On one level, the 2011 general election took place following a period of relative political stability. Tony Brown’s five-year tenure at the helm of the Council of Ministers saw a much steadier ship than the bumper boats ride of the Corkill/Gelling years before.
Okay, it may have taken only a few days after the island went to the ballot box a decade ago for it to become clear the next five years would be very different, but for the period leading up to the election it was just as well that things were calmer.
That’s because during the 2006-11 term the Good Ship CoMin had to sail through one hell of an economic storm. Two VAT bombshells were lobbed the island’s way by the UK Government, and this followed the collapse of the Kaupthing Singer and Friedlander bank – a crisis with an aftermath which has influenced finance laws ever since.
The KSF collapse in 2008 came a year after Northern Rock collapsed and just weeks after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. It rocked the international banking industry and the Isle of Man did not escape. While the UK Government had stepped in to support Northern Rock, it did not do so for KSF.
The collapse of KSF (IoM) was one of the biggest crashes in Manx history – 11,000 customers faced losing more than £840 million collectively as the bank went under once the UK authorities pulled the plug on its sister bank in London.
The Manx Government set up a scheme for early compensation payments – with £190 million paid out in two years – but it wasn’t until 2017 that it was confirmed that depositors had recovered all their money.
The subsequent Vickers Report recommended that banks should ringfence divisions to protect them from their higher risk investment arms.
In 2009, and again in 2011, the UK Government changed the VAT revenue sharing arrangements with the island, resulting in a loss of more than £200m to the Manx coffers, down to a low of £252m from the VAT share in 2012-13. The good news is, that as the years have passed, the revenue has built up, topping £400m in 2019-20.
As long as there isn’t a flip-flopping government in place in the UK that would try anything for short-term expediency then things will hopefully remain on the up.
Election year 2011 saw a switch to polling in September. It was also the last time we saw a mixture of single-seat, two-seat and three-seat constituencies, with boundaries subsequently redrawn to allow for 12 two-seat constituencies in 2016.
In the run-up to the election of 2011, there were fears over the future of breast care in the island. It came after the decision to advertise for a general surgeon rather that a dedicated breast care surgeon to replace the consultant breast surgeon Ishrak Hamo. The health department later insisted the new surgeon would still be a specialist in breast care but would also be able to provide locum cover in general surgery.
Students expressed concern they could have to foot the bill of tuition fees in higher education, after the Manx Government flagged up the idea of reducing the funding for certain courses.
It was reported that house sales had dropped by nearly one third, year on year.
The Council of Ministers announced that it was seeking expressions of interest to operate a second casino in the Isle of Man – which met with something of a mixed reaction.
A law change that allowed for locations other than register offices or churches to hold wedding ceremonies saw the Villa Marina become the first such to be allowed to do just that.
On the sporting front September also so the Isle of Man host the Commonwealth Youth Games, bringing visitors from around the world.
And a chap called Mark Cavendish won the 2011 World Road Race Championships, to add to his, at that point, 20 stage wins at the Tour de France. Ten years on, Cav’s comeback on La Tour has been one of the all-time great achievements.
Back in 2011 and, rather splendidly, the chairman of Michael Commissioners quit with a bang rather than a whimper.
Following a row about comments he made to Manx Radio over housing proposals for Kirk Michael, Mike Neary announced his departure and called his colleagues on the commissioners ‘two-faced gits’.
Such parochial fireworks provided the perfect appetiser for an explosive election night and then pyrotechnics in Tynwald for the election of the next chief minister.
There were seismic shocks on polling day. Treasury Minister Anne Craine – the latest to be cursed with being regarded as a potential chief minister – was unseated in Ramsey by Leonard Singer.
Home Affairs Minister Adrian Earnshaw was ousted in Onchan and, after 10 years as a Rushen MHK, Quintin Gill suffered a similar fate.
Another minister, Martyn Quayle, was defeated in the, at that time, single-seat constituency of Middle. The late Mr Quayle was replaced by someone bearing the same surname – and the first name Howard.
In Douglas West, Liberal Vannin fielded a candidate by the name of Chris Thomas. He didn’t get in, but was later elected in a by-election in 2013, standing as an independent. One of those he defeated in that Douglas West by-election? Quintin Gill.
The excitement of regime change in 2011 did not end once the last vote was counted. With Tony Brown’s retirement from politics, a new leader had to be found.
Veteran Ramsey MHK Allan Bell, most recently the economic development minister, was the hot favourite for the chief minister’s position.
His opponent was one-time Manx Labour maverick turned Liberal Vannin main man Peter Karran, whose Keys career was only one year younger than Bell’s.
Karran’s proposal speech was made by LibVannin colleague Kate Beecroft, who was told off by President of Tynwald Clare Christian for the amount of focus she placed on Bell rather than her choice for top dog.
Both Beecroft and another LibVan member Zac Hall – remember him? – were criticised by other members for their speeches.
In an novel approach towards leadership contests, Karran threatened to withdraw his nomination in protest at the criticisms.
He lost the vote by 27 to 3.
In the weeks that followed, we were introduced to what Bell hoped would be a ‘government of national unity’. This included appointing Karran as education minister. His time in that role was short-lived, but very eventful. More on that next week.
* With thanks again to the staff at the Manx Museum Library for their assistance.