MLP general election candidate for Douglas East Joney Faragher speaks with Manx Radio's Tessa Hawley:
Hi, my name's Joney Faragher, and I'll be standing in the general election for Douglas East.
So this is your first time standing in a general election. Why now?
So I've been a member of the Manx Labour Party for several years now. I've been finding out more and more about the political situation and more, I think, about where we're heading as an island. And obviously we're facing multiple crises right now. We know that there is going to be well, we were already facing the climate crisis and Brexit, and now we're just going to be the fallout from the pandemic, both economy wise and health wise, including mental health. So I felt like it was important to have somebody who would advocate for the people without any other vested interests or any other axe to grind and actually do what they genuinely felt in their hearts was the right thing for the people of the Isle of Man. So that's why I've decided to stand. And I think that we are at quite an important time in our history.
You are a mum of three children. I think I'm right in saying a working mum. Any trepidation about throwing your name into the ring?
Do you mean in terms of family commitments?
In terms of family commitments, how the job would fit into your into your life? And also, I guess, the climate that we're in at the moment, obviously, everybody wants somebody to hold to account.
I can see what you're saying. And yeah, of course, there is always a certain level of trepidation when you see the way that any public person is dealt with in the public arena or spoken about. I think that I've come under my fair share of flack as the Manx Labour Party leader anyway. And I have had several messages on Facebook that have been very vitriolic, I suppose, as well. So I think that I've developed more of a tough skin around that than I used to have. And I know what, what's expected. I do know what will be in store in terms of commitments for my family, if that's what you are asking about. I don't have any trepidation about that. I'm very, very good at managing my time. I have a lot of responsibilities right now. And so, no, I don't have any trepidation about that. I have complete confidence in myself over that.
And you mentioned social media there. And we live in a digital world. And I think social media is perhaps more prevalent during this election than it will have ever been. You're active on social media. Do you think all prospective candidates should be active and then politicians, once elected, remain active and use that as a platform to engage with their constituents?
Well, the short answer to that is, yes, we need to get a higher level of voter engagement in our island. The turnout at elections, both general and local level, are poor, to say the least. Douglas East is a constituency that has a fairly low turnout. Historically. I would love to see that turnout percentage climb higher and higher as we enter into what are more challenging times for us. Because democracy is so important, we can't really claim that we have a people's mandate if only 28 percent of the people who are eligible to vote actually turned up at the polls. So I think that is one way that we can really tick that box is by using social media and by getting higher levels of engagement with our constituents. That should hopefully have a knock on effect, that our constituents will therefore engage more with the electoral process.
And we will come back to Douglas East in a moment. But I would like to touch on the Manx Labour Party. Do you think there is a place for party politics on the Isle of Man?
I do very strongly because I do feel that party politics brings a greater level of accountability because your manifesto is contained in one one area. So all of those candidates are standing on one manifesto set of pledges so you can find exactly what they stand for way in advance of any election and you can hold them to account afterwards. You could know exactly what the person stands for. And people stand as an independent candidate that genuinely could mean anything. You have no way of knowing how they will vote in a crucial vote that might come up under the term that they are elected for. You can have a greater degree of knowledge about the way that I will vote as a Manx Labour Party candidate, because I've already nailed my colours to the mast and said this is what I stand for. I'm a people orientated politician and I will do my best for the people of the island.
We have seen in previous administrations that some people have been elected on a party ticket they've got in and then kind of severed the allegiance to the party. Is there any danger of that happening with either yourself or other candidates that may stand for the Manx Labour Party?
I would say absolutely not. We really do have very thorough conversations with all of our candidates. Obviously not for myself. I know that. But we really do have very thorough conversations with all the rest of our candidates to ensure that they are committed to us and that their ethos is aligned with ours.
If you are successfully elected but other MLP candidates aren’t, do you not effectively become an independent in the House of Keys?
I can see what you're saying, but I would say no, because the main reason that you're standing on a party ticket is that you, well, first of all, you have already declared your intentions so people will already know what you stand for and what your ethos is. But secondly, and one of the great things about party politics is that I'm not going to pretend that I am an expert on every single area of our economy and our society, and that I would be I would be like I think anybody would be lying if they said that they are expert in all of those areas. However, I can say that I have experts who I can consult upon any issue within the party. So that's another brilliant factor that party politics does bring, which is that you have a whole plethora of information to call upon at any given time and for any given topic.
And how closely, if at all, is the Manx Labour Party aligned with labour parties elsewhere? So in the UK, in New Zealand, for example
We don't have an affiliation with any other country's Labour Party. No, but all labour movements worldwide stand for a similar thing, which is equality, fairness, progression, being stronger together. So we do share those values with all labour movements. I would say that our policies are quite closely aligned with Jacinda Ardern’s in New Zealand, but we don't have any formal affiliation, no.
So before we move on to your priorities and the priorities of the Labor Party, if we can have a quick look at the sitting administration. In 2016, half of the folks that were elected were new. How do you think the current administration has fared over the last five years?
That is a very big question. I would say they have had successes and failures. I would say the successes have largely been around the initial handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which was, you know, to give credit where credit's due. They did a very good job once they had lockdown of informing us all of what was going on, and seemed initially to be quite open and accountable. And I would say that failures have largely been around their handling of the climate emergency, which they did declare, but haven't taken any tangible action towards reducing our carbon emissions or dealing with any of the issues that we need to deal with in order to address that emergency. So I would say that it's been a mixed bag. I would definitely not say it's been all negative, but certainly hasn't been all positive either.
In 2016, again, history was made when five women were elected to the House of Keys. What are your thoughts on representation of women in politics?
Yeah, I think that that is fairly indicative of where we are, where we celebrated five out of 24 being elected. That is actually, I think, quite a sad indictment on our parliament. If we are only representing a very narrow sector of our society, then we don't actually have a representative democracy. So I would like to see that glass ceiling gone and at very least half of our MHKs being female and greater levels of diversity with all aspects of our society. I would like to just say here that the Manx Labour Party did have the first ever female MHK in Marion Shimmin*, who I’ve been trying to find out a lot more about. And I'd love to think that she would be proud of what we're doing here.
Tynwald can be a consensus culture in that most Tynwald members also serve in government departments. If you were successful at election, would you take a departmental position or would you want to remain as a backbench MHK?
I would say my instinct would be remain as a backbencher. And the reasons for that are that I would not like to feel like I was having to vote under any circumstances for anything other than my own principles and ethics. And I would also say that I would not like to accept a role if I didn't feel like I could adequately and honestly undertake that role to the best of that, I have the abilities and the skills and the expertise and the knowledge to undertake that role. So that's why I would say that it's it's highly likely that I would be remaining as a backbencher. If this if the circumstances were right, if I felt the opposite, that in that I did feel like I had the knowledge and the expertise and I did feel like there was a progressive Keys that I could actually vote in line with then that then that could change, but my instinct would definitely be backbencher so that I'm not tied.
So let's move now to look at the constituency that you plan to represent Douglas East. Why Douglas East?
Douglas East is where I grew up. I spent most of my life in Douglas East. It's where I know
Do you live in Douglas East?
I don't at the moment, no. I haven't lived there for about six years, but for the rest of my life I've lived there and grew up there. It's my favorite part of the island and I just know the issues that people face there having grown up there and kind of know it like the back of my hand.
Can you say that many of those issues that you've identified are issues that were there when you were growing up? Does that infer that you don't think the previous MHKs have been effective?
Not necessarily - in that I think a lot of the issues have been cumulative, so have just come to a head I suppose in more recent years. One of the issues that people regularly talk about, well two really which are tied in together is around traffic. So one would be parking and the other is people using certain streets in the constituency as short cuts & speeding basically. Essentially travelling far too fast in those residential areas which has obviously it’s own set of problems that are attendant with that. So those sorts of issues were attendant when I was growing up in the area. Parking I think has kind of long been an issue but has really become a lot more of an issue recently where we’re seeing more urban development and each flat in houses that are broken down into flats is entitled to a parking space. Of course they’re entitled to a parking space. And that’s only right. But what we are seeing is that in zones there is more cars than there are parking spaces.
So how would you combat that if you were elected? It’s obviously an issue. We have heard this week that as you say there is more vehicles now than there are parking spaces. What’s the solution?
Well, it’s not going to be one solution that fits everything. It’s going to be pulling in a series of factors and a series of solutions that will help us achieve something that is more manageable. We do need to look to reducing the number of multi-occupancy housing. And we do need to look to alternative solutions for people who work in central Douglas but don’t live there having some sort of a park and ride or finding other solutions to parking for those people. But it’s not going to be an easy answer. I think that we do need to start relying more on public transport as opposed to the private motor vehicle as well. But there isn’t one answer that fits all of these things. We’re just going to have to try and pull in research from around the world as to what works.
Research is something that features quite heavily on your manifesto. You are calling for lots of research it seems into various different areas. One of those is into mental health mental wellbeing. Tell me your thoughts on mental health services on the Isle of Man. You say mental health on the Isle of Man is chronically underfunded
Yes so first of all can I just clarify that I’m not calling for us to undertake research on issues. I’m calling for us to actually look at the research that has already been undertaken. There are several projects around the world that have been very effective at driving down suicide rates, and that is the key factor by which we can determine how effective our mental health services are. So what I’m actually looking for us to do is to use research that has already been undertaken rather than reinvent the wheel. I have always worked with families. I work at the moment for a bereavement charity, and as you can imagine any work with families who are experiencing any form of social issue mental health is always there as a factor. I know that we deal with lots of children sadly who are bereaved by suicide, and the families speak with me repeatedly about the help that they’ve tried to get, about how they have had several attempts or several what people call ‘cries for help’ and they haven’t received any support around those. I don't think that this has to do with individual practitioners, because I do think that, ah, I've met several of our practitioners and they have real dedication in their hearts to do better. But we need funding. The bottom line is that we will not move on with our mental health services if we don't have funding. And that is always the key in how successful any mental health service is, is funding.
And where do you envisage that funding coming from?
And is that going to be a rise in taxes to pay for it? I mean, obviously, the money doesn't seem to be there at the moment. So where are we going to pull it from?
I would question whether the money isn't there at the moment, actually, I think because the money does seem to be there for quite outrageous capital overspend, if if we have revenue coming in from taxes that I think is sufficient to fund these services, but it's not a priority basis. And that is where our ability to change would be. Number one, prioritization and number two, efficiency.
Something else that you mentioned before, climate change and the work that government is doing or not doing to action that. How much onus do you think should be on the government and how much should be on the individual in terms of an individual making choices for themselves to do their bit, so to speak?
So the change, the transition absolutely and unequivocally needs to be led by government and individuals cannot and should not be expected to make changes to their lifestyle that will negatively impact them in terms of their peers and counterparts. That is unreasonable expectation. So change needs to come from government. We've had years and years. We this this information has been available to us since the 1960s. That is what I find to be the frustrating thing about the climate emergency. Governments have chosen not to act right up until 2018. And I wouldn't like to overly blame our government because other governments across the world were dragging their heels in a similar way. I don't think that that's an excuse, by the way, and have lobbied our government prior to 2018 and to to do something about this. And we could easily have. We had several opportunities that we fumbled. However, since 2018, there's been no excuse. The science is absolutely clear. What we need to do in the IPCC special report of the effects of one point five degrees of warming alerted us all to the urgent nature of this. So as far as I'm concerned, it's inexcusable that we haven't taken any tangible steps to bring down that carbon emission line.
Now, you obviously have lots of priorities, both individually, I guess, and as part of the Manx Labour Party. We don't obviously have time to touch on them all today, but one of them I do want to just finish with is looking at housing, because I imagine that this is both a constituency issue and a national issue. You say you want quality housing for all and advocating for not for profit housing. Can you just explain what you mean by this and whether it's actually a realistic goal?
Quality housing for all simply means that everybody should have access to a warm home that is fit for purpose. There is absolutely no reason in a wealthy society like ours that we shouldn't be prioritising housing. I think one of the issues that we have on the island with regards to housing, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, is that people haven't been able to get themselves on the property ladder. That has so many attendant issues where we're losing our young people to other countries because they're not able to get on the property ladder. We've seen over 2020, the average house price on the Isle of Man rose by £19,000. It was already too high, and we've seen the average house price rise by a significant amount. So what we're really talking about here is, is that Manx people should be able to access Manx housing. We want to see an end to offshore speculation in our property market, that is artificially inflating our housing market.
And you also want a national housing strategy. We can't even seem to get our Landlord and Tenant Bill shaped up and ready to go and rolled out. Do you think that that's achievable, too, to bring in a national housing strategy for the Isle of Man?
Yes, I do.
And you think there's appetite for that?.
Absolutely. Housing is one of the main issues that people are bringing up. It really has catapulted into everybody's top priority list, as we said, as offshore speculators are artificially inflating our housing market. Lots of people who I speak with who have children, young, who are young adults who have ended up moving off island, and they are, they are angry that their children have moved off island. They want, they wanted them to have the opportunities on the island, but they're just not there for them to own properties or to rent in any meaningful way that will give them money in their pocket to save to get on the property ladder. Housing is a huge, complex issue and it really needs to be addressed. It's reached, it’s reached crisis point where we are losing our young people to other countries in droves because of our housing market situation. So, yes, I absolutely do think there's appetite there and I do think it's achievable.
Just finally, for the constituents of Douglas East, obviously the area that you are standing in and that you're planning to represent, why should they vote for you?
So I stand for equality and fairness, as I've already said, and leader of the Manx Labour Party. And that means that I will be advocating for policies that bring more equal opportunities to people because too often our life, life outcomes are dictated by a situation that simply isn't right. In return for your vote, I'll bring honesty, dedication, genuine accountability. If I can't deliver on a policy or an issue that I've discussed with you, I will explain why I can't deliver on that. And those reasons will always be based around what's best in the best interests of the island and the people of the Isle of Man.
* Culture Vannin profile of Manx Labour Party MHK Marion Shimmin:
Manx Labour Party General Election Manifesto 2021:
Joney Faragher Personal Manifesto 2021: