Blog 9 Sept 18Last weekend was very busy, I spent a couple of hours on Sunday morning writing my ILS Debate speech from around 7am, but Ellen and I did manage to get out for a walk later on Sunday morning.

We walked just over 6 miles in 1 hour and 40 minutes, which was excellent practice for the 12 mile sponsored walk tomorrow (9th Sept) in aid of the Manx Blind Welfare, which starts in Douglas and finishes in Peel.

News also broke late last Sunday afternoon that this year’s Rally Isle of Man was being cancelled, which is extremely disappointing at this late stage, especially when DfE has offered financial support and additional help to ensure that the event went ahead.

The Rally was due to be staged on the Isle of Man between 13th to 15th September, and it is a major blow for our tourism sector. It also ensured that my week was far more difficult than I ever expected.

Unfortunately, with the announcement being made late on a Sunday afternoon, it meant that social media took control of the news item. A lot of the facts have been lost, especially for anyone who watched the one-sided interview given by Chris Robertshaw, MHK, which focused more on attacking the DfE Minister and Tourism team than the cancellation of a major sporting event.

What I can say is that DfE had a very positive exchange of emails with the organisers on the previous Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and I genuinely felt everything was fine. So I was very disappointed when the news finally broke about the cancellation on Sunday afternoon.

This generated a lot of interest and I spent many long hours this week sending emails and making phone calls.

The exchange of correspondence and phone calls started on Sunday afternoon and continued into the evening, and again very early on Monday morning and I went in to the office for 8am.

The first part of the morning was taken up by either Rally Isle of Man or the Manx Radio Petition, which also started up over the weekend.

This included various discussions with my DfE colleagues and officers within the Department.

Unfortunately, this meant that I was unable to attend the Springfield Court Coffee morning, which was extremely disappointing as I don’t like letting people down.

Just after 11am I drove up to Manx Radio to do an interview on the Eastern Area Plan and the meeting I have scheduled for today (Sat 8th Sept) at the Onchan Community Centre.

Instead of my usual Political Surgery there will now be an informal drop in session between 9.30am and 12.30 for any Onchan Ratepayers to call in and ask questions on the draft Eastern Area Plan or any particular site in Onchan or the surrounding area.

Copies of the Eastern Area Plan will be on display and copies of Site Reports will be available for discussion, and although the Public Consultation closed on 31st August 2018, it is still vitally important that Onchan Ratepayers continue to ask questions or make their views known ahead of a Public Enquiry, which will be held in 2019.

Apologies for the digression – back to last Monday. Once I arrived at Manx Radio I had several discussions with staff within the station regarding the online petition, which was set up straight after this year’s MGP event.

I was back at my desk for 12.20, but I had no time for lunch, as the next couple of hours was also taken up with Rally Isle of Man and the Manx Radio petition, along with dealing with an ongoing Constituent matter relating to planning.

The rest of the day was spent at my desk going through a couple of TT documents, along with trying to get on top of my email in-box, which was filling up at an alarming rate.

I left the office at 17.00 and straight after tea I needed to draft several more emails and read through a couple of urgent press releases.

I finally finished at 20.30 after what can only be described as a very difficult day.

Back into the office for 7.40am on Tuesday morning and went straight into reviewing a couple more of TT related papers.

Still a lot of ongoing correspondence relating to the cancellation of the Rally Isle of Man. I also took the opportunity to listen to Manx Radio’s Mandate programme, but just before 8.30am I walked over to DfE for a meeting with Manx Radio.

Given the petition posted online over the weekend and the many many comments posted through social media, it was always going to be a difficult meeting, but to be perfectly honest it was an excellent meeting, something which should have happened several months ago.

I came back to the office briefly at 10am just to send a couple of emails before walking back to DfE for another TT related meeting with another major stakeholder, which was also a very difficult meeting.

Further details on that meeting I am sure will be made public towards the end of the month.

Back at my desk at 12.15, but just enough time to send two emails before going out for lunch with Ellen, as she felt I needed a break.

Part of the afternoon was taken up answering emails on the cancellation of Rally Isle of Man and putting together some informal Budget notes.

At 15.00 I had a meeting with the Treasury Minister, Alf Cannan, MHK in order to discuss the Budget and a few other areas of concerns, but unfortunately I was far from prepared because of the cancellation of the Rally.

I walked back to the office and got straight into phone calls and emails with hotels and accommodation providers until I left the office 17.10, but once home I had several more phone calls with hotels, in order to establish the level of losses within the tourism sector.

Other than a quick 5 minute tea, I was on the phone until around 20.45. Hopefully this week’s Blog gives some insight into how a decision taken by an external organisation can send ripples through an entire industry and through central Government, which has to pick up the pieces when things go wrong…..

In DfE we are looking at a couple of options and ideas, in order to ensure that this type of breakdown in communication doesn’t happen again in the future, even if that means DfE has a greater input into motorsport events run by non-government organisations.

I am not entirely sure how to describe Wednesday. I took the opportunity to stay at home for most of the today as I was hoping to take a few hours off to catch up with a few personal things.

Unfortunately, I spent a considerable amount of time in the morning on the phone discussing various TT and Rally issues or drafting emails.

Some of that time lost was due to Chris Robertshaw, MHK doing an interview with the MTTV on Rally Isle of Man and the cancellation of the event.

As the Political Member with responsibility for Motorsport and Tourism, I attended the same the meeting in July with Chris at the Sea Terminal when all sides were brought together.

I certainly can’t remember Government Departments ganging up on Rally Isle of Man, and I can assure people that the DfE Motorsport team and the Events team did everything possible to ensure the event went ahead, including offering some financial support or to underwrite part of the event.

After spending an hour or so on the phone or answering emails, I did eventually manage to cut the grass, which hadn’t been cut for a couple of months because of my workload.

I also needed to respond to a few constituent matters, but I was able to take some time off to complete some personal tasks.

In the afternoon I did an MTTV interview with Paul Moulton to refute some of the comments made by Chris Robertshaw, MHK.

I then went into the office and had a couple of meetings with colleagues before starting to look at my ILS Debate speech once again, which I still hadn’t finished. I left the office at 17.10 and once home I needed to draft a couple of urgent emails, but I called it a day at around 19.00.

One of the emails was to a Japanese team that was scheduled to take part in Rally Isle of Man.

I was back in the office for 8am on Thursday and the week was definitely starting to feel like Groundhog Day….

Other than going into town briefly in the morning to simply clear my head, I sat at my desk from 8am until I went home at 17.00.

Again the day unfolded with multiple calls relating to Rally of Man. I also had a couple of papers to read through relating to the TT contracts.

I think in total I must have sent out around 50 emails throughout the day and spent at least a couple of hours on the phone.

I also continued to work on the ILS Debate, but I am still struggling to find the time to finish my speech at the moment, and the debate is fast approaching next week.

It was definitely surprising how quickly the day unfolded, with the silence in my office only being broken by the phone or a colleague calling in for a catch-up.

I left the office at 17.15, but once home there was still an ongoing exchange of emails in respect of a press release that DfE was going to send to Manx Radio overnight.

On Friday morning I was up and about early as I was invited up to Manx Radio as part of the Mandate Programme, which started at 7.30am.

However, after speaking to the Department a decision was taken that I should not take part in the debate, which would follow an interview with an upset Volunteer / Marshal from the UK looking for a refund of hotel and travel costs after the cancellation of the Rally.

On reflection it was the right decision, simply because DfE didn’t cancel the event and any questions related to the actual event and reasons why the event was cancelled had to be addressed by the directors and organising committee of Rally Isle of Man, and not by DfE or myself as the Political Member.

The role undertaken by DfE this week was to engage fully with the hoteliers and accommodation providers, along with the Steam Packet and other stakeholders to fully review the situation.

DfE has taken a serious knock this week for something beyond its control, but once again the Officers, Executive and Political Members have worked tirelessly this week to engage with industry.

Personally, I did find it extremely difficult to turn down the interview request from Manx Radio, as I firmly believe all MHK’s are elected to answer any questions, however difficult they might be.

I certainly will not allow that to become the norm, but again it was the right decision based on the circumstances we faced.

Instead I worked from home for an hour or so before getting into the office for 9.15am.

Just enough time to send a couple of emails before driving to Derby Castle on the promenade to help celebrate the Manx Electric Railway’s 125th Anniversary at 10am.

The historic line first opened in 1893 from Derby Castle to Groudle Glen, and there was a good crowd on hand as His Excellency, the Lieutenant Governor unveiled a plaque to mark the very special occasion.

We then headed to Groudle Glen on the original tram from 1893, during which time Charles Guard outlined the history of the Manx Electric Railway.

I was in the office for 11.30am and I finally got an opportunity to finish drafting my ILS debate speech, although I still need to make a few changes over the weekend.

I cancelled a Constituent meeting at 14.00 just to make sure that I finished the speech and caught up with emails, included sending several letters.

I left the office at 14.30 and drove into Onchan to call in to the Vet’s and Shoprite on the way home.

Still a few items to catch up with once at home, but I was able to finish for around 16.30.

As I mentioned, I have a drop in session on Saturday between 9.30 and 12.30 at the Community Centre, and I am also hoping to call in to the Onchan Horticultural Show In the afternoon.

On Sunday Ellen and I will be taking part in the Manx Blind Welfare sponsored walk from Douglas to Peel, which should be a fantastic day and I believe that over 70 people have signed up for the event.

Let’s hope next week is less eventful…..