PAUL SPELLER: LegCo builds up barrier

'Meat' the Christmas Dinner on the Farm in Leeds'Free Range Turkeys

'Meat' the Christmas Dinner on the Farm in Leeds'Free Range Turkeys

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SO the most exciting news on the political front in the past two weeks is that the Legislative Council has yet again booted out a move for constitutional reform and to make it popularly elected.

This, to be fair, isn’t that exciting.

I’ve been following Manx politics for more than 20 years now, and the one thing you can say with some certainty is that the Legislative Council normally finds a way to stop itself being turned into a popularly elected body.

It even manages to do this when the proposal comes from within as it did this time with David Callister MLC.

(I must say at this point that I cannot help the irony of the face of KFC trying to get turkeys to vote for Christmas.)

And the least surprising thing of all about this is that it’s Eddie Lowey, who many years ago was the Council of Ministers’ rottweiler, who performs the role of LegCo pitbull, fiercely guarding the upper chamber.

He gets angry when people say that LegCo isn’t elected.

Well, he’s got a point when he says it is elected.

It’s elected by 24 people.

When you look at the 24 people charged with this important task, then it’s little surprise they keep putting in people who will never let LegCo become fully democratic.

Of course, this viewpoint will lead to howls of protest from the Legislative Council apologists that they are not against being popularly elected.

They’ve come up with a good argument, which they’ll keep sticking to, in that if there were eight popularly elected MLCs, they would each have a bigger mandate than any of the 24 popularly elected MHKs.

They’ll also point out that they are always willing to send proposals to a committee to consider the way forward.

The thing is, if you’re a politician of any experience, you know the best way of stopping something happening without looking as though you are trying to stop something happening, is to send it to committee, where it can become bogged down in all sorts of obstacles.

Don’t be fooled.

There was nothing to prevent the Legislative Council considering all such points as part of the process of debating the bill in public.

And Mr Callister’s bill offers a solution to the whole thing about the proportions of a politician’s mandate (size does matter in Tynwald).

Have eight constituencies with three MHKs and one MLC each.

If there are concerns about where the power lies then have restricted powers for MLCs.

People could choose to stand either for the Keys or LegCo in a particular constituency.

If the role of the Legislative Council is as important as its members say, then surely it will prove attractive for enough people to stand for it?

The elections could take place in different years to avoid confusion, or just have two ballot papers on the big day. Our electorate should be able to cope.

Apart from Onchan, to be fair, where the voters consistently seem to defy logic with their choice down the years.

But it’s unlikely this will happen.

LegCo reform tends to live in the same political quarter as the restructuring of local authorities.

Unfortunately the political dinosaurs of both the upper chamber and some of our boards of commissioners aren’t under enough control in the Jurassic Park of the Manx political system.

For those on the modern day side of the electric fence, the temptation often becomes overwhelming to just turn up the voltage every now and again without going in to manage them properly.

Feed them the occasional bit of live meat in the form of a by-law here or a piece of scrutiny there, and most will keep quiet enough to be a problem that doesn’t require to have much attention paid to it.

l Anyone who loves cricket cannot help but have felt some dismay at proceedings in the UK last week when three Pakistan Test cricketers were jailed for their part in the spot fixing scandal.

As a former, not very good, player, I have to say that if getting out to bad shots, dropped catches and the inability to work out where the line of the popping crease is are to become causes for suspicion, I would have my work cut out in trying to prove that someone at my level of ineptitude was ever allowed to don whites without an ulterior motive.

What if similar suspicions of corruption arose elsewhere whenever poor performance became noticeable?

To be fair, I’ve often felt that too easily in the Isle of Man, the conspiracy theorists have leapt to claim corruption when the truth is that it mostly boils down to incompetence.

If we got suspicious every time a stupid question was asked in Tynwald, or for that matter, a stupid answer was given, then we’d never get anywhere.

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