Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Into the Lion's Den...

So, into the lion’s den....

My first post veering away from the Parish Walk will just be a factual resume of what I am up to, what my work is, and what I may write about. This will be an attempt to hook any political junkie, or my one reader, into reading again.

Being very aware that actually no-one will read this, and the whole exercise is narcissism writ large, I will nevertheless have a go, because I like writing.

My only real job was for 39 years in the Isle of Man Constabulary, mostly in CID where I really did have a life of adventure, and tales of those days would make a much more interesting read.

My Tynwald duties started in March 2005 - and I have worked in the Department of Agriculture - on two occasions - having responsibility at times for Forestry, and also Wildlife and Conservation and Fisheries.

In my early days in Tynwald I worked for a year in the Department of Trade and Industry, where I had a grounding in how Government tries to stimulate and support business.

I was then given a role in the Department of Local Government and the Envrionment (DOLGE) being responsible for Waste Management - it actually turned out to be a fascinating and rewarding experience. Working in three Departments at the same time led to Extreme Diary Juggling, a sport I have just about mastered. After the 2006 General Election, I kept my role in DOLGE, and moved into the DHSS, being responsible for Social Services in the DHSS, and that was an eye opener and equally fascinating.

Earlier this year, I had the dream job of being in charge of Sport and Leisure for a few weeks, but that disappeared with the re-shuffle of Government Departments.

My current Government jobs are in the Department of Education and Children, where I have particular responsibility for Youth Services, Special Needs, and Integrated Children’s Services, and the Department of Health where I have responsibility for Health.

I have also been appointed Children’s Champion for Looked After Children. That job is to hold Government to account for the way they look after children in care.

More importantly I have parliamentary duties as well, the main function of being a member of Tynwald.

I was appointed by Tynwald as the Chairman of the Whitley Council - a body of employers and employees set up to determine the pay and conditions of manual workers in the public service.

I am also a member of the Tynwald Standards Committee - a committee which looks into breaches of proper conduct by members of Tynwald.

My two most important jobs for Tynwald are as a member of the Select Committee investigating the affairs of the MEA - at the time when the power station was being built and the ‘loans’ were taken out. We have been investigating now for five years, with our first full report due out in the next few months. That really is a fascinating saga.

I am also a member of the Public Accounts Committee, a Committee given the task to investigate Government actions and spending, and to hold them to account after investigation.

The above all sounds pretty boring and bland, but behind those words are a multitude of stories, interactions and fascinating work.

If this blog should ever prosper beyond one reader, I will give an insight into all of those area, and others not yet mentioned.

This was just to set the scene - the next post will be much more interesting, honest....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mike Kerruish

Mike Kerruish

Mike was married to my sister, Marianne, and I have known him most of my adult life, from the Dogs Home onwards, and he has been a brother, friend, support and comfort to me for nearly forty years.

If you knew Mike, you will appreciate what I am going to try to say over the next few lines...

Mike achieved what he did by dint of hard work, thoroughness, and a brilliant mind. Unlike most of his contemporaries his launch pad to the heights he reached was humble Demesne Road School, and then Douglas High School. Apart from being a founder member of Vagabonds Rugby Club - known as the Working Mens Rugby Club, the only clubs he ever joined were Laxey Football Club and Laxey Sailing Club, neither renowned for their career-boosting effects.

His hard work was legendary, and he built up a single man practice, Simcocks, into a major law firm in the Island. And if you know him, you will appreciate that most of his success was based on his warm personality and his ability to get on with everyone.

He took considerable pay cuts to leave private practice and work for the Crown, first as Attorney General and later as Deemster. As Attorney General, he was one of a small number of people who worked hard with the UK and international jurisdictions to put the Isle of Man on higher footing and that small team helped lay the foundations for the financial prosperity we have enjoyed in recent years.

Mike was a humane and kindly person, but meticulous in his dealings with the law, and I know that some of the decisions he had to make as Deemster were personally very difficult for him.

He was a considerate and funny man, always looking for the humour in any situation, and sometimes joining us in surreal flights of fancy. There was never an hour in his company which was not rewarding, and his 'roaring Manx laugh' rarely stopped.

On many occasions I have been with him in a pub, where we have met characters from our pasts, sometimes people with substantial criminal records - people I had arrested or he had defended, or sent down - sometimes they were schoolfriends of Mike whose lives had been less than successful - and he spoke to them all with genuine interest and courtesy and shared stories and jokes and a few pints with them. In recent years, after each Tynwald ceremony, with Mike still fully gaitered, buckled and bloused in his Deemster's regalia, as soon as the ceremony is over, he takes me straight to the Tynwald pub for a few pints. And not the lounge bar, but in with the locals. Like the true Manxman he was, he would talk to any bugger....

Some larger than life people are 'hail fellow, well met' types, looking over their shoulder for the next important people to speak to when they are tired of you, but not Mike, he listened and was genuinely interested in the people he was with and eased conversations with his humour.

He never changed, always remembered where he came from and had no pretensions at all.

Although I am biased, I think Mike was one of the greatest Manxmen of his generation. It has been very gratifying this week to hear many other people say the same thing.

His death at the age of just 61 is a huge loss to Marianne, Daniel and Summer and all of us in the family but also a loss to everyone who loves the Isle of Man and who knew Mike.

Rest in Peace Mike.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I have long planned to a keep a blog as a record of my work in Tynwald and perhaps I can continue this blog into the future, changing from talk of the Parish Walk to talk of Tynwald doings....

The change could be dramatic or gradual. It is like when you spend the day walking to Peel, surrounded by hundreds of happy people and then suddenly, as you walk out of Peel heading into the evening and night, it all goes very quiet and you anticipate the
long loneliness ahead.

So it is with this blog - from sixty or seventy people reading it every day, it will diminish down to almost no-one taking any notice, and no-one caring at all.

The other change is from the Parish Walker, accepted, part of a happy group, to that of Tynwald politician. From one of a happy group to one who is despised by many, particularly as a member of the unelected (by the public) Legislative Council.

From hardworking Gregor to metamorphosis into a monstrous, smelly and feared insect...

But the Parish still looms large in the consciousness, so one final tip to success and a finish in the future.

For my first finish, one of my friends, when asked for the usual £10 towards charity, commented, "If you finish the Parish, I will give you £50". This was said in slightly sneering tone as if such a feat by me was not possible. And that kept me going through that night, knowing I would prove him wrong and claim the £50 for charity. That extra did make a difference, I finished, and he paid up with very good grace, with more admiration for me than before.

This year I raised about £60 for Bowel Cancer IOM in a very disorganised way - if I had done it properly and had a lot of money riding on it, I would have had a lot more motivation to finish.

Next year I will do it properly and have other than selfish reasons to finish....