Isle of Man – GENERAL ELECTION
22nd September 2016
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
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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,
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,
Port St Mary,
Twitter & Facebook @jameshamptonrus
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Website – https://jameshamptoniom.wordpress.com
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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