The pitfalls of presenting a complex issue as ‘easy news’

The problem with presenting complicated relationship as ‘easy news’ were illustrated earlier this week when Andy Wint at Manx Radio quizzed the latest incumbent of Government House on the thorny subject of greater or indeed full independence for the Isle of Man.

‘Nothing to do with me’ says Lt Governor Sir Richard Gozney ‘that’s a goose for you to cook’ (or words to that effect) but he’s wrong:

https://www.manxradio.com/…/governor-says-moves-towards-gr…/

To be fair to Gozney he was probably asked the wrong question. Instead of being asked his view he should have been asked what he and the UK government were doing to advance the Isle of Man (and any other dependent territories) towards self determination. The whole ethos on which UN thinking on decolonisation was posited in the 1960s placed an onus on the host power (in our case the UK via the Crown) to bring about a situation which would achieve this goal. Put bluntly Gozney is in the frame and needs to realise that his job is not just to hang around Government House and pick up the cheque.

Periodically the Isle of Man government and the United Kingdom have, over recent decades, tried to move the agenda forward.

In May 2007 then Chief Minister Tony Brown issued a statement that seemed to show some ‘clear blue water’ between the Isle of Man and the UK when he announced that the ‘International identity off the Isle of Man was recognised’ by the UK. It was accompanied by a clear memorandum signed by Lord Falconer the then UK Secretary of State on 1st May 2007 which set out the new terms in some detail we won’t include the text but I feel sure one of Gozney’s aides can locate it for him.

The Falconer – Brown arrangement seemed to set out a meaningful step in constitutional evolution of UK – IOM relations that is until early this year when the infamous Mitchell – Hodge amendment popped up in the House of Commons. Cue much confusion on the part of Howard Quayle Chief Minister who should have been able to derail the issue quite quickly.

Fortunately Messrs Mitchell and Hodge were foiled at Westminster but who’s to say that in the current volatile climate of UK politics a future UK government will not throw its weight against the Island and undermine the 2006 Statement of Intent and the subsequent 2007 agreement.

Of course there are some who believe the IOM is not mature or fiscally strong enough to go it alone but that again as Gozney should be aware is no justification for prevarication by the Crown and the UK to advancing the territory to a position of being able to achieve independence. As the UN put it in December 1960:

“Inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence.”

Manx Radio may be aiming to supply ‘easy listening’ but when it comes to a complex issue such as independence and the merits thereof it should never opt for an ‘easy news’ style!

Bernard Moffatt, Assistant General Secretary Celtic League (20 December 2019)

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