Howard Quayle, the current Chief Minister of the Isle of Man, stated in Tynwald this week:
"I was aware that there were difficult, unpopular choices that needed to be taken, not kicked down the road, in order to ensure that our children and grandchildren were not facing a bleak future on this Island" [emphasis added]
This was in response to a question put to him by Jason Moorhouse MHK on his three main priorities before the next General Election. This is significant because the Chief Minister's response is, in effect, a declaration that he will deliver policies that aren't supported by the electorate. He appears to justify this by saying that it's for our own good.
Now this raises the question to whether the Isle of Man is, in fact, a democracy.
Now democracy can, of course, be measured. Democracy simply means "will of the people". To measure democracy we simply correlate the decisions and policies effected by parliamentary representatives (which in the case of the Isle of Man are MHKs and MLC) with the will of the people.
Such a study was conducted a few years back by Gilens and Page entitled "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens"
(Gilens is Professor of Politics at Princeton University). It shows how ineffective representative democracy is at delivering the will of the people.
Now the counter argument I hear most often from politicians is that they are elected to be representatives and to make decisions on our behalf. I believe that to be true but I don't understand how the logic flows from that to imposing unpopular policies regardless of the justification - and I will get to that later.
Elections are exercises in popularity or, to be more accurate, relative popularity. To win an election you must convince people you will carry out their will or at least to a greater extent than the other candidates. Why would you vote for someone that wanted to impose policies on you that you don't want? That would be illogical.
It follows, therefore, that a politician that states they have as their priority policies that they believe are unpopular is acting undemocratically. In other words, it is possible to be democratically elected and then act undemocratically. Getting elected is not a licence to do whatever you wish. In a democracy, the duty of a representative is always to the electorate.
Now, you very rarely hear politicians argue against democracy without some sort of justification. The justification is normally that it is for the good of the people. This clings to a nobility of motive and a superiority of intelligence and decision making over the great unwashed.
Therein lies the justification for all types of authoritarianism, indeed used most effectively by the likes of Than Shwe, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot.
But we still have a choice between authoritarianism or democracy. Let it be an active decision not one that is cloaked in the warm coat of democracy.
Tynwald must be held to account according to democratic principles. It's our job as citizens to make sure that happens.