’t have the same ring to it!

It doesn’t matter how much growth we achieve if the portion of that growth which is required to provide the services we want is not collected and spent as we want it. If growth is based upon more and more people the related costs are only going to rise, and the problems are going to get worse, not better. The underlying problem is that our high standards of living and public service have clearly never been based on economic growth. They were based on VAT income we had no right to. That money is now gone and the public have not been asked, what do you want to do next? A political decision was made – taxation was not open for discussion so we have cut everything and started to charge via stealth taxes. Because we don’t have a true political system there has been no debate on this. It has been implied there is no choice. This is simply not true.

We can look at other small island nations for evidence. The Cayman Islands are further down the path of the low taxation model we are using. The result is extremely low levels of public service, a pensions crisis and a deeply divided and unhappy society. Alternatively, while far from perfect, Iceland is a small independent island nation facing many of the challenges that we do, and yet it has maintained some of the highest standards of living and productivity in the world; the strongest recovery from near catastrophic economic shock in 2008 and an extremely united egalitarian (and therefore happy) society.

The image below is a snapshot from the top of the UN World Happiness Report 2015. Switzerland tops the table – it has been using direct democracy since the late 1800s. Iceland also has a strong tradition of direct  popular political action. This is not a coincidence.

screen-shot-2016-09-04-at-09-47-38

http://worldhappiness.report/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/04/WHR15_Sep15.pdf

The Island already has a well established small scale high-tech engineering and innovation sector. This is exactly the type of business we should be trying to grow. It is based upon people, their ideas and their productivity – and it is therefore intrinsically tied to our quality of life. These production sectors have much deeper roots than sectors which are based largely upon fluid capital.

The Enterprise Development Fund needs to be closely managed in conjunction with our education system to ensure the results are actually to our benefit. Growth for the sake of growth without a much broader debate on where we are heading and why, is not going to be beneficial. The choice should lie with the public, and we are the only ones who can make it happen.

Our education system has felt the brunt of cuts right across its range of activity. The consequence is that opportunity is being stifled and we are backing ourselves in to a corner. If we do not provide opportunity and freedom for people to acquire the skills to turn their creativity in to productivity and provide the environment to support new enterprise based on that productivity, the demographic trajectory we are currently seeing is going to seriously harm the Isle of Man – young people are not going to stay and there won’t be anyone left to pay the bills! Our current education model is largely based upon producing workers for sectors which are highly likely not to exist in the near future. We need a much broader debate on what we are educating for and how we are doing it.  If creativity is going to be key to economic survival in the future there are many different models from around the world that are proven to work better than that which we are currently using. Change can happen, but only the public can make it happen on the Isle of Man. Your Island Needs You!

HEALTH, WELFARE, PENSIONS…

As with Education, Isle of Man Health Services and  Welfare Support systems are rapidly approaching breaking point. The pressure being placed on frontline health staff is simply unacceptable, and the results are clear. People who are passionate about caring as a career will not stay in jobs where they are forced to put patients at risk because of political decisions – and they will not be easily replaced. The UK is already facing a massive recruiting problem and often the working conditions on the Isle of Man are worse! The result is massive overspend on expensive agency staff and more and more people forced to go for private treatment because they simply cannot wait what is often years for NHS treatment. If that trajectory continues the system will very soon reach the point of collapse.

The first question must be – what does the public want? If the majority of the public are happy to see the dismantling of our NHS then no action is required; that is what is going to happen with the current trajectory. Personally I am very concerned about this as I feel that a ‘free at the point of use’ health service is fundamental to a productive, fair and happy society. This is a service I want to pay for and I hope that others do too. The problem is that in order to deal with this it is going to involve a conversation on taxation, spending priorities and efficiency – and that’s the debate we are never offered at present. First class health services are expensive; they cannot be paid for on the basis of a low taxation economy. We should be given the choice and those choices should encompass a full spectrum review of what government does and how, based on public demand and font-line knowledge.

The idea of a society that provides a safety net for those who need it is currently being destroyed by the wider public perception that some people turn this safety net in to a hammock. Nobody wants to pay taxes when they know about people abusing the system and it seems many know of someone who is. We have seen over the past five years how ineffectual our current system of government is in tackling such issues. The only way we are going to resolve these issues is by the public clearly stating what they want the welfare system to do and more importantly what they don’t! Only by such a clear directive will real change be possible.

The same applies to the burning issue of pensions. The simple fact is that according to the government’s own budget figures our pensions reserves will be gone before the next election at the current rate of depletion. The current solution to this problem is to pin all our hopes on huge growth predictions – the medium term forecast. That is one hell of a gamble. If it doesn’t work the Isle of Man could default and then we really are in unchartered territory. With ultimate responsibility for good governance lying with the UK, there is potential for complete revocation of our current level of independence. This would probably result in a rapid economic decline with knock on effects on house prices, jobs, living costs and the whole enterprise. In short if we continue to ignore this problem as it has been over the past five years and beyond, it could ultimately completely transform the Island for the worse. What’s needed is a full and open debate. We need to renegotiate the deals so that they are fair to both sides, otherwise both sides are likely to end up with nothing.

ENVIRONMENT, AGRICULTURE & ENERGY

We have an agricultural sector which is on its knees because for too long the market was skewed by production subsidies. That support has now been significantly reduced and converted to an area payment and has not been augmented with any protection. The consequence is that our farming industry is minimally supported in a way which offers no incentive to produce anything the public may want and it is therefore being eroded by the importation of subsidised commodities from elsewhere. Given current global trends I feel it is extremely unwise to leave our food security to chance like this. Equally, ignoring farming from a public health and therefore cost perspective is economic lunacy. We must however remain realistic; the Isle of Man is not going to compete in global commodity markets where subsidies are used for geo-political ends by world super powers.

We have the potential to produce incredibly high quality food, with near perfect traceability and low environmental cost. The only thing missing is the political will to provide the protection this sector requires. Until we have a much wider public debate about where we are heading as a society and the intrinsic link between food, good health and quality of life the current trajectory is not likely to change.

Looking beyond food, we have another area where our lack of political effectiveness is doing great harm. In 2010 the government commissioned AEA to produce a report into the renewable energy options we should be considering…

It can be found here…

https://www.gov.im/media/624407/aeaexecutivesummary.pdf

To summarise, the excellent report’s top recommendation was that we should focus our effort on switching to biomass as a key energy sector, from domestic all the way through to national level. It identified the fact that we already have generation capacity in this area with the Energy From Waste plant (incinerator), we already have a cable connecting us to a neighbouring jurisdiction which is running desperately short on generation capacity (a ready made market) and we have an agricultural sector desperate for something to do – easily capable of producing our own energy. In short this was (is) a massive ready made opportunity.

I attended the public presentation at the Manx Museum in 2010 and was very impressed. Mainly because I had made the same recommendations to government myself in 2009 after I started importing biomass which could easily be produced here. What happened next? The very same year the government approved the spending of £23.5 million pounds on a new gas pipeline – a total dead end investment. If that money had been spent on developing national energy production as recommended, we’d be well on the way to energy independence by now and to plugging one of the biggest holes in our national economic bucket at the same time.

Has anything changed since then? Not much. All the factors present in the report are still as they were, they’ve only become more pertinent as the costs of our existing supplies and services have risen. You will no doubt be aware that we are going to be expected to pay an increasing cost for running the Energy From Waste plant over the coming years through our rates, and this is a piece of national infrastructure we paid for in the first place and then sold! This infrastructure could easily be making us money; not costing us. So what’s the problem? The political system is the problem. The MEA needs to maintain high energy prices in order to pay off its questionably incurred debts and so this has made it a political ‘no go’ area. The MEA debts are not an insurmountable problem, and with the application of public pressure this entire sector could be re-organised to benefit the public – not to be the mill stone round our neck as it is at present.

As a bonus, switching to producing our own energy would further drive the Isle of Man towards carbon neutrality and improve our energy security by eventually uncoupling us from international energy markets and their inherent ethical consequences. It is possible – if we demand it together.

TRANSPORT & INFRASTRUCTURE

Infrastructure is possibly the most divisive area of government activity. It is the area which affects everyone no matter what, and as such it is probably the most challenging area in terms of implementing solutions that are fair and agreeable to all. The failure of the Douglas Promenade scheme shows what happens when the process fails and again, I feel this is ultimately a failure of the structure behind the decisions, rather than the transient people who have moved in and out of the process.

As part of a new program for government I would push for public approval of an overarching policy on all government infrastructure spending, which would allow the public to fully engage with setting priorities on all government capital spending (from road repairs to new schools and everything in between). The policy structure should be set in such a way as to eliminate ‘nimbyism’ where it clashes with national interests, so long as the policy has been set down in an objective manner entirely independent of any one case. Public demand for good policy can help us deal with thorny issues of prioritisation and location of government spending and projects. Once these issues have been dealt with simply by appraisal of policy criteria I believe the public should be brought back in to the process to assist in developing and voting on designs for public works. It is our money and makes up our built environment, it should be our choice. I am very much in favour of open design competitions for all major public works.

Living on a small rock in the middle of the Irish Sea lifeline transport links are always going to be an issue of national importance. The current arrangement with the Steam Packet has been a clear failure, not generally in terms of service provision, but clearly in terms of wider public perception over what we are paying for.

What do the public want? We want to know we are getting a good service at a fair price. When we strip everything else away we hold the trump card in this deal, and it’s up to the public whether we play the best hand or not. We as a society hold the keys to a service requirement worth hundreds of millions of pounds. As an absolute minimum I believe we should consider, debate and vote on two basic options. 1. That the public  /government purchase and own the entire infrastructure and either operate it ourselves in one form or another (co-operative ownership would be the most stable and economically beneficial), or tender out the operational side. This option provides the most long term security. 2. Conduct a fully open tender process for a new service contract with a private operator – where the public set the terms they wish to offer, and the level of service they expect. This is our deal – we should be the ones calling the shots.

The same theory applies to air services, to the extent that to the open skies policy may allow. Market forces dictate that as a small scale opportunity we are always going to be near the bottom of the pile when it comes to delays and cancellations. If the public wish to change that, it’s going to involve market intervention – which means spending government money. It should therefore be the public who decide.

OTHER ISSUES…

I could probably keep going for another 20 pages but let’s face it, few like reading lengthy manifestos so I will conclude with the following. There is no issue on the Isle of Man that I feel would not benefit from more democracy; and this is the pledge I am making. Think of an issue, any issue – if enough people agree with you, (even if I don’t personally agree with you), we can make things happen. Nowhere is the positive potential of direct democracy more evident than with highly sensitive issues such as abortion or end of life care. Even if decisions do not go your way, you want to know your voice was heard and your vote counted. Democracy is not about always getting what you want; it’s about getting the best outcome for the society you live in.

HOW? 

In the short term my plan is simple. If elected I will send out a mail shot to every house on the Island, asking them to confirm that they want to vote on a new program for government and potentially a new chief minister. If enough people make this clear demand it will be very hard for any new house of keys to ignore. The new program for government should be easily formulated by those who have just been elected. Once it is ready (within a few weeks) it should be put back out to the public to consider, debate and vote on. If a new program were initially rejected it should be fairly clear if openly debated where the mistakes have been made. The public should retain the right to keep the program on track by the same means!

This process can be achieved by traditional paper & postal systems or ideally via digital means. The website http://www.democracy.im is an example (which I organised the development team for), and has already been used as a test bed for the principle of direct democracy on the Isle of Man. If you like this idea please make note of your polling district code and voter number. This unique code identifies you to the government without having to divulge any further details. It will allow the government to assume responsibility for verification – as they do currently with all petitions.

Finally I will finish with an apology (a great start to any political career I know). My children are the reason I have decided to stand for election, because I see that the opportunities that were open to me growing up on the Isle of Man are now closing to them – something has gone wrong and the consequences for all of us could not be more serious. At the very beginning of this manifesto I mentioned that we have very recently welcomed the latest addition to our family – Frances was born on the 9th Sept 2016. My decision to stand was made on the morning of the Brexit result in June, when it was perfectly clarified that the traditional political model is failing not only on the Isle of Man but worldwide.

Unfortunately at this time I was already in the middle of creating a necessary additional bedroom for my growing family, and this is the reason I have not been able to conduct a conventional campaign by knocking on every door in the constituency – as I would have liked to. Accepting my limitations I simply felt that I must make this offer now, as next time could be too late. I am still available to call out and meet you at a time to suit you, and if elected I will be calling upon you to provide the power required to make the changes we need.

I wish you all the best, and hope for a good turn out on the 22nd September whatever the outcome.

 

Very Best Regards, 

James

About me : Born on IOM, 02/06/81, brought up in Castletown, currently living in the parish of Rushen since 2008. Partner to Jennifer since 1999, married in 2006, three children as of 9th Sept 2016.

Education : Victoria Road & Castle Rushen Schools to 1999, then Liverpool John Moores University – BA Hons Architecture – First Class (2002), then University College London, The Bartlett School, Development Planning Unit – MSc in Development Planning – Distinction (2004), then Isle of Man College – NVQ Carpentry & Joinery (2006).

Employment : 1999-2000 – CAD Drafting – Mannarc Design, Douglas (non-term time – during first degree), 2002-2003 – Junior Architect – DKV Arcitecten, Rotterdam, Holland. 2004-2006 – Cabinet Maker – William Davies, Ballasalla. 2006 – 2008 – Oak Framer – Green Oak Carpentry Company, Hampshire, UK. 2008 – to date : Established businesses – Manninwood Traditional Carpentry Ltd, specialising in Oak frame buildings and other unusual / hand crafted design and build projects – including strawbale, rammed earth, recycled car tyre foundations, etc… Also run Brabbag Fuels Ltd as a ‘hobby’ business.

Manifesto published by James Hampton,

The Whitehouse Bungalow,

Fistard,

Port St Mary,

IM9 5PQ

Twitter & Facebook @jameshamptonrus

    Email – jameswhampton@yahoo.com

   Telephone: 434044

Website – https://jameshamptoniom.wordpress.com

 Videos – http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRXG1jrMSHqY7NjIjB_SX4A

 

 

POLLING STATIONS…

CRUS1 Methodist Hall, Station Road, Port Erin

CRUS2 Scoill Phurt Le Moirrey, Port St Mary

CRUS3 Ballafesson Methodist Hall, Ballafesson

CRUS4 Ballafesson Methodist Hall, Ballafesson

If you require assistance with getting to a polling station, either for advance votes or on the 22nd please don’t hesitate to get in touch. With three children to ferry around people carrying facilities are available – I’ll even clean the decomposing fruit out before hand 😉

 

 

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In accordance with the Representation of the People Act -1995

Featured post

Why? Direct Democracy & Standing for election to Tynwald.

democracy

In February 2016 I gave my first talk on Direct Democracy to the Liberal Van Party AGM, after which I was asked by James Davis of Manx Radio if I was planning to stand for election myself. The question caught me off guard slightly as the thought had not occurred to me at that point. “No, I don’t think it would be a very good idea for me” – I reacted, without even really thinking about it. Much has changed since then.

2016 has been a year of unprecedented political change both locally and internationally. Locally the Isle of Man is feeling the acute heat of serious challenges in relation to pension liabilities, energy costs, public services provision and uncertainty within our core business sectors – to name but a few in a growing list of challenges. Internationally we have seen the apparently unstoppable growth of extreme political narratives, sitting cheek-by-jowl with widespread dissatisfaction in traditional politics. The stark reality of this trajectory has been brought in to sharp focus with the Brexit campaign and vote in the UK. For someone who has been accustomed to relative political stability throughout my entire lifetime the current outlook is worrying to say the least. So why would anyone want to jump in to the middle of such a difficult situation?

Firstly and most importantly in terms of reasons to stand for election are my children. I have 2 children now, and by the time the votes are being cast in Sept (all being well) number 3 will be with us. I want these children (and their children if they so wish) to enjoy the same benefits of growing up in the Isle of Man as I did. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunities and support which has allowed me to make the decisions I have in life. I love what I do and where I do it, I could quite easily carry on regardless! However, if I feel that there may be factors which could reduce the opportunities for my children I cannot do nothing. Secondly, if I hadn’t been born here it is highly likely I would not have gone to university – which the public of the Isle of Man paid for. To that end I feel a great amount of responsibility. The people of the Island paid for a very good education, and as a consequence of that education I am greatly concerned about the situations we are facing right now. In addition to concern however, the experience I have gained both in education and in running my own businesses has provided me with ideas as to what – I feel – are the only equitable means of finding solutions to these problems.

What do I know that’s different to any other prospective candidate? Mainly I know that I don’t know everything. I have strong political opinion on most subjects, however one thing I believe in more than anything else is that I should not have the power to wield those views over others – even if I have been elected to represent them. To represent is not to dictate. One of the reasons I have realised that I have to stand myself is that the change I have been advocating recently simply does not fit in to traditional political thinking. I had hoped that other candidates would pick up this idea and offer it to the public – but why would they when the system works very well for those who control it? The idea of sharing decision making power simply does not mesh with conventional political thinking. I had hoped that the public would pick up on the idea and demand it of their candidates, but how will they if they are so disengaged that they ‘turn off’ at the very mention of the word ‘politics’? There is only one thing left to do, I have to offer the change I want to see myself.

If elected my offer to the people of the Isle of Man is simple. Every action take on behalf of the public will be recorded and published. Every decision will be open to debate and VOTE. I will translate the will of the public directly in to decisions in Keys, Tynwald and anywhere else I have the opportunity. Why? Because a disengaged public is a dangerous thing, and I believe the only way to re-engage people is to give them access to power. Mistakes will be made, but mistakes made by society are far better than mistakes made by transient representatives. Society is a continuous entity, it can learn by mistakes and improve gradually. Transient representatives do not. Difficult decisions are going to be made over the next few years. If people do not see that those decisions have been made as fairly as possible – and their voice has been heard – the consequences for the Island could be severe. I want to do everything possible to avoid that.

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Manx Radio Questionnaire

James Hampton – Rushen Political Questions (2016) 

Why do you want to be a member of the House of Keys?

In order to try and improve the prospects for my children on the IOM 

If you were elected, what would your priorities be on a national level?

Political system reform and an island wide debate on our overall political direction (these are not separable). The public are not able to choose policy direction at present, as clarified by the recent Lisvane Report. Economically are pursuing a model which has not and does not work anywhere, and the public is not able to change this. The long term consequences of this trajectory could be terminal for the IOM as it stands. IOM needs to look at our niche strengths – ease of doing business, energy, tourism, specialist manufacturing.

If you were elected, what would your priorities be on a constituency level?

Handing over more power to local authorities and facilitating increased efficiency via direct democracy. Questions over big ticket items like a marina in PSM or redevelopment of the Marine Biological Station in Pt Erin need to start with the residents. What do they want? How are we going to fund it?

How well do you think the present administration has handled the major challenges of the past five years?

Not well. The reality of the loss of income from the VAT sharing agreement has been on the table since before the last election, and yet we have seen very little action to make the difficult decisions needed – other than cutting funding and raising stealth taxes. 

What are the main political and social issues facing the Isle of Man in the next five years?

Further significant cuts in public services and support – or significant borrowing and debt – or significant changes to our taxation policies. It is simply not possible to maintain such high standards of public service in conjunction with low taxation – the sums just don’t add up. The choices are very simple – it’s one or the other – either we accept that services and support are not going to be provided as they have been, or we find another way to pay for them. The third option is to load debt on to future generations, which is a road to near certain absolute failure for a dependant jurisdiction like the IOM because people will just leave when times get harder and young people will not return – likely culminating in the UK stepping in. If the wrong choices are made the consequences for the IOM will be significant.

How would you deal with the challenges referred to in the previous answer?

Democracy. Real democracy. Ask people what they want the government do for them, be honest about what that costs, make it as efficient as possible, be fair about how it’s paid for, accept what cannot be done, get on with what can. This will only happen if people engage, ignoring it will only make it worse. Pretending growth can solve it will only make it worse.

How would you deal with the issue of public sector pension reform and the public sector pension deficit?

As above. Honesty, democracy and compromise in the interest of the majority is the only way. If the liabilities are simply too great for the economy to bear then eventually it will fail, and those liabilities will be worth nothing. The people holding them need to consider that. The IOM cannot print money to solve this, it can fail. If the UK step in there is no guarantee those commitments will be met in full.


What has changed in the past five years for Isle of Man residents for the better? (Please give examples)

Broadly – very little. Some specific plus points – Same Sex Marriage, Passivhaus Government Housing, Bio-Sphere Status…


What has changed in the past five years for Isle of Man residents for the worse? (Please give examples)

Rapid and significant decline in Health Service provision – massive pressure being put upon frontline staff, longer waiting times, selective funding, etc. Education also suffering – reduced support and increasing pressure across the board. I’m sure this is a trend seen across government – from my own business I know how much pressure is being placed upon Planning & Building Control frontline staff. This trend is likely to continue.

Is the Isle of Man too reliant on any one sector of its economy?

I would say yes it is. The information that’s available indicates a large proportion of GDP comes from finance and e-gaming. These are both fairly volatile sectors, which can be very easily transferred elsewhere.

If you feel it is, how would you further diversify the Manx economy?

IOM has a strong small manufacturing sector which should be supported as far as possible. Skilled high value production is going to become increasingly valuable in a technologically driven world. This type of wealth generation is deeply rooted and easily supported, it can tie in to other sectors like education to further embed the value to the local economy. These businesses rely on more than just taxation policy. If a business is viable it should not need money throwing at it.


Are you in favour of increased independence from the United Kingdom?

Broadly yes – if it is proven to be of an advantage and the majority agree. If the UK struggles over the next few years this could be the case. You only have to look at Iceland to see what a tiny population living on a truly isolated rock can achieve if the desire is there. 

If you are, in which areas?

All areas. The only area we cannot realistically cover is defence, and looking at global trajectories it is questionable as to whether the support we receive from the UK on this front will continue to be good value for money. 

Are you in favour of parliamentary reform in the Isle of Man?

Absolutely. It is essential if we are going to achieve the best compromise for all, or indeed any change. 

If you are, which aspects of the parliamentary system would you change? 

Broadly I would be in favour of a unicameral system with direct democratic powers over that (to act as a safety / scrutiny check). This would be the most efficient, and provide the best result for the public. I gave a full review of my preferences to the Lisvane review – https://www.gov.im/about-the- government/offices/cabinet- office/review-of-the-functioning-of- tynwald/

Who should have the responsibility of electing the Chief Minister? 

The Public. They should maintain power of recall over all members including CM in order to ensure correct direction is taken. 


Are you in favour of the nationalisation of air and/or sea services to and from the Isle of Man?

In theory yes. We need to recognise our position. We are a small population living on a small island. If the public agree (they should be asked) that open competition is not viable as a first choice, then the terms of any deal should also be decided by the public. My own opinion is that owning the infrastructure guarantees essential services at the very least. 

Are you in favour of renewable energy projects in Manx territorial waters?

I’m in favour of implementing the recommendations of the AEA report which the government commission in 2010 and then ignored. Biomass is far cheaper and more secure, and more likely to put money back in to the manx economy. 

Are you in favour of an increase in means testing for financial support and/or services provided by Government?

Yes. If you don’t really need help you shouldn’t be getting it. 

If you are, in which areas?

All areas. If you are expecting assistance from the taxpayer in any form there needs to be proof of need or return. 

Isle of Man Newspapers – Questionnaire

Main job before politics…

Company Director :

1). Manninwood Ltd – Design & Build

2). Brabbag Ltd – Solid Fuel Retail.

Are you a member of a political party? If so, which

No.

What is the optimum population for the Isle of Man?

It is not possible to pick an arbitrary figure without context. The optimum depends on what direction we want the Island to head in, what density of population we can achieve in certain areas while maintaining a high living standard, and whether we can get the demographic balance right. Personally I value our countryside and would not like to see further extensive development, and at the same time I have lived in cities which had a much higher population density than Douglas and maintained a higher quality of life. The Island could handle more people but only with better planning and infrastructure – and that costs money! Simply adding more people without addressing the costs attached to a high standard of living is insane. 

Would you like to see curbs on migration to the island?

I’d like to see a much broader debate on where we are heading and how we are going to achieve it. If that ultimately means controlling migration so be it. We have to be brutally honest about what is and what is not going to be beneficial. Pretending migration is not potentially negative is extremely naive – see the EU for reference. 

Should our graduates be refunded their student loans if they return to the island to work?

Yes. We need to maintain a core of young people with ideas and initiative on the Island. It’s a bleak future without them.

Who should be the next Chief Minister?

I haven’t seen anyone else put forward a workable plan as to how to achieve the changes we need yet, so for the time being I’m going to have to go with ‘me’ on this one. 😉 

In the past five years the public sector workforce has dropped by 10% (825 people, source Cabinet Office). Should any more go? If so, how many?

We need an island wide debate on what we want the government to do, and what is the best way to do it before that question can be properly answered. In the aftermath of the loss of the VAT money this political debate has been desperately needed and not delivered. I would imagine if we gather a new consensus some areas will be trimmed down, but some areas could possibly require more staff if the public feel services have been cut too far and they want to pay for them. For example my perception (from using the service) is that Planning & Building Control Dept is stretched too thinly now. That is a service which should be entirely covered by the fees we pay to use it, so really it shouldn’t make any difference in that area to have more staff to meet the workload efficiently. If the fees aren’t high enough (they aren’t), then put them up and get more staff! In other areas no doubt there are efficiencies to be had, with further improvements to be made by making departments work better together. 

Where should the horse trams run once Douglas Promenade’s works have ended?

It should be up to the public but my vote would be for – away from traffic one way or another. The road is far too busy now for their current position. Anyone who’s ridden them recently during a busy period will know this – with small children it is frightening. I never understood the argument for not having them on the seaward side in a separate lane. If you google ‘greatest cities in the world’, look at any link and every city listed will have trams in pedestrian public spaces (usually away from traffic). Trams are a fundamental element of high quality urban living. If we want to plan for a better future (sorting public prioritisation of budgets first), the best option overall (in my opinion) would be to integrate the new track with a modern electric tram for commuters, possibly linking all the way through to Ramsey… see ref. for high quality urban living as above. This also links in with the optimum population question, higher population possible while maintaining quality of life only with better infrastructure – it costs! 

What has been the single biggest waste of government money in the last few years?

Going back a bit but £300+m on a new gas fuelled power station at at time when any smart country would have laughed at such a suggestion? Then £23.5m on a new gas pipeline in 2010, the same year the government commissioned the AEA report – which was largely ignored. If the recommendations of the AEA report had been implemented this amount of investment would have seen the Island producing, using and exporting our own energy by now. The amount of money we could have made, and could continually be keeping on the Island is eye watering… every gas bill, every electricity bill, every oil bill… but no, huge debts to pay for expensive energy, all of which goes straight out of the door. Criminal.  

Which government-owned operations should be privatised or kept in public ownership but run by a private company?

Possibly forestry if we can implement a logical energy production program – see answer on the biggest waste of money above.  Keep land in public ownership but tender out processing and management of biomass as the best possible option as recommended. 

Which member of the last administration impressed you most?

Phil Gawne for being prepared to take some risks, and trying to engage the public. Kate Beecroft and Chris Thomas close behind!  

Would you support the introduction of a national speed limit?

No. Not much point if we don’t address the underlying issue. What we need is a more realistic debate on our relationship as a society with speed and racing, stricter enforcement of the limits where they do exist and more access to safe facilities for those who will inevitably want to take risks – pretending like the problem can be policed away is ignoring the facts. 

Should fitness to work tests on sickness benefit claimants continue to be carried out? Should the policy be extended to other benefits?

Public perception of benefit cheating in any area is toxic to the wider debate we need on taxation and spending. Something needs to be done. The last administration showed how not to do it. A big part of the problem is that we are also destroying the GP service we need to rely on (in part) to ensure the benefit system is fairly governed. A reinvestment of the GP service would go a long way to solving this problem, so that GPs can be people who are ‘in and of the community’ and not just someone who has 5 minutes to talk to you about one problem only.   

Should means testing of public services and benefits be extended?

In terms of health & care – no. In terms of any financial support – yes. It’s a lot more complicated than that but you wanted brevity!  

How would you tackle the funding gap in public sector pensions?

An open renegotiation with the public. As I understand it we are facing the depletion of the reserve within the next 5 years. If the IOM reaches the point of default then both public and those with entitlements stand to loose out big time. There has to be a workable compromise somewhere in the middle. The public want services, and so long as the costs are reasonable I would hope the majority are all happy to pay. On the other hand if the perception is that some of the deals are too generous then people won’t be happy to pay. My guess would be that some tax rises are acceptable so long as the public feel the deal is good, and some renegotiation of pensions away from final salary towards contribution based calculations is the fairest way out. If an unfair deal is forced upon the public we will likely see de-population and rapid decline, which is why the only way to tackle it is by open public debate and voting. If we don’t get that both sides will loose out, so it is in everyone’s interest to negotiate. The problem has been known about for a very long time and previous administrations have shown that our current structure of government is not inclined to solve this – even when we had the money! 

Should the state retirement age be extended? If so how and to what age?

An arbitrary retirement age is not logical. Some people want to work till they drop, others have jobs which do not allow this or circumstances change. This is where the idea of a means tested universal basic income could make far more sense, and be cheaper to administer than the myriad of benefits we currently maintain. 

Would you support abortion law reform?

The fact is abortion is happening and is going to happen whether or not the law is changed. Without a local service this is going to put women at risk, so yes – I support a change. However… I would only be supportive if we propose a reform which greatly exceeds the level of care provided in the UK, which is very much less than a desirable model to follow. The law should be improved to ensure that the government is regularly forced to debate how many abortions are happening, why, and is forced to make any possible changes to reduce the number no matter what – this requires very good care and very good data. If we as a society are prepared to spend public money to provide this service we should be prepared to spend public money ensuring it is needed as little as possible – because we are talking about a process nobody wants – the termination of viable life – and that should not be forgotten. This is specifically not done in the UK. If you read the UK statistic reports you will see that certain data is not collected or analysed, which allows these issues to be ignored. The service of delivering an abortion could in extreme cases be condemning some women to cyclical abuse, or be a means of denying them better care and support. What I would not be happy with is a situation which effectively says to women, we will provide you with an abortion, but we won’t help you deal with why you need one. That is totally unacceptable. Quality care for anyone costs money, and if we really want to help women we should not just stop at the cheapest option and potentially mask bigger problems for those women. The difficulty of the topic should not mean it is swept under the rug, it should be used as a means to forcing improvements in our attitudes to women and their care.  

Do senior civil servants offer value for money?

Essentially yes, but it depends on what they’re being asked to do. I don’t think senior civil servants are appreciated enough, primarily because the political leadership they need in order to be appreciated is not strong enough. You cannot blame someone for not doing a very good job if you’ve not given them a clear challenge. I don’t think we have been recently, other than just slashing budgets, which is not the kind of challenge I was thinking of. In a cohesive society civil servants are appreciated because they are doing the work people want. That connection is lost at present, because the public have no say.

What would you do to make air services more reliable and punctual?

Business is business. Nothing can be done to make air services more reliable and punctual without some form of market intervention. We are a limited market and so should not be surprised when we get bumped by businesses who know we have limited choice anyway. If the public really wanted the government to do something the most logical thing to do would be to face the market facts instead of ignoring them, and support the establishment of a local co-operative run airline if we really want control of this. That’s a bit wild for some, but there’s no point in complaining about businesses we have no control over.

Would you sign up to the Steam Packet’s offer on future sea services?

No. Open tender is the only logical way to get the best deal, if that’s what the public want. As above, the most logical thing to do would be a government backed locally owned co-op. 

Should the taxpayer subsidise big music events if they make a loss?

I suspect the majority of the public wouldn’t support this in the current economic climate. In theory it is nice to have a budget for cultural events if we can afford it, but most people will want to see the essential services are secured first, and a priority budget system in place – with the public’s priorities directing it! If events do go ahead they should be much more clearly defined as government events, and not have this grey area of commercial overlap which leads to further mistrust.

How would you address the spiralling costs of health care?

Where do we start! Need a complete island wide debate on where we are heading as a society. From there we can discuss what we want from the health service, the best way to do it, what that should cost if run well, and how we are going to pay for it. Only public engagement is going to make this happen. If we get that in place and everyone is committed to making it happen, it should make it a hell of a lot easier to reduce our reliance on agency staff, which is a symptom of a failing system where trust has gone. We are not going to attract good quality staff to a toxic environment backed by a government that cannot fund it, or it’s pensions. Our political system has proven it cannot solve this. Only a different approach where the people who are in the system know they are supported by the public can save this, and that’s only going to happen if the public have their say!

Do you believe that cannabis use should be decriminalised?

All the evidence from every jurisdiction where it is legalised shows the benefit, vs wasting huge amounts of money fighting a war that will never be won – so yes. It’s just basic logic. We have legalised drugs like alcohol and tobacco which in many cases are far more addictive and destructive. Legalise, regulate and tax. Use proceeds to fund treatment for all forms of addiction, because there will always be people who fall in to the trap whether it’s legal or not. The current model is simply in complete defiance of the scientific facts on addiction. 

What would your priorities be if you are elected?

DEMOCRACY. We have a fundamentally undemocratic system of government where the public have no say in our political direction or major decisions. It has produced some very bad decisions over the last 5 years, and as things get more difficult over the next 5 our lack of democracy could ultimately be our undoing. 

Personal submission to the Lord Lisvane’s Review of the Functioning of Tynwald – 2016

Review of the Functioning of Tynwald – 2016

“Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months.

People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”

Darryl Zanuck, Head of 20th Century Fox 1946.

 

Dear Sirs

Please accept this submission to the review of the functioning of Tynwald. Lord Lisvane has been asked to examine and consider providing recommendations for possible reform with regard to the function and the scrutiny of our parliament. He has also been requested to assess efficacy. I feel it is worth noting at the outset that the openness with which the question of ‘efficacy’ has been posed could and should colour the entire task at hand, and I have been delighted to hear that this appears to be the sense in which it has been approached so far. Indeed the issue of efficacy highlights the interesting grammatical assumption as already set out within the brief – to “consider the scrutiny structure required by the parliament.” The first question when considering efficacy must surely be, efficacy according to whom? If we assume that a process of scrutiny is required, then surely it is required by the public first and foremost. I am sure this is a simple and unintended coincidence of phraseology, however it does serve to throw light on the nature of the process by which the review is taking place.

It has been noted during the review that the response to nearly all government consultations is often woeful. If this review is tasked with considering efficacy, one would hope this must be a primary concern. If there is a perception that there may be a question to be answered in terms of efficacy, then surely it should be the public who should answer that question, as the intended benefactors of this process. If they are not doing so in droves, does that mean they are entirely happy with the system as it is, that their political wishes are all fulfilled, or that they are so disillusioned with the system and it’s failings that they don’t believe any change will come? If part of the purpose of the review is to consider ‘efficacy’ I would dare to suggest it could have been fruitful to have taken Lord Lisvane on a tour of various groups, clubs, societies, etc. (selected at random) so that he could meet a swathe of the general public informally. He no doubt would then have discovered why so many eligible people do not formally engage with the vitally important structure he has been tasked to asses – not just with regard to ongoing consultations, but at even the most important opportunities such as general elections. Thankfully I have no doubt, from listening to the submissions already published, that Lord Lisvane already has a very clear view of why that may be the case. The fact that a process of directly engaging the public informally would no doubt be considered impossible, clarifies the perceived gap between what takes place within Tynwald, and the people it is supposed to serve.

I am sure Lord Lisvane is more aware than most that the nature of democracy and governance in it’s various forms is facing inevitable, significant and difficult challenges around the world at present. I am sure he is also aware that the consequences of making the wrong decisions on this matter (including the decision to do nothing) could be very serious. As noted in several of the submissions already published, the responsibility to make these decisions does not lie with Lord Lisvane. His task is simply to consider from a position of experience, and to clarify some of the options for change. If the people of the Island do not demand any of the options that may be set out, it will be very easy for those in power to circumnavigate anything they don’t like, and press on regardless as they have in the past. If the public do not call for change, nothing will happen in terms of reform until a crisis point is reached.

The quotation from Darryl Zanuck set out above is interesting from a number of perspectives. Firstly it shows that we should always be cautious of the opinion of those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Secondly it shows that no matter how strong we think our influence is in the present, we do not control the future. My parent’s generation embraced the wide dissemination of television and the home telephone, and then fretted over what these devices would ‘do’ to their children. My generation has witnessed and embraced the wide dissemination of near continuous mobile digital interaction in all forms, and now we are fretting over what it will ‘do’ to our children. The irony of course is that I, along with many other people of my generation and younger, no longer own a conventional television or a home phone. The clear fact is that we do not control how future generations define the technologies that we have had to adapt to (and so think that we have mastered) within our adult lives. My children are growing up in a world where near continuous access to information, communication and decision making potential is the norm, it is not something they will ever have to ‘learn’ as such. To imagine that future generations will perceive and react to this potential in the way we think they will react to it is naive. There is only one thing we can say for certain with regards the digitisation of our societies – change is inevitable. The long term outcome of these changes is not actually within our control. Our generation has developed new ways of communicating and making decisions. Future generations will define what that means for them, as they mature with this capacity inherent to how they live. What is within our control is the power to observe what we can right now, and attempt to begin plotting a course accordingly. Certain trends are already clear, and we ignore these at great cost.

It seems highly likely that the public will increasingly expect the collective voice provided to them by digital communication to be heard, and acted upon. The Island has a great opportunity with this review to listen to that voice, make the best start at modifying the system to stay ahead of the curve, and so make the most of the opportunity – a fitting challenge given our heritage. The alternative is to play ‘catch-up’ in a process of reaction – as is already unfolding. This will almost certainly be a far more risky and difficult process if we have to deal with the very real potentially negative outcomes of ignoring what is already happening around us. The perception has been aired within several of the oral submissions that the public is not greatly interested in politics. This is correct to a certain extent – people are interested in ‘issues’, not in politics. The public perception that it is almost impossible to make any significant difference with regard to the issues which are important to them, is what begins and then perpetuates the process of disenfranchisement from one generation to the next. This is not a point which should be merely a foot-note to the process of review, or be used as an excuse to do nothing. Political disenfranchisement is the single most serious issue to be considered under the umbrella of efficacy. Resulting disengagement leads to a poor understanding of the evidence required in order to make decisions, and what the consequences of those decisions could be. A generally poor understanding of decisions and consequences is potentially the single biggest threat to society as we know it. The risk cannot be overstated, for it influences all other issues we may wish to consider.

It is often difficult for people of my generation and younger to empathise with the experience of the large scale conflicts that our grandparents and great-grandparents witnessed unfold, and so unfortunately it is too easy for us to fool ourselves that the circumstances and triggers by which widespread conflict has arisen in the past have been banished forever in the ‘civilised’ world. No matter how civilised we feel we are, a disengaged, oppressed or poorly informed society is a society which is primed to fall foul to the negative potential inherent within mass digital connectivity. As we can clearly see all around us, any society where large portions have become disengaged or disenfranchised is a tinder box waiting for someone to step forward with an oversimplified and inflammatory idea. The unfortunate double edge to the reality of a digital world means the worst case scenarios can and will arise more quickly and unstoppably than ever seen before.

Our present Chief Minister has cautioned us on ‘tinkering around the margins’ when it comes to reform, and on that, for once, I would agree with him. If the public have disengaged because they do not believe they have any power to make a real difference, how do we re-engage them? The answer is in principle very simple – too simple for some. The public have disengaged not because they do not care, but because they do not feel they have any power. In order to re-engage them we must simply give them back some power. The evidence for this logic in action has been seen most recently and closely with the Scottish independence referendum, which not only effectively (re)engaged an entire generation in active political debate, it achieved a reported turnout of just under 85%. In modern politics this is almost unheard of. It is far in excess of the turnout for a conventional general election. In principle this result confounds logic, as a general election is arguably more important in terms of the day to day lives of those involved. Indeed, without general elections it is unlikely those who voted in the referendum would have been able to do so at all. The key factor in the turnout was the clear direct access to real power on a highly emotive issue. Would the same level of public debate and turn out have arisen from an e-petition which could trigger a debate in parliament, but which had no legally binding power? Almost certainly not. Power is the key.

An action like the Scottish referendum is also interesting technically because it was in essence a major policy decision. It was a policy decision which both sides believed they could resolve in terms of implementation should the result go their way. It reminds us of the workable precedent of the public having the power to show their intent in terms of directing policy, and then leaving the implementation to the politicians – a combination of direct and representative democracy in action. How then do we commence what could be one of the most significant political reforms in history? We can start by looking at places which have been using forms of direct democracy, very successfully, for a very long time – Switzerland is the eminent example – and we can look at the way this idea is already being introduced in the digital age elsewhere in the world.

The key challenge when it comes to direct involvement of the public is in meeting what has been termed the “trilemma of democracy”. That is the challenge of achieving full participation, deliberation and equality, which is acknowledged as being very difficult to achieve within any group. In a pure democracy, where the individual is given a theoretically free vote, on an issue that they may not fully understand within a group, there is no protection. Either groupthink or mob rule can potentially take hold. Mobs are ruled by the strongest voices of influence within – or outside them – they are easily led, and they do not consider minorities or negative consequences. In other words mobs can make decisions that are as bad as, if not worse than, a system of representation with executive power. The Swiss model uses multiple layers and trigger points in order to avoid such issues. In reality though the process is relatively sedate by modern standards and is in fact still open (there is in theory no limit to the power the public can wield), and yet it has remained incredibly stable and highly successful in terms of efficacy over a long period. This is largely due to a good understanding of consequences and compromises.

A modern incarnation of direct democracy could take many forms, from single issue decisions to the setting and development of overall policy framework intent. The size, technical capital and lack of political barriers mean that the Isle of Man has greater potential for success with such an idea than nearly anywhere else in the world – we can show the world how to do it in the digital age. In order to attract and keep people engaged it is fundamentally necessary to retain a process which allows raw access to power. Whether relating to a single issue or a policy framework the system must allow direct access, so that anyone can call an unlimited and binding action if they can gather enough support to reach a trigger point – what other process can truly claim to be democracy? On a single issue this could look much like the online petition system many of us are already familiar with. The clear problem of course is that, especially with regard to single issues, the general public will potentially not deliberate fully prior to voting within such a format. More importantly their opinion will likely only form behind a strong voice, with a clear self interest. The process will therefore be prone to the very real problem of groupthink. The same problem could also arise if the public were allowed to access power in a limited way – i.e. through government committees. Inevitably, special interest groups could potentially take advantage of such access, to the possible disadvantage of the wider public. In a small jurisdiction like the Isle of Man, within a modern digital context, such problems could be resolved very simply by having a two stage process in order to dial out special interest pressure and / or groupthink.

To resolve this we need look no further for a form model than the process we already have for social judgement – jury service. The second stage of a digital process could be based upon a decision between evidenced and costed briefings on all sides. Briefings could be delivered to randomly selected voters from the electoral register. The voters could be legally barred from discussing the briefings (as with jury service), and could make the decision in isolation – to avoid groupthink pressures (as opposed to present jury service form). This solution comes as close as possible to fulfilling the challenge of the trilemma. Random selection of control groups could give a result that is as close as possible to a representation of full participation and equality. Formatted, evidenced and costed briefings considered in isolation and secrecy would give the best chance of achieving full deliberation for the benefit of society as a whole, especially as the consequences of each decision should be clear.

Ultimately any system of decision making will always potentially produce decisions which are incorrect or harmful to certain groups. Within a system of open digital democracy the consequences of greater engagement in all decisions would inevitably commence a process of ongoing social learning, which should at least mean that such decisions are more beneficial long term (even if they are negative in terms of direct outcome) than those of a potentially detached and transitory parliament or government. A great deal of detailed research is now becoming available on the nature of leadership and decision making, and when we consider this evidence alongside the types of decisions future generations will be forced to make, there is a fundamental flaw in terms of the logic of the current system. In a system where all of our basic needs are essentially the same (and are fully achievable at present), decision making based on pointless and wasteful conflict is a core historical weakness within humanity. The challenge for future generations is whether they can utilise the potential within the technologies that are emerging, to achieve a decision making system based on continual best compromise for all, for the sake of the majority. The challenge for our generation is to see if we can set a course in that direction.

Is digital democracy technically possible, and can we afford it? Leaving aside the obvious point, which is whether we can we afford not to, the answer is clearly yes on both counts. Secure digital interactions are part of every day life already, from social interaction to finance and business. The technology frameworks are readily available and widely trusted with decisions most people clearly feel are more important than governance. Furthermore, they are far more secure and cheaper to operate than the current systems of democracy and governance. To suggest that this potential cannot be transferred easily to democracy and governance is naive at best. We live in an age where it has become possible to make contact with people everywhere, and talk freely about issues and decisions instantly and continually. Every time there is an emotive news story on the Isle of Man you will find people vocalising online – ‘the government has done or not done this, that or the other.’ This clearly dispenses with the myth that people are not interested. People are not interested in the incumbent system and it’s perceived failings, they are very interested in issues which affect them. Single issues like Same Sex Marriage or Abortion are highly emotive and, as has been clearly demonstrated recently, a failure to openly debate and take account on such issues leads only to further conflict and unnecessary negativity within society. General policy issues like the health and education services etc. are critically important – not only when you need them as an individual, but for the wider good of the society you live in. They are complex issues which relate to other issues such as taxation and the prioritisation of spending, and only a process of direct involvement will educate society as to the consequences of all decisions and the evolution of the policy framework in place.

Can or should we dispense with representative democracy entirely? Not at all. It is right to say that a lot of people are not interested in implementation politics, and it is right to say that most people do not want to be involved in the running of government. If the process of policy setting were more democratically open it is highly likely that specific issue decision processes such as those outlined above would be relatively unnecessary. It has been noted that the Isle of Man lacks the distinct party structures found in many other parliaments. Many people consider this to be a significant problem in terms of scrutiny, as instead of opposing sides exchanging power and in theory keeping check on each other, we have a process of government formation and ‘collective responsibility’, whereby the people of the Isle of Man receive a government – the form and policy direction of which they have absolutely no control over, and over which there is perceived to be very little meaningful restraint. Furthermore as science and technology move forward it is likely to become increasingly obvious that oppositional and ideologically rigid politics as a model is fundamentally illogical and highly inefficient. What oppositional systems tend to create is the effect of lurching – as ideological policy packages inevitably go too far in one direction or the other as a result of the system of executive power.

The reality that scientific research is increasingly showing us is that (as would be expected), our inclinations in terms of risk and therefore political judgement are deeply ingrained in terms of genetics. What this means is that the idea that people can be forced or persuaded to change sides or shift politically (conservative vs. liberal) is simply folly. When we observe shifts in political allegiance it is almost certainly the politics which has changed, not the people. This is of course why there has been a noted shift in mainstream politics to present a perception of holding the centre ground, even if the policy reality may be far from that. There are a number of reasons why a ‘traditional’ oppositional party system has not, and is not ever likely to emerge or be sustainable on the Isle of Man. At present this is predominantly due to history, but more importantly it is perpetuated as a result of various pressures and requirements that are inevitable given the demographic spread and size of the Island. The nature of our relationships to our representatives which this creates means that the politics of charm is almost as insurmountable on the Isle of Man as the party system is elsewhere – we have ended up at the other end of the spectrum. We have direct access to our MHKs when we want to complain about a single issue, but the policy framework which likely created that issue is totally off limits.

One alternative or addition to the current process of government formation (and an alternative to a party system) which has been floated, is that of forming a “Program for Government”. This is a favourable concept, however if it were utilised within the current framework the notion would inevitably be exposed to the political power of the Council of Ministers and the existing governance structure. This could result in exactly the same highly inefficient lurching and unfulfilled promises we see in politics elsewhere – essentially party politics without the parties. The obvious answer to this must be to bring in the power of the public at this stage – it is after all their intent any program should in theory be representing. If the public were to debate and or vote on a program for government (ideally on a rolling basis to reflect the fast changing nature of the world around us), it would become very difficult for the government to ignore or overrule this. The reality we must face is that there is a political will or intent within the population as to what it wishes the government to do for it. This intent does not significantly step change, it evolves gradually and as such there is simply no logic therefore in trying to reinvent the wheel every five years. It would be more efficient to allow the “Program for Government” to be set democratically by the public, and to be monitored and progressed continuously on this same basis as required. This would remove the highly inefficient process of stop-start opposition and or direction changing with each administration, and move us towards a far more efficient process of continual evolution in which the public could easily be fully engaged.

It should be re-clarified that I do not believe the concept of applying direct democratic power to our current system would necessarily require a total transformation of the structure as it stands. What we are considering when we think of the functioning of the branches of Tynwald, and the scrutiny thereof, is the basic process by which political intent is converted in to action. At present there is simply no mechanism to ensure that the efficacy of this process is satisfactory to the public – our general elections present no choice on this matter. It is presently the role of MHKs to convert political intent in to policy and legislation. It is presently the role of the MLCs to ensure that the product of that conversion is as intended. The final piece of the puzzle must surely be the direct power of the public to guarantee the efficacy of that process.

I thank you for your time and I look forward to seeing the results of the review.

James Hampton.

Joint submission to Lord Lisvane’s Review of the Functioning of Tynwald.

Below is the joint submission to the Lisvane Review of the Functioning of Tynwald, I prepared this on behalf of the IOM News & Politics Facebook Group…

Written Submission to the
Review of the Functioning of Tynwald – 2016

We the undersigned wish to submit the following as a collective statement for consideration by Lord Lisvane during his review of the functions and efficacy of the branches of Tynwald. The points raised have been openly debated and polled digitally via local social media sites, and all of the named persons listed below agree with the basic principles as outlined.

During polling two main themes emerged. Most popular was the proposal that Members of the Legislative Council should not be on Government Boards or be Government Ministers. There is a general agreement that some form of legislative revision is clearly vital no matter what format Tynwald may ultimately take. However it is very strongly felt that this revision must be performed by persons who are always entirely independent from any role within Government. In a small jurisdiction which lacks distinct party politics clear separation is essential in order to avoid the otherwise obvious conflict of interest presently in place, and to ensure the freedom required to objectively scrutinise. There is also significant support for the idea that the power of any revising body should be limited to revision only. There is a wide perception at present that the current structure essentially allows the Legislative Council to significantly influence policy – which again is tied up with the issue of entanglement with Government itself. In short a much clearer delineation between two bodies is desired. There should be representatives with a public mandate to create, debate and action policy, and there should be members with a mandate to revise and ensure that the legislation created will work as intended in the best interest of the public. These two entities should clearly be entirely independent of each other in terms of authority and freedom of action. If the revising body is directly elected this effectively ensures it’s autonomy from the Government, which brings us on to the next point.

The second most popular issue overall was that of democratic mandate. It is strongly felt that those who are ultimately tasked with revising legislation should also be directly accountable to and mandated by the public – they should be directly elected. This idea manifested itself via all three of the next most popular poll options. Second most popular poll option overall was “The Bishop should lose his automatic seat on the Legislative Council”, next most popular option was “Legislative Council should be directly elected”, and finally “That there should be no more ‘direct transfers’ from House of Keys to Legislative Council”.

The Bishop clearly attracts the most attention in this matter as this position has the least public mandate of all current voting members. All other elected members of the Legislative Council have at least a loose link to some public mandate via the directly elected Keys who appoint them. The Bishop does not. The Bishop’s position in Legislative Council is based purely upon history and tradition. The Bishop’s appointment within the Church is ultimately decided by the UK Prime Minister, and so the fact that this position not only represents a specific religious organisation which is not openly validated by the public, but also represents the direct input of the UK government (over which the people of the IOM have no influence), only serves to magnify the stark perception of democratic deficit. The perception that the Legislative Council is a ‘cushy’ retirement or safe haven for MHKs who have served the Government well over time or become too unpopular as a result, is also clearly tied up with the original point with regard to the entanglement of Legislative Council and Government.

 

Overall the predominating desire underpinning all of the above is for increased democratic accountability. The perception of democratic disenfranchisement is at the root of disengagement, which in itself is a highly dangerous pattern for any society to accept. We the undersigned hope that Lord Lisvane will recommend changes which require those tasked with revising the legislative process to be directly elected, and that the revising process should be entirely independent from Government.

 

Speech to the Lib Van AGM -7th Feb

This is the draft of a talk I gave to the Lib Van AGM earlier this year…

7th Feb 2016

So… a lot of you are probably wondering ‘who is this rather scruffy looking young man Kate has dragged in off the street’. I’m sure she does that all the time… Well my name is James, I was born just up the road here at the Jane Crookall and I grew up in Castletown. I have been asked to come here today to talk to you about direct democracy. I’m also going to talk about how I think it might be might be possible to introduce it on the Isle of Man – if I can get enough people, like you, interested.

I’m sure most of you are already aware that the concept of direct democracy is based upon the principle that the electorate can, if necessary, vote directly; rather than via an elected representative. I think it is worth clarifying at the outset that these two systems are not mutually exclusive. I’m not here to suggest that political parties or lobby groups are not needed. Indeed, I would suggest that they can coexist and be highly beneficial to one another. Having the power to trigger direct democracy can actually increase the mandate of your elected representative, as clearly if you have the power to challenge any decision and you don’t, that means they are getting it right! On the same basis it is also likely to improve the entire decision making process of your elected representative. There would be no more fudging things through and hoping that everyone forgets about it before the next election. So, I think it might be useful to explain how I ended up standing here talking to you right now.

When I left the Isle of Man for the first time I went off to university and managed to get my hands on an honours degree in Architecture. This enabled me to spend a while living and working in Rotterdam, in Holland. It was during this time – at the end of my degree and living in Holland – that I became interested in the subject of sustainability. What I actually ended up being interested in was efficiency rather than sustainability but thats another story. I was never particularly interested in the technological side of sustainable development. I kind of knew that smarter people than me would figure that stuff out. What I was interested in was the political / implementation side of sustainable development. As a result of that I decided not to carry on with my Architecture diploma as planned, but changed tack to do a taught masters degree in Development Planning. I completed this at the Development Planning Unit, which is part of the Bartlett School at University College London.

This course culminated in a final dissertation which I decided would be focused on adult education and direct democracy. The basic idea that I worked on was that a lot of the socio-economic problems people face, no matter where they are, are due to things that they feel are outside of their control. It is a situation many people on the Isle of Man can relate to, but it applies pretty much everywhere. The result of this in modern ‘free’ societies is usually that the electorate begin to disengage from politics – which is what we can see on the Isle of Man, and a great many other places too. From here you get in to a negative feedback situation where the public feel they have no power to change things and so disengage. They then gradually become less and less well informed and so less able to critically analyse the decisions being made for them. Society therefore becomes gradually weaker and weaker. Society will not reclaim this power – which is actually your power – unless some other force pushes in, or society reaches breaking point. So the question is… How do you rekindle the interest that is required? How do you spark that fire?

This is the question I basically forgot about while I got on with getting on with life, getting married, starting companies, breeding – all the good stuff. Of course, lots of other people were also thinking about this same problem too, but eventually the answer ended up right in front of my face without me thinking about it. The answer found me. What was it? Well, the critical difference between when I first considered this idea and now, is social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc…

When I first thought about this problem Facebook had only just been created. At the end of last year Facebook had 1.6 Billion monthly active users – over 20% of the global population and still growing. On the Isle of Man, the last time I checked, Facebook claims there are approximately 45,000 active monthly users between the age of 16 and 65+. That’s over half the population, way over half the number of registered voters, and a lot more people than voted in the last general election. The potential in these numbers clearly is massive. More interestingly for me however is the potential within the format. Not only are all these people using Facebook every month on the IOM, I am able to talk to them directly if they want to, any time of the day or night, with nobody filtering or monitoring what we are saying – if that’s what we want.

What this means is that in theory it is possible for me to make contact with people all around me, find out what’s bothering them and talk about how we could change that – all without leaving our sofas. Even better, I don’t even have to go looking for these people. Every time there is an emotive news story on the Isle of Man you will find them vocalising on Facebook – ‘the government has done this, that or the other.’ So the conversation can start there… great… this is our government, now what are we going to do about it?

The difficulty is that I would ‘guesstimate’ there are a couple of hundred, maybe even a couple of thousand people on the IOM who enjoy discussing issues. There are many more people who like to give their opinion on why they think something is wrong, but they don’t generally want to discuss it any further than that – they have no appetite for politics in open conversations. Why is that? If they really do believe something is wrong, why is it that they don’t want to discuss or act on it any further? It is my belief – from the work that I did at the DPU – that the real problem lies partly with power.

It is my belief that the majority of people on the Isle of Man – not all by any means – but the majority have typical busy modern lives. They are relatively comfortable and things aren’t too bad. So if there is beer in the fridge, a telly on the wall and a car on the driveway what is the point in discussing problems you cannot do anything about if they’re not really a major issue most of the time? Sure you can whinge on Facebook about the state of the hospital, or the police, or the roads or the education system if any of those happen to effect you at some point, but if you don’t believe you can actually change something there’s not much point in wasting time shouting about it right? And from there you are not far from disengagement from the entire political system by failing to vote.

There are two problems with this position. The first is that issues like the health and education services etc. are critically important – not only when you need them as an individual, but for the wider good of the society you live in. They are as important as the beer in the fridge and the telly on the wall and they are being gradually eroded all the time while you are distracted by the beer and the telly. So I believe it really is worth thinking about these things if we can engage people. I hope this is possible by the external force brought by social media.

The second problem is the manipulation of power. The electorate largely believe they don’t have the power to change things. This misunderstanding is based upon the very real fact that the system – especially the on the Isle of Man – has been engineered to govern the power of the electorate. It is designed to guide that power to a single point once every 5 years, and limit it to that point! From that point the power is utilised by the government almost entirely without recall in all but the most extreme cases.

How can the public change this? How can you get people to believe that they can change things, that the power they have every 5 years doesn’t need to be limited to that point if they decide it shouldn’t be? Well, this is where I have to go out on a limb I guess. Let’s face it, we’ve seen years and years of individual or small groups of MHKs trying to reform Tynwald from the inside. To drag it out of the mess it has gotten in to… but… turkeys don’t vote for Christmas do they?

So this is what I started to think about. And I thought, if you are entering in to an agreement – which is what you are doing when you vote for someone – it is effectively a collective job interview. If you vote for someone you are effectively offering them the job of representing you for the next 5 years. If enough people do the same they will get the job. However, once they have the job they get to decide how to do the job – worse still if they become a minister, by and large someone else decides how they do the job – and you have to pay them – and pay them very well.

So if you were going to give someone a very well paid job for the next five years, what is the first thing you should do before they even start? The answer should be… sign a contract. This would make sure you are going to get what you need out of the deal too. This is the basis of the idea I am working on. Rather than the candidate arriving at your door with a manifesto of promises, I am going to try to balance that interaction, and let the voter have what he wants out of the deal already prepared as well, and more importantly written out in the form of a contract to be signed. The voter can ask the candidate to sign up to an agreement – the candidate gets the vote, the voter gets an agreed action, which in this case would be a specific vote in Tynwald. This rebalances the trust in this exchange. The current system is based on trust. The candidate arrives looking for your trust over the next 5 years, the least you should expect is some trust in return. If the candidate won’t sign the contract (and I suspect some will not) then the candidate does not trust the voter. If people don’t ask for the contract to be signed then, as anybody who’s been in business will tell you, no signed contract and you are going to get stuffed – and you cannot complain about it afterwards.

So, what if this slightly unusual idea actually works, and we get a majority of MHKs in the next administration who have committed to bringing the principle of direct democracy to the Isle of Man? Well, the contract will stipulate the form of the motion to be tabled and the candidates will also agree not to amend this. The motion will outline the form of direct democracy I feel would work best for the Isle of Man, and I hope we will be able to debate this before it comes to the vote – so there won’t be any need to amend it afterwards.

The main challenge with direct democracy is meeting what is known as the trilemma of democracy. That is the challenge of achieving full participation, deliberation and equality. This is very difficult to achieve in any large group. In other words – if you leave things up to pure democracy – where the individual is given a theoretically free vote, on an issue they may not fully understand, and they are within a group – you will get mob rule. Mobs are ruled by the strongest voices of influence within – or outside them – mobs are easily lead, and mobs do not consider minorities. In other words mobs can make decisions that are as bad if not worse than a dictator’s. So how do you get round this? The answer I am proposing is that you have to have a two part system.

You have to retain the first stage – the mob rule stage – in order to keep people engaged (because they know they have the power to challenge if it is needed) and allow direct access so that anyone can call an action, then gather enough support and commence the process. On any given issue this would look much like the online petition system most of us are already familiar with. The problem of course is that the mob will not really deliberate fully prior to voting, and more importantly the mob will only form behind a strong voice with a clear self interest, and so it will be prone to the very real problem of groupthink – which leads to poor or illogical decision making. The second stage of the process needs to address these problems.

To do this we need look no further than the process we already have for social judgement – jury service. The second stage of the process should be based upon a decision between fully evidenced and costed briefings on all sides. These briefings should be delivered to randomly selected voters from the electoral register. The voters should be legally barred from discussing the briefings (as with jury service), and should make the decision in isolation – to avoid groupthink pressures. This solution comes as close as possible to fulfilling the challenge of the trilemma. Random selection of a control group gives a result that is as close as possible to a representation of full participation and equality. That is, at least as far as people who are engaged in society by being on the register are concerned. The formatted and costed briefings considered in isolation and secrecy gives the best chance of achieving full deliberation, especially as the consequences of each decision will be clear. Ultimately this system will still always potentially produce decisions which are incorrect or harmful to certain groups. You cannot please all the people all the time. However it will commence a process of social learning which should at least mean that such decisions are better than those of a potentially detached politician.

But what about the minorities? How am I going to raise the number of signatures required if I’m concerned with an issue that’s not popular? Well, as luck would have it we already have a system for minorities – the petition to Tynwald Hill. There is no reason why the second stage of this process could not be joined to twin first stages – the majority petition of referendum or initiative, and the minority petition to Tynwald Hill if that is what the electorate wanted.

So, I have talked about the contract, I have talked in broad terms about the format I would promote, but what will it actually look like? Well in theory it could look like any other referendum process, but why would it? This is a 21st century idea, and this idea will only work if it is driven by 21st century technology. Some of you will be aware that Mr Bell has been on record this week making various comments about the idea of direct democracy – which I have been discussing with Phil Gawne and he has brought into the limelight. Mr Bell feels that direct democracy would be cumbersome and costly. I don’t know if Mr Bell has a mobile phone or knows what one is – but this is the technology we are talking about, everyone has one or can easily be given access to one for a fraction of the cost of running a general election. The software to make this work also already exists and would also cost a fraction of the cost of a general election. It would also be much, much more secure. I called up the voter registration office the other day and asked how my identity was verified on the register – does anyone here know what the answer is? It’s not. This is the 21st century – my Facebook account is more secure than the vote in my national election, and I don’t pay anything for the Facebook security!

As for trying to argue that direct democracy is cumbersome – how ridiculous! It is like a group of old luddites holding on to a candle when everyone else on the Isle of Man has a lightbulb in their pocket! The technology to make this happen is instant. I can tell my government what I want instantly. Mr Bell said the government needs to act quickly at times. The reality is Mr Bell needs to catch up with his electorate on this. This is going to happen sooner or later, it is inevitable. As much as you might love candles, as soon as the lightbulb was invented the game was up. It is going to come anyway, I just hope that the Isle of Man can lead the way instead of catching up later. We are a small, well connected society, free of the baggage of long established political divisions. We are in the ideal place for this experiment to work. I hope Liberal Vannin will support the idea. I hope Mr Bell is not expecting the electorate to ask his permission to do this – because that is not how the internet works. I really hope the electorate stand up and tell him they are going to do it – whether he likes it or not.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen.

What am I offering?

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First and foremost I am standing in order to offer the electorate of the Isle of Man something different – real choice. Choice over the political direction of the island, choice over how your money is spent, choice over what you want the government to do for you. This can only happen if people engage and lend their power to making changes.

  • If elected I will make every decision taken by me open to public debate and vote.
  • If elected I will ensure this choice is provided to everyone – either via the website I have helped to establish – democracy.im or directly to those who are not digitally enabled.
  • If elected I will make myself open to recall – if more than half of the people of Rushen who voted me in no longer feel I am representing them I will accept the results of a public vote and stand down.
  • If elected I will implement ‘citizen initiative’ – if a minimum of 800 people call for a particular action I will translate that in to a question or motion in Tynwald.
  • If elected I will establish a more fluid nominated representative system – so that the public can entrust their direct votes to other people on a more temporary basis, and on a topic by topic basis. So you can give someone else your vote on matters of health services, but keep your vote on education or infrastructure for example. Your representative could be me, or it could be another MHK, or it could be anyone you like – the most important thing is you can revoke your vote at any time if desired. This should mean that people do not have to vote on things they don’t feel confident on or interested in, however they can always step in if they feel like things are not going in the right direction. It’s democracy for the 21st Century!
  • If elected I will record and publish every action taken on behalf of the public weekly, including a full time sheet.
  • If elected I will not accept any pay beyond that which I am presently able to earn – anything earned beyond my current rate of pay for the hours worked will be put back in to improving democracy or public services – according to the wishes of the electorate.
  • If elected I will not take a public sector pension.
  • If elected I will submit all expenses claims for approval by the public – before submission to be paid.
  • If elected I will seek support island wide for a public debate and vote on a new programme for government at the earliest opportunity – as recommended by Lord Lisvane. The direction we head in from September onwards could make or break the IOM such is the situation we are in at present. Voting on the political direction of your government is considered the basis of democracy in most countries who claim to be democratic – but not the Isle of Man? A programme for government debate and vote will inevitably lead in to discussions on long term planning for where our island is actually heading. The world is changing fast and it is increasingly likely that service jobs will be reduced in number as technology rapidly replaces them. If the IOM does not prepare for these changes, with an economy that is so heavily reliant on fairly fragile service sectors, the consequences could be significant to say the least.
  • If elected I will seek public support, open debate and votes on ways to capitalise on our already attractive niche market potential in order to broaden the economy – tourism, small scale manufacture, energy conversion, IT services – basically any area where a small and easily accessed administration can provide a more fertile environment for wealth generation – provided it is in the interests of the population.
  • If elected I would seek public support, open debate and votes on clean slate reviews of health and education services on the island – starting with the public and the frontline personnel. It would appear the system is so broken that it’s time to go back to baseline questions A : What services is actually wanted accross the board? B : What is the best way to provide it – from a frontline perspective? C : What is it going to cost, and how are we going to pay for it?
  • If elected I would seek public support, open debate and votes on government reform – Lord Lisvane has made some good recommendations to improve scrutiny and reduce the strangle hold of the current system, however it should be up to the public which way they actually want to go.
  • If elected I would seek public support, open debate and votes on pensions – both public service and state. Unfortunately there are no easy answers to these problems, however one thing is clear, if the government get it wrong this could be the single biggest threat to the long term stability of the island. For this reason I believe it is vital that all options are open to public vote.

N.B. The website http://democracy.im is not and never will be in my control. It is currently run by three independent members of the public who are named on the site, and a democratically appointed committee will be created to run it if the service is taken up by the public. All choices with regard to how the website is run will be taken democratically. All voters will be verified to a level at least equivalent to that of a national general election.

How? The most important question to ask.

Now that the 2016 IOM election season is in full swing it is interesting to see the various candidates discussing what it is they feel they can achieve. Hot topics are of course public services and finances, which are undeniably in decline or under strain. Almost all candidates will likely promise to address these problems as a matter of urgency. The very simple and most important question to ask (as a voter) is – how? And make sure you get an answer!

How, in terms of specific solutions, and how in terms of more general system challenges. How is your candidate going to resolve sizeable debts and liabilities? How is your candidate going to increase funding for health services that are already drastically underfunded? How is your candidate going to diversify the economy or generate wealth without increasing risk to those core sectors we are already over-reliant on? More importantly, even if your candidate has what you think are good solutions to these challenges, how is he or she going to get them to effect the direction of what was termed the “steamroller government” in the recent Tynwald Review conducted by Lord Lisvane.

During my lifetime the Isle of Man has enjoyed some of the highest standards of living in the world, in large part because of very high standards of public service provision. These provisions are being rapidly eroded at present, primarily due to the fact that the money that was used to fund them is apparently not flowing in to the treasury any more. Make no bones about it – no other jurisdiction in the world provides the level of services we have been used to on the IOM, in combination with a low taxation economic policy – the sums just don’t add up. If anyone tells you they can do it make sure you ask them straight – how?

The choice over what to do about this is a political choice – it is the first “how?” of any political debate – you either find ways to get the money needed to provide the services people want (which basically boils down to a judgement on the overall percentage of taxation the economy / society can stand, and the equity of the taxation system), or people have to accept that services are not going to be provided. Fundamentally though the public should be asked!

These are ‘political’ choices the people of the IOM are simply never offered due to the way our governments are formed and run. The IOM government is formed after the election, so the public cannot know what policy direction they will end up with (the electorate are on a “blind date” with the government – again from the Lisvane Review). The system of “collective responsibility” and virtually 100% government engagement (in terms of Tynwald members within government structure – in one form or another) ensures the steamroller doesn’t have to stop. The line which has been spun over the last five years is that there simply isn’t any money to pay for things like health care, and there’s no way to get any more – which plainly is just not true – more of which in another post.

So, your candidate promises you whatever it is they think will get your vote, and you elect them. What then? What then is they are faced with the steamroller. They have two choices. They can either spend five years shouting at the steamroller, not getting any nice salary top ups, and probably being flattened by it every time anyway – given the history of such a choice. Or they take the money, get on the steamroller and do as they are told – by whoever happens to be in charge. If anyone who tells you there are other options in terms of changing government policy you need to ask for examples from history. For a more comprehensive analysis of the system, Lord Lisvane’s review can be found here (https://www.gov.im/media/1352029/review-of-the-functioning-of-tynwald-gd-2016-0047.pdf). Lord Lisvane was also aware the people driving the steam roller don’t have to listen to him either – it’s already been put on the back burner and nobody even noticed.

How do you stop a runaway steamroller then? Answer : By using something bigger than a steamroller. The only way the people of the Isle of Man are going to change the current trajectory in terms of service provision and public finances is by the application of large scale public pressure – on an ongoing basis. This is why I have spent the year talking about direct democracy. It is why I helped to establish the democracy.im website – to make applying that pressure as easy as possible. It is why if elected I will make every decision open to public debate and voting, and why I will ensure the public’s opinion on any new programme for government is known. This is the only solution to the really big question – how?

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