Most of us don't have time to trawl through the machinations of the Tynwald system. For a start it's not exactly user friendly and we have busy lives trying to put food on the table.
Instead we rely heavily on the media to keep us informed of goings on and alert us to policies that might affect us.
An innocuously sounding piece of primary legislation, the Communications Bill is currently winding its way through the Manx parliament.
According to the Isle of Man government, the purpose of the Bill is to modernise the Telecommunications Act 1984 and the Broadcasting Act 1993 and to bring the two areas that the Isle of Man Communications Commission regulates into one piece of legislation. Again that sound innocuous enough. Simplifying and modernising all seems sensible enough. In fact, there's nothing in the introduction to the explanatory notes to the Bill that alerts us to its ominous content.
Yet there are at least two major issues in the Communications Bill that at the time of writing this article are going to be included in the final version of the Bill and subsequently passed into law - independence of the media and free speech.
Independence of the Media
It is widely accepted that a free and independent media, or 'fourth estate', is a critical component of a functioning democracy.
The term 'fourth estate' has been attributed to Edmund Burke, who used it in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up of press reporting of the House of Commons.
A media that is government controlled lends itself to abuse by politicians who seek to further their own agenda (whether they be legitimate or not). Here in the Isle of Man, the 'national broadcaster' Manx Radio is dependent on the Isle of Man government for its economic survival via a subsidy. Furthermore, the chair of the Isle of Man Communications Commission is a politician (currently Bill Malarkey MHK a member of the Council of Ministers).
This creates an environment that would fail any decent governance test. This was something that was picked up on by Daphne Caine MHK during a debate on the Bill in Tynwald recently.
Perhaps a reflection of how little progress has been made in political reform on the Isle of Man, Daphne's motion to ensure regulatory separation of the media from government failed by 13-10 in the House of Keys.
Those who voted against it were:
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom to articulate opinions and ideas without fear of censorship or legal sanction.
Under Section 108 of the Isle of Man Communications Bill you are guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.
Under the current wording of the Bill you could be criminally liable and be sent to prison for 'causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety'. The bar has been set so low that once this Bill is enacted you could be jailed for tweeting your opinion.
James McConnell, 78, a born-again Christian pastor in Northern Ireland was arrested and prosecuted under the UK's Communications Act after making negative remarks about Islam when preaching in his church, Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in Belfast, in May 2014.
Being free to express your opinions and criticise the government is the cornerstone of a democratic society. Our forefathers fought and died for us to have this freedom.
According to John Murphy, under the UK version of this law (no surprise the Manx version is has ben cut and paste!) 20,000 people have been investigated under the UK law.
As Rober Sharp wrote in the Guardian newspaper:
"Giving offence is a necessary tool in a democracy. It is an essential component in speaking truth to established interests. Following this principle does mean that poor taste jokes and unpalatable political opinions remain uncensored in the public domain. But it is preferable for offensive speech to remain part of the conversation, than for it to be criminalised and driven underground, where it cannot be challenged. And our noisy, diverse and often offensive culture is far better for progress than the stunted, straitjacket politics experienced by the people of China, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia."
Finally, we remember the legacy of Manx born Sophia Goulden, the mother of Emmeline Pankhurst, who led the suffragette movement in Britain.
"The young women of today can never know at what price their right to free speech has been earned"
Lucy Stone - Suffragette
I don't know if they still teach this stuff in school but Ramsey MHK Alex Allinson might remember the Odyssey:
"First you will come to the Sirens who enchant all who come near them. If any one unwarily draws in too close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children will never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and warble him to death with the sweetness of their song. There is a great heap of dead men's bones lying all around, with the flesh still rotting off them. Therefore pass these Sirens by, and stop your men's ears with wax that none of them may hear; but if you like you can listen yourself, for you may get the men to bind you as you stand upright on a cross-piece half way up the mast, and they must lash the rope's ends to the mast itself, that you may have the pleasure of listening. If you beg and pray the men to unloose you, then they must bind you faster."
We have a maritime history on the Isle of Man. It's one that includes our own sirens that tempt politicians with stories of fortunes and jobs. The Ramsey Marina project is its latest incarnation and predictably the entire Ramsey political class has come out in vociferous support within days of the announcement.
Andy Cowie, Chair of Ramsey Commissioners, could barely contain his excitement saying the proposals were fully supported by the local authority. Ramsey MHK Lawrie Hooper struck a more cautious tone but supported the development as he 'welcomed any investment in Ramsey'. Alex Allinson MHK was very enthusiastic believing it would make Ramsey a centre for shipping maintenance.
Let's hope they are right because not one of them consulted their constituents before publicising their support for the project.
How do I know? Well, because at the last election, Ramsey had 5,726 registered voters and, as no politician uses a democracy platform such as IserveU, there is no way they could have called on that number of people in less than a week.
This project is reported as being a £100 million development that will build 200 flats and townhouses on one of the Isle of Man's most iconic beaches. Something of that magnitude is going to heighten emotions on both sides of the argument.
No MHK or member of Ramsey Council should come out in favour of the scheme unless they have evidence that the majority of their constituents support it.
Politicians are representatives of the people.
They should respect their constituents and respect democracy.