As I post my 270th and final blog I just want to start this week with a simple thank you….
Over the past five years I have shared all aspects of my professional and much of my private life, along with sharing this incredible journey as a Member of the House of Keys, which started with my own election campaign back in July 2016.
Although every Tynwald member is slightly different in respect of the amount of work undertaken and the hours worked etc, I hope my own political journey over the past five years has given a genuine insight into such an important and privileged position – it really has been an honour.
Since July 2016 I have continually posted weekly updates on a Saturday morning, which have reached a potential audience of between 3,000 to 5,500 each week. I know from the many messages, posts and various conversations I have had with people in various locations that hundreds of people have taken time to follow my adventures, and I take this opportunity to thank you personally.
When I do meet people that mention my weekly blog, they also often mention exactly where they read the report each week. For example a number of people read my blog in bed on a Saturday morning with a cup of tea or before going to bed in the evening or on a Sunday morning when the kids are playing football or rugby and they have 10 minutes to themselves – again thank you so much….
Every single blog has been posted onto my website (www.robcallister.im), and I am looking forward to reviewing them at some point in the future, especially around those events we have all witnessed since March 2020 in respect of Covid-19, which has brought so much disruption to our lives, not just here on the Isle of Man but also across the world.
With five years’ experience now under my belt, I am happy to say that I have found the whole journey as an MHK far harder than I ever imagined at times. This may be simply down to the fact that I genuinely care for my constituents and for the wider Manx community. At the heart of the role is the stress, anxiety and tiredness you feel at times as an MHK, especially when you see articles or comments that are factually incorrect and there is very little you can do to stop it.
That said, the role of an MHK is also incredibly rewarding at times, especially when so many people have reached out for help, advice or support over the years. On most occasions we get it right and we are able to help people, but there are occasions when we are simply unable to help, although not through the lack of trying….
It really has been an amazing journey, and I have learnt so much about myself as a person and as an MHK, but importantly about the people of this beautiful island.
Anyway, let’s move on….
I want to start this week with an overview of Covid-19, which continues to split public opinion right across our island, which is making our job incredibly difficult at the moment – it really would be so much easier to sit on the backbench and simply throw stones two months ahead of a General Election instead of actually getting behind some of these very important decisions being taken.
Unfortunately for me personally as an MHK there just isn’t a right or wrong direction to be taken at the moment, because everyone’s personal circumstances are very different, which makes it almost impossible to get the balance right between businesses that are genuinely struggling to survive and the wider Manx community that is very concerned in respect of the high number of Covid-19 cases on the Isle of Man at the moment.
As I mentioned in Tynwald last week I don’t believe that some of the communication or messaging coming out of central Government is right, and it hasn’t been right for a couple of months.
I have spoken to so many people in the last month or so, and the feedback from constituents is that information is confusing, especially around contact tracing, self-isolation and testing.
The 111 helpline has to give clear instruction and direction even when the team are under extreme pressure for long periods of time. In addition, if someone is advised that they need to get a PCR test, then that test has to be undertaken within a matter of hours and for the result to be received back within 24 hours wherever possible.
Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case at the moment and although most results are received within 24 hours, getting an actual PCR application can take a few days.
In respect of lateral flow tests, the island has received more then 290,000 tests on island over the past couple of weeks, and I know it is difficult at the moment, but we just need to slow things down.
If you don’t actually need a lateral flow test at the moment, then please do not collect them or stock pile them, because we will continue to receive a good supply in the weeks and months to follow.
In respect of the new regulations that were introduced last week, as an MHK I cannot explain to constituents as to why the Council of Ministers voted against Lawrie Hooper’s motion last week to ask Dr. Henrietta Ewart to give evidence at the bar of Tynwald before voting on the latest set of Covid-19 regulations.
Although I had some concern from reading the regulations, it certainly wasn’t on the same level as my colleague Lawrie Hooper, MHK, but I do feel it was an own goal by the Council of Ministers.
With regards to the latest Covid-19 figures, we started the week (Monday) with 2,474 active cases of Covid-19, but what was alarming was the 3,000 cases under investigation….
Although new cases were identified on Tuesday the actual number of cases on the island fell to 2,020 due to recovery etc, but the number of people in Noble’s hospital increased to 8, and unfortunately 1 person was in intensive care.
The number of cases increased slightly to 2,042 on Wednesday with no change in the number of people in hospital.
More on the Covid-19 numbers in a moment.
As for my own activities this week and with no more House of Keys or Tynwald sittings for this administration my own schedule and route has now changed, which I am finding difficult to adjust to after five years.
My three department roles and constituent work will continue right up to the House of Keys General Election in September, but my focus is moving toward that election, which will take up a lot of time over the next two months.
I was able to take most of Saturday off, in order to catch up with a few of my own jobs around the house. On Saturday afternoon I was invited to the Nunnery to watch the British and Irish Lions and the World Champions South Africa in the first test, which the Lions won.
Part of Sunday was spent working on the election and as for Monday the day started with me working at home on department papers, along with going through DOI agenda pack. Mid-morning I went into the office for a few hours and in the afternoon we had the DOI department meeting that didn’t finish until around 17.00.
From there I headed into Onchan to do some canvassing so I didn’t get home until around 20.00. Tuesday was another day spent at home, and most of the day was spent reading and researching topics that might appear in my election manifesto, but I did manage to get out canvassing from around 17.00 just for a couple of hours.
As for Wednesday I went into the office just after 6.30am, which gave me time to get things sorted before I am asked to vacate my Tynwald office on 12th August 2021. It is another one of those strange things that most people wouldn’t even realise, but we are expected to leave an empty office, which will be fully cleaned before the new House of Keys members arrive on 24th September.
As I still work in three departments I will still have access to emails and to departments etc until the election, but I won’t be able to access the Tynwald building apart from the public area from 12th August. On the same day Members of the House of Keys will also lose the initials MHK, at which time they will become candidates in the forthcoming election if they are seeking re-election.
Just after 9am I headed over to DfE for the political members catch-up before the Department meeting, which had a very light agenda so I was back in my office just after 11am. From there I was able to head into Onchan to help a constituent before getting home towards 13.00, which gave me time to look at a couple of election issues.
At 16.30 I headed out once again to do some canvassing in and around Onchan, which will take me right up to election day. I got home for 19.15 and once I caught up with a few emails and a couple of missed calls I finally finished for around 21.00.
As for Thursday it was very much a change of routine as I start to work at home over the next couple of months. Over the past five years I have deliberately gone into the Tynwald office every day, in order to continue the routine of starting work no later than 8am and then finishing in the office for around 17.00, which was the same routine I did in the private sector for over 20 years.
Most of Thursday was spent working on a few bits of department work, which has started to slow down. This means that I am getting a lot more free time now to start seriously looking at the elections, especially in respect of my manifesto.
I also needed to go through the Corporate Parenting Group agenda, ahead of a virtual meeting that started at 16.00 and lasted just over an hour. The rest of the day was spent reading or writing parts of my manifesto – it really wasn’t the most difficult day I have had in the role over the past five years.
Unfortunately, the weather on Thursday stopped me from canvassing, and although there are still two months before the election I still have over 3,000 doors to knock on, which is a considerable task.
As for Friday it was almost identical to Thursday, but I did manage to get a couple of hours of canvassing done between 16.00 and 18.00. Trying to get around 3,000 houses is difficult, but still some very kind comments on the doorstep, which is very much appreciated.
Unfortunately, we finish the week with an update on Covid-19, and although the number of active cases on the island has reduced to 1,611 the number of people in Nobles Hospital has increased to 14 with one individual in intensive care.
So that is it – time to sign off in respect of my weekly blogs, but I am still here if people need any help or advice, just message me or phone me in the usual way.
I will also be posting various bits of information in respect of the House of Keys General Election that will be held on 23rd September 2021, and I have already started to knock on doors, so please say hello if you live in Onchan or ask family and friends living in Onchan to support my re-election campaign.
There are also various public meetings etc ahead of the elections, so still lots of information to post in the days and weeks to follow.
Thank you again for sharing my journey over the past five years.