Blog 16 May 21Early on Tuesday morning the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK issued a press release confirming that he will not be seeking re-election to the House of Keys in September.

Commenting on his decision, the Chief Minister said “it has been an honour and privilege to represent the people of Middle for the past 10 years and to serve as the island’s Chief Minister for the past five years.”

He also said that his time as Chief Minister has seen arguably two of the greatest challenges to the Isle of Man since the Second World War: Brexit and Covid-19, and that he was proud of what this administration and our island have achieved together, particularly in responding to the pandemic – it has been a real team effort…

Just looking at various comments on social media over the past few days, it is very clear that the Manx Community is immensely proud of how the island dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic, and in particular the leadership shown by the Chief Minister and others over the past 14 months.

As for our own working relationship over the past five years, it hasn’t always been a bed of roses and we have had several robust discussions over the years. I can certainly recall one particular incident in the Barrool Suite, which caught the attention of other Tynwald Members and guests at the time.

I think we ended up finishing that discussion in the Chief Minister’s office, but since then we have got to know each other a little better, and I would like to think that there has always been a level of mutual respect between the two of us, especially when I feel we sit at different points on the political spectrum at times.

I can also recall a cold November evening in which the Lieutenant Governor, the Chief Minister and a couple of MHKs past and present were invited down to the Cronk y Voddy working men’s club for a game of Billiards on a small dusty old table that was probably built in the 1800s. The club is basically a tiny building in the middle of nowhere with an open coal fire, which filled the room up with smoke every time someone opened and closed the door, but still a brilliant evening and in great company.

I think most people on the island will be wishing the Chief Minister and his family all the very best for the future, and I personally want to thank him on behalf of Constituents in Onchan for everything he has done for the island over the past 14 months.

Attention now moves towards the next Chief Minister, which I think personally at the moment looks set to be a straight contest between the Treasury Minister, Alf Cannan and the Education Minister, Dr. Alex Allinson, but we won’t actually know the full list of contenders until after the House of Keys General Election in September.

The Manx Independent on Thursday had four contenders including David Ashford and Lawrie Hooper as the leader of the Liberal Vannin party. Back in the 2016 the party could have definitely influenced the Chief Minister vote if Kate Beecroft had not stood for the leadership herself, but that is history and let’s see what happens in October.

As for my own activities this week, the weekend was almost identical to last weekend in many ways, I was able to get into the garden to continue working on the garden room on Saturday. Hopefully, I will have it finished over the next four or five weekends subject to the new doors and window arriving in the next couple of weeks, along with the installation of some electrics etc.

Hopefully, the weather over the weekend remains dry and I will be able to find a few hours after my political surgery today (Sat 15th May), in order to put down the rubber sheet over the roof, which could be an interesting experience especially when trying to glue it in place.

Last Sunday afternoon I still managed to get some election project work done, which will be an ongoing theme over the next few months leading up to September.

As for the rest of my week, I was in the office slightly later than normal on Monday as I needed to call into B&Q, which has become a second home over the past month or so. Most of the day was spent in the office with my head down catching up with various things.

First job was to start going through the Tynwald order paper, which took a couple of hours, along with doing some research on behalf of a Constituent who is having a few planning issues. At 11.30am I had a meeting with the Treasury members, in order to discuss the Administration of Justice and other Amendments Bill (on debt) ahead of the House of Keys sitting.

At 13.00 I was meant to have a meeting with Lesley Walker who is the new Independent Chair of the Isle of Man Safeguarding Board, but unfortunately I was having a few technical issues, which meant I was unable to hold that meeting.

It was fortunate in many ways because I was already having two separate meetings with the DEFA and the Policy and Reform Ministers at the same time.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the office going through the House of Keys order paper, the DEFA agenda packs and a couple of pieces of key legislation, but once home I was able to get some painting done for an hour or so before finishing at around 20.00.

In the office just after 7am on Tuesday for this week’s sitting of the House of Keys and the day started with a general catch up with my colleague Chris Robertshaw, MHK who was also in the office early.

I then needed to draft a couple of letters and to go through some department papers before heading down to the House of Keys chamber at 10am, which started with just 9 oral and 3 written questions.

This was followed by the first reading of the Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2021, along with the first and second readings of the Liquor Licensing and Public Entertainment Bill 2021.

We then had the second reading of the Administration of Justice and Other Amendments Bill, which is a piece of legislation that I have been requesting on behalf of many local businesses that are continuing to have ongoing issues around civil debts.

The sitting finished just after 12 noon, which is definitely one of the shortest sittings we have had over the past couple of months. Back to the office to read through a press release around TT budgets, along with a couple of Constituent issues.

At 13.00 there was a presentation by the Justice and Home Affairs Department relating to the Liquor Licensing and Public Entertainment Bill 2021 that lasted just over an hour. This was followed by a further presentation by the Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (“ME”) Supporters group ahead of a general debate in Tynwald later on this month. It was an excellent presentation, which included a number of short videos from ME experts.

Back to the office towards 15.30 and the rest of the afternoon was spent at the desk going through the DfE agenda pack, along with a general catch up before leaving the office at 16.45.

Just before 18.30 Ellen and I headed to Government House for the presentation of the “Soldiering on Award”, which was being awarded to the family of the late Hector Duff, OBE, MM, BEM, TH, LGdh.

The Soldiering on Awards recognise the outstanding achievements of those who have served the country, and the diverse people and groups who work together in support of the Armed Forces Community.

Hector won the 2020 “People’s Choice Award”, and although Hector knew he won the award he wasn’t able to receive the award in person, so the presentation was made to his family in his honour.

A very fitting tribute to someone very much loved by the Manx Community.

We finally got home for around 20.00 and once I caught up with a few things I was able to finish for around 21.00.

In the office for normal time on Wednesday morning ahead of back to back meetings for most of the day. Just after 9am I headed over to DfE for the Minister and Political Members update before the Board Meeting that started with the usual Chair and Head of Agencies update.

Only a handful of items for decision this week, so I was back in the office just after 12 noon, which gave me time to catch up with a few things ahead of a short Tynwald Members briefing on the Tynwald Auditor General.

At 13.30 I dialled into the DEFA Agricultural and Lands political meetings, which discussed a number of topics including IOM Meats, Food Grants and Animal Welfare etc and lasted a couple of hours. The rest of the afternoon was spent going through another complex planning appeal application, which always takes up a considerable amount of time.

On Wednesday evening I spent a couple of hours on the election campaign, and I am hoping to be able to start knocking on doors in the first week of June.

As for Thursday I was in the office for normal time, in order to go through the DOI Waste Division agenda pack ahead of a meeting that got underway at 10am.

This was followed by the planning appeal decision meeting, which always includes the DEFA CEO, the AG’s Chamber and an off island independent planning inspector, because once the planning appeal decision is made by the Political Member or the Minister the weight of evidence of the decision made is then legally tested.

It really is a fascinating process, and one that most people are not aware of, especially the amount of work needed when looking at these planning appeals.

I managed to get a couple of hours off over lunchtime, in order to get some work done at the house, but most of the afternoon was taken up with writing election stuff, researching or working through the Tynwald Order Paper.

On Thursday afternoon the Chief Executive, Mark Woodward and the Chairman, Lars Ugland from the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company gave a robust and damning evidence session to the Public Accounts Committee.

Speaking to Manx Radio, the Chief Executive said that the Steam Packet crew were treated like criminals and in some instance lepers. At the heart of the discussion there is a question as to whether the Isle of Man Government knew that island-based employees from the Steam Packet weren’t self-isolating while off shift.

The government continues to deny any wrongdoing, saying that it was unaware that crew members were not in quarantine outside of work. In the middle of all of these arguments is the truth, and hopefully we will get a few answers in the days and weeks to follow.

Not the best night’s sleep for me on Thursday and Friday morning and I was up from 3.30am writing up some election notes that were running around in my head, but I was still in the office before 8am on Friday, in order to catch up with correspondence.

At 10am there was another session in the Barrool Suite of the working group of the Department Ministers, Political Members and officers from Treasury and DfE which continues to look at various policies around post Covid-19 for when the Isle of Man borders fully re-open.

It really was a great session and a lot of discussions over various complex questions around businesses and individuals that may be affected by Covid-19 in the months and years to follow. Personally, I have really enjoyed being part of these discussions, which are so complex at times.

That session lasted almost two hours and once I had caught up with correspondence and a couple of phone calls, I then had a meeting with Lesley Walker who is the new Independent Chair of the Isle of Man Safeguarding Board.

Again, another very interesting discussion around different roles.

Just after 14.00 I headed home for the afternoon but continued working until around 16.00.

As for the weekend, as I mentioned I have my political surgery on Saturday and I will definitely be working on the election campaign at some point.