PAUL SPELLER: The lesser-spotted Chief Minister

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EXACTLY what does Chief Minister Tony Brown do?

In theory, it’s run the country.

But how many times is it the bewhiskered one we hear speaking on something and how many times does he delegate to someone else?

The latest example is his refusal to get involved in the Post Office dispute.

Considering neither side seems able to talk to their opponent, instead choosing to score almost juvenile points off each other, you wonder at what point a service that is vital to the success of businesses in the island, a service that is subject to a government pay freeze, becomes an issue of relevance to our esteemed leader.

Why can’t he call them both in, bang a few heads together, try to get some kind of understanding between Post Office management and the CWU and stop a dispute escalating to a strike?

But, as stated earlier, how many other times do we see Tony the Tiger at the middle of a political matter?

He was strangely reticent on the whole reciprocal health agreement situation, until the matter was resolved.

At that point, we were told it was down to the government working behind the scenes (despite previous off the record briefings from the corridors of power earlier in the affair – in fairness not from Mr B – to the effect that the government was not doing anything behind the scenes because there was nothing it could do).

Clearly, it wasn’t the sustained public campaign and the intervention of a number of supportive MPs in the UK that swung it, oh no.

And who do we hear giving the biggest rallying cries over the economic situation?

It’s Allan Bell, which is good of him as the rumblings are that life at the fancy new Department of Economic Development is not turning out to be as much fun as he’d hoped, although the department has a lovely set of offices.

Treasury Minister Anne Craine seems to be jetting around forging links with other jurisdictions and good for her.

Some of the others in CoMin, David Cretney and Phil Gawne in particular, seem to be left to be the whipping boys for the ills of the world, whether it be buses, horse trams, upland tracks or engineering workshops.

It used to be that, on a weekly basis when the government holds its media briefings, there would be a minister wheeled out on a rotation basis, but the chief minister would normally be there too.

Tony doesn’t often make it to these any more.

In fact, some in the Manx media have started to compare him with Howard Hughes, he’s that hard to get an audience with these days.

I guess it could be because he’s busy saving the economy and, to be fair, we in the press do not have a divine right to speak to him on demand, although it would be nice if the person the Manx public didn’t elect to run the country did communicate with them a little more often.

Tony did, of course, implement a restructuring of the government departmental system.

But whenever someone tries to pin him down on what has been achieved as a direct result of this, just as when people seek a comprehensive list of the government cutbacks to deal with the economic situation, the best you can hope for is to be referred to other government departments.

It’s fair to say that Mr Brown’s leadership is hands off.

Whether such an approach is right in the economic climate is another matter.

The danger will be next time around, when Tynwald comes to elect a chief minister, assuming Tony is back in the Keys or even wants the job, there may be quite a few others whose attitude to him will be rather hands off.

l The cricket World Cup is underway, you may have noticed. So far England have contrived to almost lose to the Netherlands and then succeed in losing to Ireland. Between those games, they managed to actually tie with the mighty India in what has to be one of the best matches in World Cup history.

By the time you read this England could be almost out of the contest, but my rather reckless tip is they are going to win the whole thing.

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