With the election of every new House of Keys comes the hope that this time round, perhaps, things might be better.

But how will we know if the government of the island over the next five years has been a success? And who will be punished if it is a failure?

These are fundamental questions which point to the very limited extent of political accountability in the Isle of Man.

Our elected representatives are individually, but not collectively, responsible to the public. This sounds like an academic distinction but it means governments can come and go without being held to account.

The consensus and coalition tradition of Manx politics makes it a game with only one team on the pitch. In the absence of competition there is little incentive to focus on overall performance.

On the field everyone is busily working together for what is believed to be the good of the island. But when the whistle blows for an election the team shirts come off and it’s every man and woman for themselves. The nature and quality of their collective output is never assessed.

For elections here are about the local popularity of individual players rather than the achievements of the team as a whole. So the priorities, policies and delivery of the outgoing government are not subject to judgement, or even examination.

Every five years excited commentators attempt to read national significance into the fact that a number of MHKs are no longer in their seats. The people have spoken, we are told, and they have voted for change.

What the people have said, however, and what they want to change, remains a mystery.

Take the outcome of the latest general election, which some are eager to see as an anti-government verdict, a thumbs-down for the departing Quayle administration.

Four ministers were ejected, but the factors that saw them off were local and/or departmental. (So many political careers have now been ended by association with the Department of Infrastructure, there ought to be some kind of memorial at its Sea Terminal headquarters.)

Three other, senior and high profile, members of the last Council of Ministers survived comfortably and two are now in the running to be the next Chief Minister. This would not be the case if the public had really voted for regime change.

But nor were the results an endorsement of the status quo. One of the oddest features of Manx elections is that they say nothing about the government, because the government is not a participant in the process.

The absence of corporate accountability is a flaw at the centre of our democracy, a hole so big it is rarely noticed. One way to fill it would be a move to party politics, but that would bring problems of its own and is not going to happen anytime soon.

So in 2026 we could be back in a familiar place, with no clear picture of what this House has done, or not done, or who was to blame for what. With candidates and voters left in the dark, the election debate will be unimpeded by any understanding of the previous five years.

It does not have to be like that, however. The new House has the opportunity to make itself accountable, if it has the integrity to do so, by insisting on a proper system of reporting back to the public.

The previous administration tried something along these lines with its programme for government, but this was far too complicated and was eventually overtaken by the Covid crisis.

The reporting system needs to be addressed to the people in language they understand, plain English instead of the jargon of bureaucrats. It should make clear what the priorities are, why these are important, and what progress is being made, with regular updates and a final end-of-term report.

The new government’s message to the public has to be the starting point for its deliberations, not an afterthought. The commitments it makes externally should also help to provide clarity and discipline for its internal management.

Translating the business of government into information relevant to ordinary citizens requires skill, but it can be done. To protect the credibility of the process it will have to be policed by those outside of the executive (Council of Ministers and departments), by those detached MHKs and MLCs who specialise in scrutiny. The media might show an interest too. We heard a lot of talk about accountability on the hustings during the recent general election campaign. Now let’s see if the new House of Keys takes the subject seriously.