I’m not convinced we are going to hear a fanfare of approval, if his profile in various online forums is anything to go by.
In fact, a poll conducted on this blog found him to be the least popular of the five people to be Chief Minister of the Isle of Man, which is quite an achievement when you consider one of the others was Richard Corkill.
I’ve stated before that history may end up being kinder to Mr B, but he certainly divides opinion. His Teflon Tony status stuck (ironically) until close to the end and was earned by his ability to avoid blame while colleagues copped for it.
Then there was his decision after the 2001 election to opt for the fireproof robes of the Speaker’s chair rather than stand as a candidate for chief minister, as widely expected. Even more impressive was in 2006, however, when he was elected as chief minister by his fellow Tynwald members, despite not standing in the first round of voting – cleverly allowing the other candidates to show they did not have enough support and then leaping aboard the white charge to romp home unopposed.
Depending on your viewpoint, this could be seen as evidence of a political acumen that a few others could do with, or slipperiness.
Critics are as likely to remember him as the man who put up more of a fight to keep open the MEA showrooms than he did to preserve the reciprocal health agreement with the UK.
He also gave us a restructuring of government that was restructured before it took place (in a row over the names of departments) and subsequently lasted about two weeks before plans to restructure the restructured government commenced.
But, it would be wrong to maintain a sour note at a time when his decades of political service are being recognised, so here are five reasons why you should be less annoyed than perhaps you might be at the news of his honour.
- He never appointed Peter Karran as education minister. He did appoint Eddie Teare to that position and there is a growing feeling that Austerity Eddie’s belt-tightening left the Department of Education and Children in a tricky enough position when further cuts were called for, without leaving someone like Peter Karran to cause havoc in his brief tenure. So while those two things may balance, what tips this in Mr Brown’s favour is that neither did he appoint Tim Crookall as education minister.
- Once, as a minister, he managed to restrict his answer to a particularly verbose, pompous, point-scoring, and time-wasting question tabled formally in the House of Keys to just one word (‘yes’). And he even had press copies of this answer printed off. Now, in this day and age some may tut, at the waste of paper but, for a fairly young but already jaded political correspondent, who was sick of the vacuous grandstanding antics of some politicians who had all the substance of a grain of salt, it was amusing.
- Ask the people of Castletown how DJ Hovis’s successor compares as a representative.
- His facial hair. Hard on the heels of Donny the Tractor’s drawling tone, Mr B’s brilliant bristles probably helped to ensure the Isle of Man was never taken too seriously on the international stage.
- Should the economic difficulties the Isle of Man has faced worsen to the extent we find ourselves in a dystopian nightmare where all the lights go out, we need to look beyond blaming various politicians who may have contributed to the situation and instead remember who would be quite good at supplying us with batteries. And light bulbs.
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