VAT blow on spending will be ‘like guillotine’

PEOPLE POWER: Prof Hugh Davidson

PEOPLE POWER: Prof Hugh Davidson

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MORE than 1,000 local people on the island are currently being contacted by a leading UK research company, to gauge their views on a number of political issues.

One of the questions they will asked is: ‘Who would be your choice for the next Chief Minister?’

HPI Research, one of the UK`s leading independent research companies, has been commissioned by Hugh Davidson to carry out the telephone poll. Professor Davidson`s views regarding VAT were forcibly expressed in an open letter to the Chief Minister, published in last week`s Examiner.

Tynwald is due to be told today (Tuesday) exactly how much revenue the island will lose as a result of the latest forced revision of the VAT revenue sharing arrangements by the UK.

He said: ‘I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time as there are no public opinions polls in the Isle of Man.

‘But the significant turning point was reading the news in the Examiner about the UK coming back for another bite of the VAT. It’s coming down like a guillotine on government spending. The situation really did incense me and I decided it was time for the public voice to be heard on this.’

In his open letter to the Chief Minister, Manx born Professor Davidson – who returned to the island in 2002 after a career in marketing in the UK and went on to play a major role in developing the Freedom to Flourish brand – accuses the government of caving in to the bullying UK. He says the outgoing Brown administration has no moral authority to bind the island to an onerous long-term agreement over VAT and nothing should be signed until a referendum is held.

Mr Davidson insists that the letter and his commissioning of a political poll were not politically motivated. He says his main focus are the charitable trusts he and his wife set up to help fund social enterprise projects both in the island and in developing countries.

He said: ‘I’ve certainly no political ambitions. I have no intention of standing myself as I think they need much younger people than me. And although this research is a public service activity, it is not charitable, so I am paying for it personally, not using any funds from the trusts.’

He added: ‘I’ve nothing against Tony Brown personally. He’s likeable, hard working guy who cares about the Isle of Man. But I would have liked to have seen him show a bit more fight. The reciprocal health agreement is an example of what can be done.’

Among other questions being asked in the telephone poll are: ‘Should candidates announce their intention to stand as Chief Minister; should the Chief Minister be selected; how do Manx people rate government performance in the past five years overall; what are the most important future issues facing the Isle of Man; and should there be a Manx referendum on the new VAT Agreement, following Iceland’s example?’

Professor Davidson has dubbed the research project ‘Manx People Power’

‘By end of August we will know the popular opinion on these questions, and many others. With a general election only three months away, it seems important for people to have the opportunity to express their views in an authoritative way, and for politicians to listen to their voice.

The poll will be conducted by London-based HPI Research which carried out extensive research in 2005 on how best to promote the island. Partner in HPI Alan Cooper said: ‘Interviews will be conducted according to the Market Research Society Code of Conduct, with replies treated in strictest confidence.’

Results will be published from mid-August.

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