Blog 15 Dec 19This week the United Kingdom went back to the ballot box for the third time in just five years, in order to elect a new Prime Minister.

This is after Boris Johnson called a snap General Election at the end of October simply because the House of Commons has failed to “get Brexit done” since the UK’s referendum to leave the European Union on 23rd June 2016.

Boris Johnson also called the first UK December General Election since 1923, and with a firm promise that it was “Time for the Country to Come Together” as he put forward the Conservative Party pledge to finally get Brexit done and to allow the UK to finally move forward…. but at what cost to the UK in the future and possibly to the Crown Dependencies such as the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey?

Having followed most of the debates and interviews along with going through some of the party manifestos, I think this is genuinely the first UK General Election in which I couldn’t support any of the main parties or their leaders.

I don’t know if it is simply because of Brexit or the fact that I am now involved in politics here on the Isle of Man, and therefore follow politics generally in greater detail, but I personally have absolutely zero confidence in any of the main party leaders at the moment.

Pledges and promises from this particular election simply do not stand up to further scrutiny. I don’t think I am alone when I say that a half decent opposition leader from the Labour Party would have walked into Downing Street this week.

That said, I am writing this particular section of my Blog late Monday evening watching a Question Time Election Special with an audience of 18 to 30 year olds, and certainly without any advance knowledge of the election results that should start to come through on Thursday evening and early on Friday morning – so was I right or wrong?

I am still going for a Hung Parliament with the SNP making further gains in Scotland, along with zero seats for the Brexit Party.

Whatever the outcome, the Prime Minister certainly hasn’t covered himself in glory at times, especially refusing to look at pictures of a four-year-old boy sleeping on a hospital floor in Leeds this week – which at best can only be described as disgraceful behaviour from the UK Prime Minister.

Later on in the week concerns were raised around the actual photo and if it was politically staged – but that doesn’t excuse his behaviour or the way in which he handled the situation….

Anyway, I will talk more about the UK General Election later on…..

As for last weekend, it was a busy period as I continued to prepare for Tynwald, along with drafting a correspondence template relating to the Area Plan for the East, but Ellen and I did still manage to head North early on Saturday morning to do some shopping in Ramsey.

As for Sunday, I was in and out of the office from 7.30am as I needed to draft various letters that were sent out on Monday morning to Onchan Constituents. The rest of Sunday was spent at home continuing to work on the Tynwald Order Paper until around 18.00.

In the office for normal time on Monday and most of the morning was taken up with drafting some additional correspondence relating to the Area Plan for the East, along with continuing to work on the Tynwald Order Paper and Supplementary Order Papers, together with the Question Paper.

I also had a long telephone conference call with a DfE officer as we explored various options relating to some new policies that could be introduced in the near future to help support the island’s tourism sector.

At lunchtime I was meant to attend the Ashley Hill School Christmas event, but the DOI had re-scheduled the Douglas Promenade Political meeting to 15.00 on Monday.

I am not entirely sure the reasons why, but far too many Christmas engagements are clashing with the Tynwald sitting or other functions this year, which is extremely disappointing.

It did however give me an extra hour on Monday, which was spent looking though the DOI Promenade agenda paper before walking down to the Sea Terminal for around 15.00.

That meeting lasted around 90 minutes and included a promenade works update, details of which will be in the public domain very soon. Back to the office briefly before heading home just after 17.15, but I continued to work on Tynwald until around 21.30.

In the office well before 8am on Tuesday to finish off any outstanding items relating to the Tynwald Order Paper together with drafting various notes if required during the sitting.

The sitting got underway at 10.30am with an emergency question relating to the benefit payments that didn’t go out last week, together with a further 23 oral questions and 17 for written reply.

Once Question Time had finished it was straight into statements on Libraries and a Review of the Government Regulatory Framework, together with a motion on the island’s Bathing Water Quality Strategy.

At lunchtime there was a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Isle of Man Branch meeting, and I am looking forward to representing the Manx Parliament in Malta and Halifax, Nova Scotia over the next 14 months.

Back to the Chamber at 14.30 where Mrs Maska presented a report from the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee Report into our Harbour Strategy, which had just two recommendations.

Tynwald then debated a Select Committee Report into the poverty on our island, which I have already highlighted in a previous blog… The Government’s own response to the report was given by the Policy and Reform Minister and it also makes interesting reading, especially the relevant section around emergency housing shelter currently being operated by Graih.

A total of 331 bed spaces have been provided to 46 different individuals represented by 36 men and 10 women in the first six months – that in my opinion is 46 too many.

An excellent report and a fantastic debate in the Chamber.

The Public Services Commission Act 2015 Motion also ended up being a very interesting debate amongst the Tynwald Members.

The sitting ended on Tuesday just after 20.00 and once I got home I still needed to go though the DfE agenda pack before finishing for the day.

Back in the office before 8am on Wednesday to finish off going through the DfE agenda pack and to catch with some correspondence, along with sending out a few letters.

Just before 9am I walked over to DfE for the Department meeting, which included the agency updates, along with going through the department agenda.

Back to the parliament building and straight into the Tynwald Chamber for day two of this month’s Tynwald sitting, which was certainly a rush.

During the morning session Tynwald members continued to debate Chris Robertshaw’s motion relating to the Employee National Insurance and possibly reducing some rates in order help those on low pay. A very difficult paper to fully understand in the timescale available, and like many members I think a lot more work needs to be done before we start depleting the National Insurance pot.

The last item on the normal Order Paper was a Public Petition on Syrian Refugees, and once again I supported the idea of a Tynwald Select Committee being set up to look at the topic in greater detail, but unfortunately the Motion failed to get Tynwald support.

The morning session finished at 13.00 and during the lunch break I needed to do some urgent work on behalf of a Constituent, along with attending a Tynwald members briefing on a piece of legislation that will be going before the House of Keys on Tuesday 17th December.

Straight back to Tynwald Court at 14.30 to go through the Supplementary Order Papers, which took just over an hour to complete.

The last hour or so was spent in the office desperately trying to catch up with various things before leaving just after 17.00, and once home I still needed to catch up with several emails.

Thursday was election day in the UK, but here on the Isle of Man I went into the office at the normal time as I continued to try and catch up with admin, but I am sure things will now start to slow down as we head closer to Christmas.

Just before 10am I headed back into Onchan for two Constituency meetings, one relating to a housing application and the other related to a patient transfer.

Back to the office and straight over to DfE for a policy meeting relating to the tourism sector before going back to the Legislative Buildings to do a quick interview with MTTV on the TT Scoreboard that is now out for consultation until 31st January 2020.

I had only just got to the office for 12.35 when the President of Tynwald asked if I could a do reading at the Tynwald Carol Service that was due to start at 13.10, because someone had fallen ill. It was always my intention to attend the service in the presence of His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, Sir Richard Gozney, the Chief Minister, Tynwald Members and other guests etc. However, I was just intending to sit at the back of the Church in my jeans and top, but how could I refuse a polite request from the President?

This meant it was a race to get home and to change into a suit and then back to Hill Street, Douglas before the service started 13.10. I actually arrived at the Church with just two minutes to spare, but it certainly took a little longer for my heart to slow down….

It was a beautiful service, wonderful hymns and some delightful musical items from the Tynwald and Government Staff Choirs.

The service finished at 14.30 and from there it was straight into Onchan for another Constituency meeting before heading home for an hour or so, but I also took the opportunity to go through the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee Agenda pack.

I finally finished for 18.00.

At 22.00 the BBC published its exit poll, which had Conservatives with 368 (plus 50 seats), Labour 191 (minus 71 seats), SNP 55 (plus 20 seats), 1 Green Party (no change).

Not much sleep over Thursday night as watched the UK General Election results go through, and there were certainly a few surprises along the way.

By Friday evening the Conservatives secured 365 seats, Labour 203, SNP, 48, Lib Deb 11, so the exit poll was pretty good.

No reasons now for the Conservatives not to get Brexit done!

Despite having only around 3 hours sleep I still went into the office for 8am, but in the end I could have stayed at home.

I managed to catch with various bits of admin before the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee met up, but unfortunately there was a slight mix up amongst the Members, which meant the meeting needed to be re-scheduled for Monday.

I continued to work on various things in the office before undertaking some personal chores and heading home for 12 noon after what felt like a very long week.

I still needed to go though next week’s House of Keys Order Paper, but doing it in front of the fire and watching various interviews and an overview of the UK elections was better than any office environment.

On Friday evening Ellen and I attended the Onchan Torchlight Procession, which is always a wonderful Community event. Despite the horrible weather throughout Friday, it actually turned out to be a perfect evening.

A couple of engagements over the weekend but hopefully we can still fit in a walk on Sunday, subject to the Manx Weather.