March 2024 – Speech on Electoral Commission Review of Constituency Boundaries

Thank you Mr President 

I would like to start by thanking the Electoral Commission for their latest report, and for their previous reports on the review of Constituency Boundaries and other electoral matters relating to the House of Keys General Elections. 

The task before the Electoral Commission was broad and difficult, and having followed their work very closely over the past 11 years, I do sometimes feel that the Electoral Commission are trying to put square pegs into round holes at times….

…but this shouldn’t be seen as any criticism towards the Electoral Commission, who are simply trying to address historic concerns around representation, constituencies, voters, and the electoral review process, which was in line with the original Tynwald resolution from July 2010, but even back then several Members said that the review was far too narrow. 

Although the boundaries for the House of Keys constituencies were changed in 1951, ’56, ’85 and again in 2013 before the House Keys General Election in 2016, my main concern has always been for the constituency of Onchan, on behalf of both the village and the parish of Onchan over the past 11 years. 

This has meant that I had to wait for a suitable opportunity to try to correct the findings of this honourable Court on 18th June 2013, when it agreed to split the election boundary for Onchan into three very different constituencies. 

As I mentioned in my submission to the Commission back in March last year, the redrawing of constituency boundaries for the House of Keys General Election, especially relating to my constituency in Onchan is still very much a topic of discussion for many within the Village and the wider Parish of Onchan….

….and it has been an ongoing topic of discussion since the Commission published its first report back in November 2011. 

I think it is also very important that I put on Hansard from the outset that after the redrawing of the Constituency Election boundaries ahead of the 2016 House of Keys General Election I was one of the 2,141 Onchan residents that was moved mainly into a new larger constituency known as Garff, along with 72 Onchan constituents that were placed into the constituency of Douglas North. 

Mr President 

I am also partly to blame for the current situation, because the original proposal by the Commission back in 2012/13 was for part of Birch Hill, Onchan and other key village landmarks within the Constituency, such as St Peter’s Church to be put into a larger “East Constituency”….

…but this was met with considerable opposition from local residents, Onchan District Commissioners and from the sitting MHK’s at the time, and rightfully so….

This also meant that Electoral Commission had to find an alternative solution back then, in order to simply tick a box in respect of the size of each Constituency for the House of Keys General Election, in order to comply with the number of voters required for each Constituency, which had an allowance figure of no greater than 15% in their calculations…

Unfortunately, this resulted in the Parish of Onchan, along with part of Whitebridge Road, Harbour Road, Lakeside, and Groudle being placed into a larger Constituency of Garff, along with a handful of Onchan residents being placed in Douglas North, as I’ve already mentioned. 

These changes also meant that Onchan now has two very different election boundaries for its community, one for the Local Authority Elections that involved all eligible voters within the wider constituency of Onchan, and a smaller Constituency boundary for the House of Keys General Election, which involves around 6,624 Residents of Onchan. 

Mr President 

I fully understand the difference between national politicians representing their communities and this island as a whole, and our local authority commissioners / counsellors who are very much focused on their local areas, the local services and the community….

….but this isn’t about the local or national representatives in Onchan, but the actual redrawing of historic constituency boundaries, and the confusion and upset it is continuing to cause within the community of Onchan. 

Neither is this about my own personal vote or the fact that I live in the constituency of Garff for the House of Keys General Election. 

Having served as an Onchan District Commissioner for 4 years, representing the whole Constituency of Onchan, I then had to make the very difficult decision in 2016 in respect of the House of Keys General Election. 

For me personally it simply came down to a “Constituency name – Onchan or Garff”, because I genuinely wanted to continue to represent the people of Onchan, both in this Hon Court and within our Community. 

Mr. President 

I know that some Onchan residents are quite happy with the current status quo, and with the representation given by my Hon colleagues from Garff over the past seven years…..

However, the report under consideration by the Court today also highlights the fact that many Onchan residents still feel disenfranchised as a result of the commission’s original recommendation back in 2013. 

What I find totally unacceptable is the fact that various properties in the heart of Onchan village continue to sit just outside their own Constituency, their own Community….

… and therefore, I fully understand the legitimate grievance being raised by some Onchan residents at the moment, which has resulted in sections from within the Village and the Parish of Onchan refusing to vote in any House of Keys General Election….

….and I genuinely don’t think that was the intention of the Electoral Commission back in 2013.  

Over the years, I’ve had several discussions with the Electoral Commission in respect of the constituency boundary for Onchan. 

Unfortunately, at the heart of the problem is the fact that there is very strong evidence to justify the reason why Onchan should be considered as a genuine “three seat constituency” for future House Keys General Elections.…

…especially when considering either the number of voters available, or the overall population size of Onchan collectively, according to the census data. 

However, I do fully respect the original principle from 2010 around equality of representation, especially when I know that most Hon Members in this Court, and the Manx Public continue to support the present system of 12 two-seat constituencies. 

Again, for me, personally this isn’t about the number of MHK’s, but the breaking up of historic and well-established constituencies and local communities. 

The Electoral Commission report does talk about genuine reasons and exceptional circumstances….

…..and I am therefore about to provide evidence to this Court as to why the Parish and the Village of Onchan should be brought back together for future House of Keys Elections. 

From reading this report, and previous reports published by the Electoral Commission, it is very clear that no consideration or thought was given to the Onchan District Bill 1985, which amalgamated the Village and the Parish of Onchan almost 40 years ago into a single Constituency, as a single Community in the east of the island. 

This was after almost two years of long discussion and negotiation, and the Parish of Onchan actually held a very important referendum on the topic, which I believe was the last time this island actually held any form of referendum. 

At the time, there was an overwhelming majority from rural ratepayers in favour of the Parish of Onchan joining the Village of Onchan.  

In addition, not a single objection was received from the Village of Onchan, which highlights the strength of feeling within the Constituency of Onchan at the time. 

In the 2011 Electoral Commission report, it also said very clearly that the “majority of our witnesses expressed a preference for the population living within the constituency to form the basis of such calculations”, which I fully agree with. 

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen for the Constituency of Onchan back in 2013 when the Commission presented its third report to this Hon Court. 

Instead, the Constituency of Onchan was broken up and Onchan residents were placed into three different House of Keys Constituencies….

….and to confuse things even further, those same Onchan ratepayers and voters are still being asked to come together as a single Constituency for the Local Authority Elections. 

It really does not make any sense, it is so confusing for many Onchan residents, and this needs to be corrected by the Court. 

You do have to question if any of those key decisions taken by the Electoral Commission back in 2013 really respected the well-established Constituency boundary in Onchan. 

Does it really serve the communities that we are elected to serve? 

I don’t believe it does….

Mr President 

In respect of the latest report and its 13 recommendations, I do again thank the Electoral Commission for their hard work over the past 18 months and for their report before the Court today. 

I am happy to support recommendation 4 to 13 as printed on the order paper, but I am struggling to accept recommendation 1, 2 and 3. 

As I have already mentioned, the report under consideration by the Court talks about exceptionable and special circumstances, and therefore I would like to table an amendment to recommendations 1, 2 and 3 in respect of the Electoral Commission report for the reasons I’ve already outlined…..

…and to appeal to this Court to align the boundary of the Constituency of Onchan with the Onchan local authority area map, in order to help preserve the integrity of Onchan, as a single constituency, a single Community, and on behalf of all of Onchan residents collectively. 

I wish my colleagues in Glenfaba & Peel and Ramsey all the very best, because they are now facing the same situation which Onchan has already gone through over the past seven years. 

I beg to move the amendment standing in my name.

Thank you, Mr President.

 

 

2024-03-20T11:41:19+00:0019 March 2024|

March 2024 – Speech on Electoral Commission Review of Constituency Boundaries

Thank you Mr President 

I would like to start by thanking the Electoral Commission for their latest report, and for their previous reports on the review of Constituency Boundaries and other electoral matters relating to the House of Keys General Elections. 

The task before the Electoral Commission was broad and difficult, and having followed their work very closely over the past 11 years, I do sometimes feel that the Electoral Commission are trying to put square pegs into round holes at times….

…but this shouldn’t be seen as any criticism towards the Electoral Commission, who are simply trying to address historic concerns around representation, constituencies, voters, and the electoral review process, which was in line with the original Tynwald resolution from July 2010, but even back then several Members said that the review was far too narrow. 

Although the boundaries for the House of Keys constituencies were changed in 1951, ’56, ’85 and again in 2013 before the House Keys General Election in 2016, my main concern has always been for the constituency of Onchan, on behalf of both the village and the parish of Onchan over the past 11 years. 

This has meant that I had to wait for a suitable opportunity to try to correct the findings of this honourable Court on 18th June 2013, when it agreed to split the election boundary for Onchan into three very different constituencies. 

As I mentioned in my submission to the Commission back in March last year, the redrawing of constituency boundaries for the House of Keys General Election, especially relating to my constituency in Onchan is still very much a topic of discussion for many within the Village and the wider Parish of Onchan….

….and it has been an ongoing topic of discussion since the Commission published its first report back in November 2011. 

I think it is also very important that I put on Hansard from the outset that after the redrawing of the Constituency Election boundaries ahead of the 2016 House of Keys General Election I was one of the 2,141 Onchan residents that was moved mainly into a new larger constituency known as Garff, along with 72 Onchan constituents that were placed into the constituency of Douglas North. 

Mr President 

I am also partly to blame for the current situation, because the original proposal by the Commission back in 2012/13 was for part of Birch Hill, Onchan and other key village landmarks within the Constituency, such as St Peter’s Church to be put into a larger “East Constituency”….

…but this was met with considerable opposition from local residents, Onchan District Commissioners and from the sitting MHK’s at the time, and rightfully so….

This also meant that Electoral Commission had to find an alternative solution back then, in order to simply tick a box in respect of the size of each Constituency for the House of Keys General Election, in order to comply with the number of voters required for each Constituency, which had an allowance figure of no greater than 15% in their calculations…

Unfortunately, this resulted in the Parish of Onchan, along with part of Whitebridge Road, Harbour Road, Lakeside, and Groudle being placed into a larger Constituency of Garff, along with a handful of Onchan residents being placed in Douglas North, as I’ve already mentioned. 

These changes also meant that Onchan now has two very different election boundaries for its community, one for the Local Authority Elections that involved all eligible voters within the wider constituency of Onchan, and a smaller Constituency boundary for the House of Keys General Election, which involves around 6,624 Residents of Onchan. 

Mr President 

I fully understand the difference between national politicians representing their communities and this island as a whole, and our local authority commissioners / counsellors who are very much focused on their local areas, the local services and the community….

….but this isn’t about the local or national representatives in Onchan, but the actual redrawing of historic constituency boundaries, and the confusion and upset it is continuing to cause within the community of Onchan. 

Neither is this about my own personal vote or the fact that I live in the constituency of Garff for the House of Keys General Election. 

Having served as an Onchan District Commissioner for 4 years, representing the whole Constituency of Onchan, I then had to make the very difficult decision in 2016 in respect of the House of Keys General Election. 

For me personally it simply came down to a “Constituency name – Onchan or Garff”, because I genuinely wanted to continue to represent the people of Onchan, both in this Hon Court and within our Community. 

Mr. President 

I know that some Onchan residents are quite happy with the current status quo, and with the representation given by my Hon colleagues from Garff over the past seven years…..

However, the report under consideration by the Court today also highlights the fact that many Onchan residents still feel disenfranchised as a result of the commission’s original recommendation back in 2013. 

What I find totally unacceptable is the fact that various properties in the heart of Onchan village continue to sit just outside their own Constituency, their own Community….

… and therefore, I fully understand the legitimate grievance being raised by some Onchan residents at the moment, which has resulted in sections from within the Village and the Parish of Onchan refusing to vote in any House of Keys General Election….

….and I genuinely don’t think that was the intention of the Electoral Commission back in 2013.  

Over the years, I’ve had several discussions with the Electoral Commission in respect of the constituency boundary for Onchan. 

Unfortunately, at the heart of the problem is the fact that there is very strong evidence to justify the reason why Onchan should be considered as a genuine “three seat constituency” for future House Keys General Elections.…

…especially when considering either the number of voters available, or the overall population size of Onchan collectively, according to the census data. 

However, I do fully respect the original principle from 2010 around equality of representation, especially when I know that most Hon Members in this Court, and the Manx Public continue to support the present system of 12 two-seat constituencies. 

Again, for me, personally this isn’t about the number of MHK’s, but the breaking up of historic and well-established constituencies and local communities. 

The Electoral Commission report does talk about genuine reasons and exceptional circumstances….

…..and I am therefore about to provide evidence to this Court as to why the Parish and the Village of Onchan should be brought back together for future House of Keys Elections. 

From reading this report, and previous reports published by the Electoral Commission, it is very clear that no consideration or thought was given to the Onchan District Bill 1985, which amalgamated the Village and the Parish of Onchan almost 40 years ago into a single Constituency, as a single Community in the east of the island. 

This was after almost two years of long discussion and negotiation, and the Parish of Onchan actually held a very important referendum on the topic, which I believe was the last time this island actually held any form of referendum. 

At the time, there was an overwhelming majority from rural ratepayers in favour of the Parish of Onchan joining the Village of Onchan.  

In addition, not a single objection was received from the Village of Onchan, which highlights the strength of feeling within the Constituency of Onchan at the time. 

In the 2011 Electoral Commission report, it also said very clearly that the “majority of our witnesses expressed a preference for the population living within the constituency to form the basis of such calculations”, which I fully agree with. 

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen for the Constituency of Onchan back in 2013 when the Commission presented its third report to this Hon Court. 

Instead, the Constituency of Onchan was broken up and Onchan residents were placed into three different House of Keys Constituencies….

….and to confuse things even further, those same Onchan ratepayers and voters are still being asked to come together as a single Constituency for the Local Authority Elections. 

It really does not make any sense, it is so confusing for many Onchan residents, and this needs to be corrected by the Court. 

You do have to question if any of those key decisions taken by the Electoral Commission back in 2013 really respected the well-established Constituency boundary in Onchan. 

Does it really serve the communities that we are elected to serve? 

I don’t believe it does….

Mr President 

In respect of the latest report and its 13 recommendations, I do again thank the Electoral Commission for their hard work over the past 18 months and for their report before the Court today. 

I am happy to support recommendation 4 to 13 as printed on the order paper, but I am struggling to accept recommendation 1, 2 and 3. 

As I have already mentioned, the report under consideration by the Court talks about exceptionable and special circumstances, and therefore I would like to table an amendment to recommendations 1, 2 and 3 in respect of the Electoral Commission report for the reasons I’ve already outlined…..

…and to appeal to this Court to align the boundary of the Constituency of Onchan with the Onchan local authority area map, in order to help preserve the integrity of Onchan, as a single constituency, a single Community, and on behalf of all of Onchan residents collectively. 

I wish my colleagues in Glenfaba & Peel and Ramsey all the very best, because they are now facing the same situation which Onchan has already gone through over the past seven years. 

I beg to move the amendment standing in my name.

Thank you, Mr President.

 

 

2024-03-19T16:55:28+00:0019 March 2024|
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