Blog 19 July 20The House of Keys structure will look slightly different when it reconvenes on Tuesday 27th October 2020 following a double by-election due to be held in Douglas South on Thursday 27th August.

Following the death of Douglas South MHK Bill Malarkey earlier this year news broke on Monday evening that Kate Costain had stepped down as a Member of the House of Keys and was retiring from Manx Politics. In her open letter and media interviews she highlighted her ongoing health issues, along with own personal disappointment in not achieving more in her nine years representing the people of Douglas South.

Kate was also the Leader of the Liberal Vannin Party since 2014, and despite the events that unfolded in the Department of Health and Social Care back in 2016/17 between the Minister, Political Members and Senior Officers, I have always respected her views over the years, especially when Kate had her teeth stuck into a particular Government financial issue which didn’t stand up to further scrutiny.

I do wish her all the very best for the future.

Before moving away from party politics, I was reading an interesting article during the week by the newly formed “Working People’s Party”, which had its first meeting. What surprised me about this particular article was some of the language being used, but also a clear lack of understanding of our political system here on the Isle of Man.

Just to clarify a couple of points, if an MHK becomes completely unreachable once they are elected to the House of Keys, then that is simply down to the individual in question and it certainly has nothing to do with them being in a Government Department or even in the Council of Ministers.

The former Policy and Reform Minister, Chris Thomas, MHK was in the Council of Ministers for almost four years and he still continued to post on social media, along with many other Tynwald Members. The exchange of comments he and Lawrie Hooper, MHK had on Twitter over the years is definitely worth reading…..

I think we all acknowledge that the Council of Ministers supports collective responsibility as a group, but it is still down to each individual MHK to explain those difficult and unpalatable decisions to their Constituents.

The same also applies within Government Departments in many ways where decisions can be made by the political members collectively via Department meetings or by an individual MHK depending on the circumstances or by the Minister personally.

It is only once you are elected that you actually realise the importance of a well written election manifesto. Most people think that an election manifesto is simply a leaflet of promises by a candidate, in order to get elected, and that is a fair assessment in some circumstances or for some individuals.

However, a well written election manifesto can also be a very powerful document for any MHK who is fortunate to get elected, especially for those individuals that sit on the Council of Ministers and / or a Government Department.

Moving outside your manifesto election promises has to be fully justified, and the Council of Ministers and all Government Departments have to respect the promises made or opinions given by individual MHK’s to their Constituents during the election.

That said, I know that this theory was tested recently with the removal of Chris Thomas, MHK as the Policy and Reform Minister, but I am not going over those events again.

Personally I keep a copy of my manifesto in the office and at home and I do refer back to the booklet on a regular basis.

It is also worth mentioning that I spoke to a hotelier last week who felt that the current crop of MHK’s have engaged more with the general public under this administration compared to any other previous administration – just a thought….

Anyway, let’s move on….

As for last weekend’s activities, other than taking an opportunity to get through a few government reports, I spent a few hours in the garden on Saturday and Sunday just switching off from things.

I was back in the office on Monday to start preparing for next week’s Tynwald sitting, which took up a lot of time. I also spent a couple of hours going through the Landlord and Tenant (Private Housing) Bill, which is currently out for consultation.

At 10am I had another difficult meeting as the Children’s Champion with a very concerned parent. This particular issue sits well within my role as the Children Champion and I will be reaching out to various parties to try and find a solution before it is too late.

If things are to improve for children in care on the island, then any provision being offered under the “Corporate Parent Umbrella” has to actually reflect a normal family environment with all of it ups and downs of daily life.

At 12 noon there was a DEFA briefing to Tynwald Members via Teams as the Department gave an update on the Climate Change agenda, post Covid-19 events and any items going before Tynwald next week.

The next couple of hours were spent in the office continuing to work on the Tynwald sitting before I headed down to the Sea Terminal for the Promenade Political Oversight board meeting, which is now being held monthly due to the amount of activities currently underway.

Again, it was a very frank and open meeting with a lot of questions being asked, especially in relation to the St Ninian’s junction, Governor’s Bridge and the pending closure of Summerhill Road, which has generated a considerable amount of comments from Onchan Constituents.

As a Constituency MHK it is hard for me to show how robust my questions have been at these meetings with DOI, DfE and Treasury officers, along with the political members. All of that said, we have to acknowledge that the ongoing promenade works are unique and a once in a lifetime scheme, and some of those decisions were always going to be difficult.

Based on all the evidence that I have seen, we have to get through the next eight weeks, in order to ensure that Broadway, St Ninian’s, Summerhill Road and the Governor’s Bridge are returned back to normal as quickly as possible.

I finally got home just before 18.00, in order to catch up with various correspondence and phone calls.

Another sleepless night on Monday, so I was up draftIng a letter to a Minister just after 5am, along with various other correspondence before heading into the office for 8am.

Most of the morning was spent at my desk continuing to go through the Tynwald Order Paper and the Supplementary Order Paper, along with a couple of small meetings that were held in the office. At 12 noon I headed up to the Barrool Suite for two presentations, the first one by the Treasury Minister on his Budget statement next week In Tynwald, along with giving an update on the Economic Recovery Plan.

The second presentation was by the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK and officers from the External Relations team who gave an update on the UK-EU negotiations and those decisions that might affect the Isle of Man in the years to come.

From there it was straight into Onchan for two Constituent meetings, both relating to my role as the Children’s Champion. Back to the office briefly before heading home for around 17.15.

Not much to report on Wednesday as most of my meetings scheduled had either been cancelled or moved, which meant I was able to work from home.

The Tynwald Order Paper and the Budget Update 2020 took up most of the day, but I also started lookIng at a particular speech that I will need in October.

I was even able to take a couple hours off over lunchtime to move the rest of the paving slabs that had just arrived. With a political surgery on Saturday morning, a couple of constituent meetings and a couple of tonnes of sand still to move over the weekend, I thought I would take the opportunity to get this job done before we look at laying the 7×7 m2 patio area towards the end of next week – subject to weather of course….

On Wednesday evening I was asked to play league snooker for the first time sine 2016, which was certainly an experience. Not sure how I ended up giving my opponent a 35 point start, but in the end I lost on the black, so at least I didn’t embarrass myself.

Great to catch up with so many old friends that I haven’t seen for a few years.

A bit of a mixed bag on Thursday as the first part of the morning was spent at home working on Tynwald, but I also had two personal meetings at the house relating to our building project.

I was still in the office just after 11am to catch up with a few things before heading up to the Barrool Suite at lunchtime for a Tynwald Members briefing by Manx Gas, which included a live stream meeting with David Cruddace, the new CEO of Manx Gas, along with a Q&A session.

A full statement will be made by the Policy and Reform Minister, Ray Harmer, MHK in Tynwald next week, but I noticed on Friday evening that Cabinet Office have published full details of the actual new agreement, which are available via my social media platforms.

Anyone who has followed me on social media over the years will have seen the various questions that I have raised, especially around tariffs, press releases and those refunds when Manx Gas exceed the Return on Capital Employed (ROCE).

My questions focused on these areas on behalf of Manx Gas customers.

My first question related to the Company’s policy around taking deposits from low income families and vulnerable individuals who genuinely struggle to find a £250 deposit.

My second question related to ROCE and how Manx Gas proposes to ensure that any refund due to Manx Gas customers are actually given back to individual customers, not simply applied through a reduction in tariffs, which benefits future customers and not current customers.

Once the briefing finished I had two meetings relating to my Children’s Champion role and at 16.00 David Cruddace, Manx Gas CEO called me to discuss my questions in greater detail, which I very much appreciated.

I left the office for around 17.00, but still had a lot of correspondence to catch up with.

In the office just after 7.30am on Friday to go through several Department papers. As for the rest of my morning, I thought my calendar was clear until late morning, so I was very surprised when a constituent called into the office to see me at 10am.

Unfortunately, this particular meeting was arranged late one evening a few weeks ago, so another lesson learnt, but still a good meeting relating to NI payments.

At 11.30am I headed over to DfE for an Extraordinary Department Workshop meeting, which had a couple of papers for consideration along with the wider discussion on employment legislation.

Straight back to the office to do a quick Manx Radio interview as it had just been announced that I had joined the Department of Infrastructure. My delegation will include Ports (Ronaldsway and the Harbours), along with the Energy for Waste Plant.

However, this would be in addition to my current roles in DEFA and DfE, along with my appointment as the new Children’s Champion.

The DOI Minister, Tim Baker, MHK and I met last week to discuss the Department and the role he would like me to take on, but I had been unable to make a final decision until Tuesday morning.

In fact I changed my mind several times during last weekend, and again my answer was a firm no on Monday lunchtime. However, without another political Member, the DOI would be left with a Minister and an MLC in a Department under considerable public pressure until the Douglas South By-Election, and there is no guarantee that those newly elected Members would go into the DOI.

It was only after attending the DOI Promenade Political Oversight Board meeting on Monday afternoon I was starting to change my mind, despite the potential political risks involved.

It is unique for an MHK to take on three Departments, but we just have to find a way through this next eight weeks in respect of the ongoing promenade works and other road closures, in order to improve the traffic situation in and out of Douglas before 8th September when the schools reopen.

At 14.00 I dialled into a conference call with a number of constituents who wanted to discuss an ongoing dispute issue before I left the office at around 15.30, but I had a lot of things to catch up with before finishing off for the weekend.

With regards to the weekend, I have my political surgery on Saturday morning at the Onchan Community Hub between 10am and 11.30am, along with a media interview and a couple of Constituent meetings.

As for Sunday, I am certain most of the day will be taken up with the Tynwald Order Paper and preparing various notes etc.