Tim Crookall may find he needs asbestos lining to his trousers as he continues to settle in to the hot seat position of education minister.
As this blog continues its review of ministerial performances in the Isle of Man, attention turns to the Peel MHK.
From October until June he was minister at the Department of Community, Culture and Leisure, at which point he was put in to replace Peter Karran, who was sacked as minister at the Department of Education and Children.
From the good ship Community, Culture and Leisure to education is clearly a step up, and it must also come as some relief to Mr Crookall who, in 2010, was opposed to the creation of the DCCL.
Mind you, given that Chris Robertshaw, an opponent of the presence of the Department of Social Care, was given that ministry in October by Chief Minister Allan Bell, clearly opposition to something’s existence is not a major obstacle to taking charge of it.
When you throw in that Peter Karran, an opponent of common sense, was put in charge of education, you start to wonder about the motives of the chief minister.
And with the greatest of respect to Mr Crookall, the fact that Mr Bell first chose to put in charge of education someone who was as likely to be a success in that role as Jeremy Hunt was to spit in the face of Rupert Murdoch, and then replaced him with someone with less ministerial experience than Wayne Rooney has original hair, doesn’t leave you convinced Dinger has that great a regard for a department that has the island’s future in its hands.
But that is a digression. This is, after all, a review of Mr Crookall’s performance.
Well, the thing that stands out is that, at a time when the Manx Government’s two-tier austerity drive (applies when it suits) was seeing state nurseries and a care home closed and libraries under threat, Mr Crookall’s initial department was spending £400,000 on a diesel loco to run on the steam railway.
Apparently it is required to rescue broken down steam trains. The heavy commuter population of theIsle of Man is clearly breathing a sigh of relief (we were told by a DCCL public transport chief, somewhat implausibly, that in actual fact, actual steam engines were the main attraction to only 20 per cent of Steam Railway visitors).
And in the Budget that included the nursery cuts, Mr Crookall’s department managed to push through the spending of more than £1.8m to bring in 12 new single decker buses, to add to 12 new ones bought last summer, while double deckers were being sold to transport authorities in Blackpool; which refurbished them and put them back into service.
This means either Tim Crookall is already a genius about finding money for schemes that are not as vital as some of those his new department has given up, or he readily does as he is told by his departmental officers, and is not quite as questioning in his role as a minister as he was in his role as a backbench MHK.
The Department of Education and Children, whose political membership is entirely different from when it started out in October, is not out of the woods yet following the departure of Peter Karran.
There have already been signs of the chaos caused by the ill-thought out and rushed closure of state nurseries. Expect more to come this term.
And Mr Crookall will have to be a supreme optimist if he believes he won’t still have some awkward decisions to make on university tuition fees for Manx students in the future.
If he manages to prevent their introduction and remain in office until the 2016 general election, that will be a bigger achievement than sticking a diesel loco on a steam railway and getting other politicians to vote for it.
We’re going to learn a lot about Mr Crookall in the next few months.
GNU rating: 4. While his former department was finding money for schemes that the rest of us remain unconvinced about, others were making stringent and hurtful cuts. Couldn’t he have sacrificed something for the good of another department?
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If you found this article interesting you will probably enjoy reading this one on Peter Karran:
And this one on Chris Robertshaw:
The GNU rating mentioned in the article above refers to Chief Minister Allan Bell’s Government of National Unity. You can read a bit more about how that’s working out here: