Sunday, October 10, 2010

Those first few weeks....

Having survived my first LegCo meeting, the next week it was straight into a heavy three day Tynwald sitting.

The paper work was about 10 inches deep and I read every word. I certainly did not understand every word. Some of the Social Security orders were so complex as to be unintelligible and could only be understood if you read every Socal Security Act in the IOM and UK for the last thirty years. I copped out by contacting a friend who worked in Social Security who gave me the Beginner's Guide. Five years on, they don't get any easier.

So, my first Tynwald sitting, on the Ides of March, but there were no thunderstorms the night before. The omens were good. The venue was a room in St. George's Hall in Myrtle Street, being used while the Wedding Cake was being refurbished. My view of one half of the members of the Keys was obscured by a vase of flowers, but I was too polite to ask for it to be moved.

They were three long days, where I concentrated like never before. I switched the brain into top gear and set it to Absorb and Memorise.

And here are the Highlights of those three days:

Notes from Members:

I had noticed that the clerks in the chamber, dapper elderly gentlemen dressed in tail coats, were buzzing around passing notes from member to member. What was that about? Must be very important I thought, and I was definitely not part of the Important Note Passing Gang.

And then I got one - handed up to me, addressed to me. It was from David Anderson, Minister of Education. It said words to the effect "You do realise that the reason you were elected to Legco was to make sure that Mr. ******** doesn't fall asleep?". I immediately looked at Mr. *******, who was indeed asleep. A nod to Mr. Anderson, a slightly noisy cough, and I had done my first duty in Tynwald.

My Maiden Speech:

What a nerve wracking event that was. I spoke without notes, - not always the most efficient way of getting your point across, but often more effective.

I spent ten minutes building up courage to make it, and another five minutes trying to catch the eye of the President. It was about the International Business School, and my view of the value of our children going across for their University education. I sat down afterwards, a particular type of virginity lost, with not a clue as to what I had said.

The next speaker, Phil Gawne, started his speech congratulating me on my maiden speech. That was embarrassing, but it turned out that was the traditional thing to do. Reading the speech back later it was amazingly coherent for a person making things up as he went along with no idea how each sentence was going to finish, or what his real point was.

Two more of the Important Notes arrived for me, congratulating me on the speech, and I began to feel a little less like an alien observing a strange planet.

More on making speeches in later blogs.

Select Committees:

Being the new boy, with no Departments to work in, I was vulnerable to election to every Select Committee going. I didn't know that at the time, and after a debate about a cock-up by DOLGE in preparing financial accounts in respect of the Incinerator, a decision was made to set up a Select Committee to investigate what happened.

I was immediately nominated. My first thought was along the lines of "They must appreciate that I can investigate things and will be a valuable person for the job". The reality was, "Anyone but me, and give it to Butt, he has nothing to do".

Come the vote, I topped the poll with 22 votes and was on my first Select Committee. My thought was probably, "These people really need me". Their thought was "That'll learn him"

That Tynwald finished with me having learned a lot, but understanding much less. I found out on the third day that there was a room where several Keys members nipped out for a cup of coffee during the Boring Bits. I found out that I felt very much the Outsider and it was hard to slip into the conversations of longer established cosy relationships. I found out that it would be a move forward to impose the rules of Just a Minute to debates. I found some wonderful mixed metaphors and malapropisms. I found that writing them down had become my new hobby.

As to the Select Committee, that was a wise move by all concerned. I really did not have a job of any sort for several months and that gave me a real and early insight into both the workings of Tynwald and the Government. Starting my Tynwald career by investigating and questioning, my only real skills, was a bit of a bonus.

And I have to admiit, interrogating and challenging Civil Servants was a bit like playing a home fixture. I was starting to think, "I can do this"..... Even if no-one else was.......

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