On the 1st of February, I lodged my nomination for the Isle of Man's upper house known as the Legislative Council or 'LegCo' for short. For such a small jurisdiction, the Isle of Man is unusual in that it operates a bicameral system of legislature. In fact, only 10% of countries in the world with populations of less than 5 million operate two chambers.
I think it is accepted by most that LegCo is generally viewed somewhat unfavourably by the general public (See Lisvane Report www.gov.im/media/1352029/review-of-the-functioning-of-tynwald-gd-2016-0047.pdf). There is scepticism about the value add of LegCo and the motives of some of the members of LegCo.
Against this background, five of the eight electable seats came up for election on March 12th 2018. Some 15 candidates put themselves forward of whom I was one. Now, before you get too excited you should note that members of LegCo (or MLCs as they are commonly known) are not elected by the Island's citizens. MLCs are elected by members of the lower house, the House of Keys. This is odd as the raison d'etre of LegCo is governance. Upper chambers are there to provide effective oversight and the duty to provide that oversight is to the people. It follows therefore that MLCs should be elected by the people and not by people within its scope of oversight. The matter is made worse by the practice of MLCs being appointed as members of governmental departments. This breaks a fundamental principal of good governance by mixing non-executive and executive functions. Furthermore, being a member of a government department carries with it a salary uplift. This was rightly an area of focus during the election process and indeed a key finding of the abovementioned Lisvane Report who stated: 'To fresh eyes (but perhaps also to others) the system of Departmental Members is extraordinary'. Interestingly, despite this obvious conflict of interest, most LegCo candidates indicated a willingness to act as departmental members.
Overall, there appears to be a variety of opinions on what LegCo is for and perhaps how bicameralism works in the wider world. This is understandable because LegCo does not have a terms of reference or a clearly set out mandate in law. This allows considerable scope amongst MHKs to select MLCs on whatever criteria or motives they see fit.
When election day finally came, I filed into the House of Keys along with my fellow candidates to witness the voting live and direct. Bracing ourselves for a long day on the uncomfortable wooden seats we were surprised that it took only 15 minutes for the result to come back. I faired miserably with only 7 votes which put me back in 9th= place. I was left scratching my head as to how that happened...
Perhaps my lesson in LegCo had transmuted to a lesson in politics.