The former MHK and MLC was from a different era in politics, but he played a major role in Tynwald; in his position as chairman of the Executive Council, the forerunner of the Council of Ministers, but perhaps more so in the formation of the Alternative Policy Group.
It gave the Isle of Man a taste of party politics in the early nineties – although I seem to recall the APG was always at pains to say it was not a political party – and it was the first time there was any element of organised opposition to the Council of Ministers block vote.
The APG was an interesting collection of five founding members. If memory serves me correctly, they included the soporifically mute politics of Adrian Duggan and the firebrand stylings of Dominic Delaney and David Cannan. Dr Mann landed somewhere in the middle – active but not over demonstrative – which made him the ideal leader at the group’s formation, with Edgar Quine as the fifth member and, arguably, the most credible after Dr Mann.
I was political correspondent for Isle of Man Newspapers at the time and it was all rather exciting to see such a challenge made to the status quo. You could argue the APG operated more successfully as a unit than Liberal Vannin has managed in more recent times. It later morphed into the Alliance for Progressive Government and supplied members to the Council of Ministers with more success than LibVannin has so far achieved.
What I also recall was Dr Mann was a politician who could strongly disagree with what you were saying but he would behave always with courtesy and good grace.
It’s tempting to say that, in comparison with some of the more histrionic politicians of the current era, Dr Mann was a grown-up.
I know there were times when he may not have been happy with the coverage I’d given his group, but there was never any petulance. Nor do I recall ever taking a call from him demanding to know why his picture wasn’t in the paper, or asking me to take a different line of reporting that would not be so unfavourable to his interests. I can’t say that about all politicians I’ve had dealings with.
Dr Mann was a gent and he was what I like to call a proper politician. He always thought about what he was going to say – with, by the way, a lovely soothing voice that I often imagined would be as well suited to narrating the Magic Roundabout as it was to debating the latest sewerage proposals in Tynwald – and he always respected the right of others to say something a little different.
And he had a sense of humour, too. I recall one time when, for some reason, I had publicly imagined an APG meeting to emulate a gathering of Disney executives, who used to be required to don Mickey Mouse ears to ensure there were no inhibitions to their thinking.
I wasn’t too confident that the funny side would be seen, but the next time I was up at Tynwald, as the MLCs were taking their seats, there was Dr Mann, with his hands cupping his ears a la Mickey Mouse, a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.
A sad loss.
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