In a democracy all power comes from the people.
In the Manx version of representative (or indirect) democracy, we elect MHKs to represent us. However, once we elect our representatives, we have little control over their actions. In fact, if an MHK does not act in a way that is aligned to the wishes of their electorate we are stuck until the next election. We have no mechanism for removing them. We have effectively written a democratic bank cheque. That seems at odds with most other areas of life where we are held accountable for our actions (or inaction).
There is a tool to deal with this. It's called a recall mechanism. Recall is a term used to describe a process whereby the electorate can petition to trigger a vote between scheduled elections on the suitability of an existing elected representative to continue in office.
In order to ensure democracy prevails and our representatives are accountable to us at all times, I am asking MHKs to introduce a Recall Bill. Initially, I have written to Chris Thomas MHK as Minister for Policy and Reform asking him to seek leave to introduce such a Bill.
The Recall Bill would provide for a notice of intent to recall signed by say five per cent of voters in a constituency to trigger a recall petition. If the recall petition is signed by say 20 per cent of voters, a recall referendum is held and the seat is vacated if the majority of people voting vote in favour of the member being recalled from Tynwald. This should also include MLCs as their duty is to the people.
I urge you to support the drive to enable the electorate have the right controls in place to ensure MHKs act in accordance with the will of the people. After all, that is what democracy is all about.
Please write to your MHK asking them to implement a recall mechanism.
In my last blog post, I expressed disappointment that the newly elected MLCs had opted to take up departmental positions which, along with a significant salary uplift, obligates them to the convention of 'collective responsibility'.
While Jane Poole-Wilson was not newly elected and therefore outside the scope of my previous blog, the Manx Radio article incorrectly reported that 'All are taking up positions within departments'. I have updated my blog to make it absolutely clear that Jane Poole-Wilson MLC did not take up a departmental position or a salary uplift.
It is important that we hold our representatives to account, but it is equally important that we recognise those acts that respect good governance and democracy. By not succumbing to the single party block vote system Jane Poole-Wilson has put her independence and duty to the citizens of this Island ahead of personal profit. We should commend her for that.
Perhaps equally unsurprising as it was disappointing to hear today that our new MLCs chose to accept positions as departmental members (for the avoidance of doubt this excludes Jane Poole-Wilson who most honourably has chosen not to accept any departmental membership or salary uplift). As I will be highlighting in a future blog, accepting a position in a government department does two things:
1) it gives our representatives a hefty increase in salary.
2) it obligates our representatives to use their vote as the departmental minister dictates rather than vote with their conscience.
Failure to toe the line usually results in the representative losing their role and the enhanced salary that goes with it. The representatives, MLCs in this case, now find they are conflicted between their duty to the people and their duty to the department.
Under this block vote system, diversity of thought fades and group think prevails. Surely, that can't be in the best interests of the people of the Isle of Man.
Perhaps the unelected bishop in our legislature will remind his fellow members of Tynwald of Luke 5:33-39:
"No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins."