Against a backdrop of controversy over the use of ‘blind trusts’ to fund election campaigns, and allegations of corrupt or illegal practices, a new MHK for Douglas East has finally been elected.
In a victory for an open and transparent democracy Chris Robertshaw - formerly the MD of the Sefton Hotel and an active Positive Action Group (PAG) member - saw of the robust challenge of 5 other candidates to gain his place in the House of Keys and Tynwald.
Mr Robertshaw, a vociferous critic of the current Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers, polled 388 votes in the low turnout election; whilst the runner-up, Kate Beecroft of the Liberal Vannin Party (LVP), polled 301.
The Manx Herald welcomes the result and wishes Mr Robertshaw well in the months ahead.
However, he undoubtedly faces a difficult task in achieving some of his manifesto aims but we are sure he will do his utmost to see that parliament increases its scrutiny of executive government and makes sure it is made more accountable.
Although the result was a disappointment for LVP, the Manx Herald does not see the failure to get party chairman, Mrs Beecroft elected as a disaster for the party.
With Mr Robertshaw and Mrs Beecroft expressing similar views on many matters during the election campaign we would be surprised if Mr Robertshaw does not co-operate with LVP party leader Peter Karran MHK on areas of common interest.
Furthermore, with the two candidates topping the poll voicing very strong criticisms of the current government the Manx Herald believes there is a significant message being signalled by the electorate to the Chief Minister: that they have the appetite and will for change.
The electorate also sent a strong message they want representatives in the Keys who will address the issues of importance to a national parliament – and not the local council. It is perhaps no coincidence that the two candidates making the most of their local connections only just managed to poll between them a similar number of votes to Mr Robertshaw.
And as for Mr Woodford and his secretive Manx Election Trust backers, for all his whinging about the ‘fairness’ of the election, the message from the electorate was equally clear – we don’t want your type of campaign or candidacy.
With 104 proxy votes and 91 absent votes registered it wouldn’t be unreasonable to surmise that without the ‘assistance’ of some of these votes Mr Woodford would have been a lot further behind Mr Robertshaw.
Lessons must be learned from this election campaign and acted upon quickly. Clearly by the time of the general election in September 2011 new election rules need to be in place that: outlaw the use of blind trusts, introduce firm limits on campaign expenses, require campaign donors to be named and tighten up or abolish the use of proxy votes.
If changes are not made then the next House of Keys could become dominated by MHKs with backers who have the deepest pockets thus allowing the whole democratic process to descend into disrepute..