In Business, Sport and Politics the Isle of Man has always had a special relationship and rivalry with our friends and colleagues in Guernsey and Jersey, especially on a political level when the three Crown Dependencies come together to negotiate or communicate a particular message with the UK Government – for example, our position regarding the UK leaving the European Union.
As Manx politicians we are also very fortunate to get to know some of the States Members (parliamentary members) from both Guernsey and Jersey through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and other channels. During the 48th CPA British Islands and Mediterranean Region Conference, which was being held in Guernsey in 2019, Ellen and I were very fortunate to meet Deputy Gavin St Pier who was the President of the Policy and Resources Committee at the time.
This week Gavin St Pier published a very interesting open letter in which he talks about the recent all island election held in Guernsey in which he topped the poll with 13,927 votes. This was a very clear endorsement of his leadership as the President of the Policy and Resources Committee between 2016 and 2020, which is the equivalent position of our Chief Minister here in the Isle of Man.
In his open letter he outlined his fears for the island of Guernsey in the months and years to come, as well as his disappointment at losing such an important role at this particular moment time when the world is still under such pressure, both financially and economically – and with a future still uncertain because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Back in 2016 Gavin secured the top job with 20 votes to 19 against Peter Ferbrache, but this time around the Deputies in Guernsey didn’t share the public endorsement and duly elected Peter Ferbrache, who had finished fifth in the all island election.
Traditionally the President of the Policy and Resources Committee in Guernsey normally only serves a single term in office, so that could have been a factor in why the Deputies voted for change.
However, it does open up that wider discussion on all island elections, and if you do finish top of that election, is it then an automatic public endorsement in respect of who should be the next Chief Minister or equivalent?
Back in 2016 I voted for Alf Cannan, MHK to be Chief Minister here on the Isle of Man because at the time he had topped the Isle of Man Newspapers poll who canvassed the general public for their opinion, but also because most Onchan Residents were backing the Ayre and Michael MHK – so it will be interesting if that opinion changes in 2021, subject to election results etc.
The one paragraph of Gavin St Pier’s open letter stood out for me was: “I feel like I’ve run an eight-year marathon so I will welcome the chance, in the short term, to recharge and spend more time with my family. My 60-70 hours a week of States‘ business will be reduced significantly. Frustrating though that is, I wish to assure you that I have no intention whatsoever of resigning as a Deputy. I was elected by you, the people, and I will continue to serve you as best as I can. For now, that means I will serve on the backbenches.”
For me personally I can relate to his comments around “Marmite”, but enough said and I will let people read the article if they wish. If nothing else it shows that politics is raw and it really hurts from time to time.
You definitely will have to pick yourself up and dust yourself down on numerous occasions, but all that said it is your constituents that matter and not your political colleagues..
I certainly wish Gavin all the best for the future….
Anyway, with regards to my own activities Ellen and I spent part of Saturday collecting leaves around the cottage, which is one of those jobs we have to keep on top of during the autumn months.
With the clocks going back on Sunday morning I headed into the office before 8am, in order to catch up with some work. After a very busy three-day sitting of Tynwald last week, it was all about catching up over the weekend, especially in respect of correspondence.
I also had a mountain of paperwork and Department agendas to get through ahead of a busy week. I was only in the office for a few hours before calling into Cycle 360 with Ellen for breakfast, but once home I continued to work until around 16.30.
I also took the opportunity to go through the House of Keys Order Papers, along with a DOI Department Agenda, several ongoing Constituent issues and various other Department papers.
The benefits of working a full day on Sunday definitely paid dividends on Monday, but it was still a very busy day. I was in the office before 8am going through various revenue and capital bids for DOI ahead of the Treasury Budget meeting later on in the morning.
Just after 9am I went down to the Sea Terminal for a pre-budget meeting with the DOI Minister, Officers and Political Members before walking back up to Government Buildings and into the King Orry Room for the budget meeting, which is never an easy meeting.
It’s like going before the bank manager to ask for a loan.
Back to the office to catch up with correspondence and a couple of calls before dialling into a DfE motorsport meeting relating to the TT 2021 event. A lot of people in the public domain believe that these key decisions have already been made by DfE and the Council of Ministers etc, but that simply isn’t true…..
It is fair to say that the DfE motorsport team have worked tirelessly behind the scenes over the past few months to seriously look at all the possible options and outcomes before any political decision can be made. Whatever that final decision might be, it will be one of the most difficult decisions made in this administration, especially when we take into account the current position of the island’s tourism sector as a result of Covid-19.
More on that key decision over the next few weeks, so keep an eye on the local media and social media.
At 13.15 I headed back down to the Sea Terminal for the political meeting with the DOI Minister, Tim Baker, MHK ahead of the department meeting, which started with divisional updates from Transport Services, Harbours and the Airport etc, along with an update on the transfer of flooding services from the MUA to DOI.
This was followed by the Department meeting, which finished just after 17.00, but I still managed to get home just before 18.00. After a quick tea I needed to catch up with a couple of Constituent issues, and one of these related to some ongoing work at their property, which also required some follow-up correspondence to be drafted to Onchan Commissioners.
I finally finished for around 19.45.
In the office before 8.20am on Tuesday after dropping the car off for an annual service. I was then able to get some letters drafted and sent out before the House of Keys sitting, which started at 10am with 15 oral questions, 12 written questions and one emergency question relating to the air corridor with Guernsey, which has now been suspended.
Once question time finished there was a statement by the Chairman of the Education Bill Committee, Jason Moorhouse, MHK. We then went through the Human Tissue & Organ Donation Bill 2020 and Medicines (Amendment Bill) 2020, which had their Second Readings.
We then had Consideration of Clauses in respect of the Courts, Tribunals and Local Authority Procedures and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2020, Communications Bill 2018 and the International Maritime Standards Bill 2020.
During the Courts, Tribunals and Local Authority Bill our new colleague Claire Christian, MHK asked to put the whole House into Committee, which is always an excellent tool when reviewing a piece of legislation or a particular clause.
At lunchtime there was a fantastic presentation by Dr. Rachel Glover entitled “Testing – an introduction”. Fair to say that parts of the presentation were well above my head as an MHK, especially around the science and testing results terminology etc, but still a very very interesting briefing.
It was very disappointing to hear that Dr. Glover had resigned from the DHSC on Thursday, but further details surrounding the resignation are unknown at this time – I certainly wish Dr. Glover all the very best for the future.
Back to the House of Keys at 14.30 to continue to go through the Clauses stage of the Courts, Tribunals and Local Authority Bill along with the International Maritime Standards Bills 2020 and Communications Bill 2018 – before the sitting finally finished just after 17.00.
On Tuesday evening I still needed to go through the DfE agenda pack, along with various papers relating to social housing on the island and rent setting etc before finishing for around 20.15.
My day started around 6am on Wednesday morning as I needed to do research into social housing and to familiarise myself with a couple of Tynwald debates back in 1999. I went into the office just after 7.30am to do a few other jobs before walking over to DfE for a further meeting relating to TT 2021, but this time with the Minister and CEO.
This was followed by the usual DfE Minister and political Members get together before the Department meeting, which started with an update from the Isle of Man Registries sectors.
Once the Department meeting had finished it was straight back to the office to drop off my bags. I then met up with a Constituent ahead of a meeting with the Isle of Man immigration authorities. I have to say that the officers within the immigration office have been extremely helpful on this particular matter, which is both complex and difficult.
As we are discovering in this particular case, if you don’t have the right documentation submitted within the right timeframe, then the application will be declined, and your only options available are to appeal to the Courts or to submit a fresh application, but that will cost you a further £2,500, so it’s best to try the appeals route first, although it is time consuming.
From there it was straight down to the Sea Terminal for a policy and strategy meeting, which was on public sector rent and a transport services workshop. Given my previous comments on social housing rent levels over the past eight years, I personally asked the Department of Infrastructure for a strategy meeting, in order to fully discuss social housing, especially how the rent levels are being set and reviewed each year.
Based on the knowledge that I have built up over the last eight years, I still do not believe that the current strategy around setting the right rent levels actually puts the social housing tenant at the centre of that decision-making process – a point that I made during the meeting.
That isn’t criticism of the housing team within DOI because there are too many factors beyond their control, and for that reason we need a policy that actually sets a fair rent for social housing properties in the future, which factors in the costs for delivering the service etc.
The second presentation and discussion was from Ian Longworth on a Transport Services Workshop, which was another very good discussion.
I finally got home just before 18.00 and on Wednesday evening I was able to play league snooker, but again I am desperately lacking table time….
On Thursday it was a full day in the office working my way through any outstanding administration and constituent issues. Most of the morning was spent going through various bits of legislation relating to immigration, along with the supporting guidelines before starting to draft some suitable correspondence to the Isle of Man Courts on behalf of a Constituent who asked me to submit a letter of support in respect of their immigration appeal.
In the afternoon I started to look through and research the new Manx Gas heads of terms, along with getting on with a few new projects.
As for Friday it was another relatively straightforward and easy day in many ways. I was in the office for normal time and the day started with a meeting with a local tourism provider, which was an excellent meeting because it enabled me to gain a valuable insight into their business and how they have coped with Covid-19 since March.
A quick catch up with a couple of Tynwald colleagues before driving to Groudle Glen for the official opening of the new Groudle Glen Waterwheel, which has been beautifully restored. The original waterwheel was built in around 1895 and was used to pump water back to the Groudle Hotel and provide power for fairy lights that ran through the glen, which must have been a wonderful sight in its day, especially with the band playing etc.
His Excellency, Sir Richard Gozney was on hand to cut the ribbon and he also played a vital role in getting this project off the ground initially, because it was during a lunch engagement with Martyn Perkins, MHK and the Directors of a Laxey Company, MMD when the restoration of the Groudle Waterwheel was first discussed.
Since then a dedicated group of individuals have worked tirelessly to restore the Groudle Glen Waterwheel to its former glory, and it does look fantastic and well worth a visit.
A massive thank you to everyone involved in the project, especially MMD who picked up the challenge.
I was back in the office for 14.00 and the rest of the afternoon was spent in the office until I left at around 17.15.
As for the weekend I have a number of events, which will be outlined next week.