Douglas South 2015 Manifesto – Bill Malarkey

Having read all twelve pages of Bill’s manifesto I wanted to share some thoughts.

Opening

Bill Malarkey is offering up his years of political experience – sound like something you’re interested in? No, me neither. He promises never to bow before political pressure, which is a nice sentiment – but I find this statement very hard to believe from a man who said in a previous radio interview that he would do whatever role the Chief Minister think’s he’s best suited for.

For Bill to be so willing to fall into line, I wonder how long he would really resist “political pressure”.

Economy

I fully agree with Bill that the Government shouldn’t be trying to fix its financial problems by “picking the pockets” of hard working Islanders – but Bill doesn’t offer up any credible alternatives. He wants to “diversify our economy”, which is a nice soundbite, but what does it really mean? Somehow I don’t think that a “SWOT Analysis” is going to help solve our problems.

I do quite like that Bill has identified the need to engage with the private sector to “ensure further growth”, however for me this is just another example of the “old guard” mentality. Bill I hate to be the one to tell you, but it is the private sector that drives growth, not the Government. The Government needs to support the private sector, to encourage and assist – but to “engage” with them, makes it sound like Government is in the driving seat, which is simply not the case and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how a free market works.

My favourite comment is that Bill believes that “all our resources” should be engaged in growing the economy – surely Bill would let us keep some money for Education, Welfare and the Health department though?

Tourism

This has to be my favourite section of the Manifesto. Bills’ comments on the need to solidify the Island’s share of the UK short break market are fine, but he doesn’t explain what he thinks needs to be done to achieve this. In my view the Department of Economic Development are doing a pretty good job a the minute – what does Bill want them to do different?

However, it’s the Steam Packet commentary that has me shocked. Bill Malarkey wants to purchase the Steam Packet Company using our Reserves!

Has he completely lost his mind? Does he have any idea what this would cost? The Steam packet company makes £6-9 million profit a year (according to accounts they file at UK Companies House) and the User Agreement has approximately 10 years to run (assuming IOMSPC exercise their option to extend), so the parent company could be walking away with 60 to 90 Million pounds profit over this period. Does Bill really think they’d sell the company for any less than this?

Surely, if he really wants control over the Island’s sea routes the cheapest way would be to instigate some sort of Agreement, whereby IOM Govt gets a service and pays none of the cost (User Agreement anyone?) – or perhaps even keeps some of the profit. Failing that, set up a new company (cost £100 at the IOM Registry), buy some ships that don’t break down all the time and go it alone. Whatever the choice, it’s totally out of Bill’s hands as the Govt can’t cancel the User Agreement, and can’t force a private company to sell its operations to them.

If this is an indication of Bill Malarkey’s economic policy then I am seriously concerned.

Health 

Three lines? That’s all we get? Bill wants to improve morale and increase funding. I can’t say i’m blown away by these innovative and visionary reforms.

Education 

Bill starts off by “fully supporting the Nunnery ICT project”. This is an entirely private initiative which now that they have bought the site has nothing to do with Government – it’s like Bill saying he fully supports McDonalds. He is also supportive of ensuring our children have access to top notch education (something I am very much in favour of) but doesn’t expand on this at all.

A worrying statement is that Bill will fight to restore a government run pre-school in his constituency. As he doesn’t advocate restoring them all over the Island Bill clearly doesn’t disagree with the new voucher system, he just wants a different approach in his constituency (and this from a man who won’t bow to political pressure). This is just a poor attempt to win votes – if Bill doesn’t believe the voucher system is working why not advocate a different approach, and equally if it is working better than the old system, why does his constituency need something different?

Pensioners and Pensions

Bill wants to protect vulnerable pensioners – good. How? By letting them use Heritage Railways for free. Epic.

Protecting the Manx pension supplement sounds good on paper, but our pensions system is in crisis and needs a lot more than this sort of knee jerk reaction. We need to ensure the state pension is enough to provide a good standard of living, but is the Manx Pension supplement the best way to do this? We’re facing some testing financial times and we need MHK’s with more vision than simply “keeping the status quo” – although “status quo” sums up Bill Malarkey pretty well.

Local Government and Rates

Bill thinks that our current system of local government is inefficient? I agree, there are savings that could be made – but just arbitrarily reducing the number of local authorities doesn’t immediately result in savings. Does Bill have a preferred solution? Yes – All Island Rates. This is often trumpeted by people that have no idea how the rating system works, or what rates actually pay for. Should people in Port Erin be paying rates to support the Mooragh Park in Ramsey? Should a decision made by Peel Commissioners have an impact on how much someone living in Douglas pays in rates?  If rates are levied on an all island basis, but the amount needed is determined by local authorities how are Commissioners held accountable?

Law and Order

API for the Isle of Man? Really? This is the one thing Bill decides to highlight. Not reform of our justice system or the fact that we still don’t have a new Attorney General?

Douglas

Aside from a fundamental misunderstanding about how taxes work Bill has only one thing to say. Finish the regeneration! Ok. Enough said.

Other matters

Elected Chief Minister – great policy. Referendum on the issue? Not so sure.

Implement the Disability Discrimination Act – again a nice idea, but the Equalities Bill is already nearly there, just push this through as when fully implemented will help more people.

Housing – I fully agree there needs to be more affordable housing, and that the hew shared equity scheme needs to be reviewed. But Bill doesn’t explain how he would support more affordable housing? What are his plans?

Conclusion

Whilst Bill has a few sensible comments, he fails to support them with any detail and doesn’t convince me that he has the vision needed to get the Island where it needs to be. Bill manages to reinforce that he is part of the Old Guard. A vote for Bill is clearly a vote for more of the same.

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