Supporting a government through crisis and beyond

Professor Peter Edge

Professor Peter Edge’s extensive knowledge of the political history of the Isle of Man has enabled him to make a huge and lasting impact on the lives of the people that live there.

His research findings have contributed to democratic debate about the future of the Manx parliament, Tynwald, and placed him in a unique position to help the island’s politicians navigate the effects of a global pandemic.

Supporting a democratic Tynwald

Isle of Man flag

The Isle of Man is a largely autonomous crown dependency with its own legal system dominated by Tynwald, an institution wrestling in recent years with questions over its legitimacy, composition and function.

Peter’s research into the history of Manx politics – in particular the role of the unelected Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man in the Legislative Council, the second chamber of the Tynwald – has enriched democratic debates, regularly being cited in Tynwald itself.

His findings place today’s Manx parliament in its historical and theoretical contexts, showing that Tynwald faces particular challenges as the centre of governance for a small jurisdiction, and highlighting the tension between democratic accountability and concentration of power. His analysis of the impact of the ‘voice’ of the Lord Bishop informed parliamentary debate on voting rights. It was used extensively by Lord Lisvane in his review of the role of the Lord Bishop in the Legislative Council in 2016 and in subsequent recommendations for reform.

“In grappling with an historically-complex but currently live issue, I found Professor Edge’s authoritative and exacting work extremely useful, and I made use of it in my final report.”

Lord Lisvane

Balancing history with reform

With the value of his historical insight increasingly recognised by the Manx government, Peter was commissioned to run a series of workshops for Tynwald, government and senior civil servants dealing with broader issues of constitutional reform.

Providing contextual knowledge to frame the debate, the workshops were praised for giving parliamentarians and their staff new insights into their work, offering ‘a considered approach to selecting appropriate expert advice in different situations.’

Support in a time of crisis

Peter’s expertise in Manx political history and close knowledge of its legislature put him in a unique position to advise members of Tynwald and the Council of Ministers during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

At key moments in the crisis, the Isle of Man was governed under a state of emergency, with the Manx Council of Ministers given power to introduce new laws under Emergency Powers Regulations (EPRs). Although each EPR had to be approved by Tynwald, this move saw an unprecedented rebalancing of power in favour of the executive.

Peter was able to use his unique knowledge to provide real-time critique and analysis of the Emergency Powers Regulations as they were drafted, on many occasions identifying issues and suggesting amendments that could be resolved before they passed into law. His contribution helped ensure laws passed on the island during this time – which covered every facet of day-to-day life for its residents – were fair and fit-for-purpose.

Reviewing one EPR proposing a revision to the entry restrictions for the island, Peter found it would require patients sent by the Manx Health Service for specialist treatment in the UK to pay for travel and quarantine. His quick action to recommend the EPR be refused by Tynwald was instrumental in preventing an unfair requirement passing into law, and helped to avoid the negative public response that would inevitably have followed.

Shaping debate

Peter’s research into the functioning of Tynwald continues to shape debate on Manx parliamentary reform by placing the events of 2020 in their historical context and by demonstrating how the additional challenges of scale, intimacy and geography combine to influence future reform and strategy. In 2021 he was appointed to the Emergency Advisory Group (EAG) by the Council of Ministers. His analysis of later developments, in particular the change of direction in 2021, continues to contribute to understanding of these challenges.