Bernard Moffatt, Outside Left: Is the St Pierre and Miquelon option more honest?

Bernard Moffatt

Bernard Moffatt

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Chances are very few people have heard of St Pierre and Miquelon (StP&M).

They are two small islands off Southern Newfoundland near the Grand Banks and their main claim to fame is that they are part of France. Indeed, they even send a Senator and Deputy to the National Assembly in Paris!

SP&M was the subject of a brief flurry of attention in the early days of World War Two. Following the fall of France, the islands’ Governor declared for Vichy, the collaborationist regime.

De Gaulle’s Free French based in London, desperate to assert themselves but fairly weak (militarily) at that stage, decided to seize the islands.

Being sited as they were so far from the main action of the war at that time it was a safe bet! However, the US government took exception and for a brief time there was a stand-off between Washington, London and De Gaulle. Eventually matters resolved themselves and StP&M relapsed into obscurity and is still part of France.

The French go to great lengths to retain and maintain their scattered pieces around the world. StP&M, like Reunion Island many thousands of miles from France in the Indian Ocean, can be reached by direct flight from France courtesy of large international airports built at some expense (although in the case of StP&M flights still route via Canada).

The French therefore make no pretence of hanging on to their colonies – it’s a case of ‘they’re ours and we’re keeping them’!

The British on the other hand are more subtle. Their overseas territories and dependencies are ‘not really part of the UK, they have their own distinct identities’ and have ‘so called democratic governments’. (Pause for chuckle).

I was minded to think about this some weeks ago when Speaker Steve Rodan and some colleagues from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (another absurd organisation) packed their buckets and spades and headed off to the British Virgin Islands.

However, they were not going for the sun, sand and the ‘exotic’ scenery – this was ‘serious stuff’. Their role (I’m not making this up) was to be part of an ‘Election Observation Mission’.

So, just so you get this right, ‘politicians’ from the CPA including two from ‘pretend parliaments’ (namely Isle of Man and Turks and Caicos) were having a Caribbean jaunt to ensure that ‘democratic parliamentary norms’ were maintained in another ‘pretend parliament’, the BVI.

The democratic credentials of this jaunt were exposed by the fact that they had ‘been invited by the BVI ‘Governor’ – democracy in action!

It is long past the time when people grew up and realised that all this ‘bull’ about the Isle of Man being one of the world’s oldest parliamentary democracy is just nonsense.

The Isle of Man no more controls its own destiny than StP&M, the only difference being that, unlike the residents of those overseas French outcrops, we get to pay the tab for building and running our own airport and generally the people in the ‘National Assembly’ in London are more interested in running us down than defending our interests.

The Manx government could, if it wanted, stop being a ‘pretend parliament’ and become the real thing. But a lot of the current crowd in Tynwald don’t want that.

Vociferous among those is our island-hopping Speaker Steve ‘Mc’ Rodan. Indeed, in 2011 Rodan stressed the value of our links with the UK when the UK were keen on ending one of those links: the Reciprocal Health Agreement.

Unlike those French islands I mentioned earlier, the UK government do not like funding anything in the Isle of Man. The Reciprocal Health Agreement was maintained but eventually it will be severed. The VAT agreement lurches from crisis to crisis.

The UK screw every penny they can out of us, be it for defence (?), common services, higher education (that’s overseas rates, so bring the Manx government cheque book) and specialist health care (again, keep that cheque book handy).

Why don’t the Manx government shake off their dependency culture and stop living in a pretend world with a ‘pretend parliament’?

Have the real thing and tell the United Kingdom to take its governor and all the rest of its colonial baggage and ‘get the boat’.

Either that or settle for the StP&M option.

At least that’s more honest!

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