Kate Lord-Brennan: Manx Radio General Election Podcast 2021

  Kate Lord-Brennan: independent candidate for Glenfaba & Peel


https://www.manxradio.com/podcasts/general-election-2021/episode/kate-lord-brennan-candidate-interview-1/ TEXT:

I'm speaking to Kate Lord-Brennan who is standing for Glenfaba & Peel. You were elected to be an MLC in 2018 by MHKs. Now, straightforward one to start us off - why are you standing?

I think it might have always been at the back of my mind that one day, I might stand for House of Keys. And I think it just got to the point where I thought it's got to be now there's too many issues that need to be dealt with, obviously, as a Tynwald member, you know, you have some insight into that you see the dynamics, you see what works, see what doesn't. And, you know, as a mum in Peel, I get feedback from, from the community about things that are important to them. So it just got to the point where I thought it's got to be now. And it's going to be really important time ahead. So I felt that that that was the best way for me to contribute much more.

So why leave the scrutiny element? Why can't you do that through scrutiny?

Well, I think that if you are interested in driving forward on particular policies advocating for change, that is not really in my view, what the Legislative Council  members are there for


Some have argued, you have done that, in your role as an MLC

Well, I think that there is going to be a time in the next few months where a whole new direction is going to need to be set. You know, I stepped down from a departmental role, you know, relatively early, while about sort of about it, you know, just over a year into my term as a member of the Legislative Council, you with, with an express wish to focus on the oversight and the scrutiny and the challenge side of things, which still, of course, has a place, it has a place for House of Keys members, but having that more direct basis for representation, and pursuing particular policies. You know, primacy is, is with the House of Keys, if I feel that strongly and want to act in that way, it is the only right thing for me to do, to seriously pursue that with a mandate from the people and put there by the people.


Okay, so you've listed priorities as education and families, environment and reform of government. Let's start with the first one - education and families. What is it you want to do there?

Well, I think, you know, it's really important to make sure, and I've had hours and hours of conversations about this, you know, you know, with people and families that I know, to make sure that education is working properly. For children. And for teens.

What do you mean by properly?

Well, you know, is there is there the right, is there the right focus? In some ways are we needing some kind of, you know, back to basics approach? Are we really, truly gearing our young people up for the future of work, future of jobs, so that they are fully prepared? You know, is that happening at all stages? Are teachers getting the right support that they need in the classroom? I mean, there's, there's a lot around that side of things

Do you think they're not at the moment?

The feedback I'm having, sort of speaks to my view, that actually what we need to be doing is putting more support and more resources to the frontline, so to speak, rather than within departments

So how would you do that? Would you look to cut management and put money into the front line of teaching? How would you fund that change?

I think it is, you know, well established, you know, already, even through the Education Review that where the resource the activity needs to happen needs to be happening, you know, in, in the schools, you know, the, the momentum if you like

But at the expense of what I mean, because you can't, you know, there's no magic money tree. So where does that come from, that funding?

Well, I would say that that should that should, you know, rather than have, you know, a large scale education department, you know, which has clearly been been growing over a long period of time, what is it that matters on the ground to the kids that are getting taught, you know, it's what's happening in the classroom. So I think that that's how, that's how you achieve that effectively, you shift the emphasis and resource from the departmental spending, if you like, right down to the front line. So that that's the sort of thing that I think is really important in terms of education, and families and children is a whole whole broader area as well

The environment next, another priority of yours. Now, this government has introduced a Climate Change Bill, it's done a lot of talking, there’s a lot of reports. What do you think needs to happen next, and crucially, how's it going to be paid for?

Well, I was quite outspoken about the Climate Change Bill in Legislative Council, feeling that actually, you know, it's all very well writing these things down on a piece of paper, but actually what you need is a proper, you know, plan for action. And actually, that had already been started to be, to be progressed. So I don't think it's particularly helpful to point to, you know, a green bit of paper, which is what a Bill is, you know, it goes to the branches and say, look, this is our commitment to climate change. But it was something that was brought out pretty quickly upon the government realising that they needed to respond to frankly backbencher efforts, that they announced they were going to have this Climate Change Bill that was sort of heralded over. “Don't worry, we've got this emergency, we’re going to have a Climate Change Bill”. So I think that's going to need to be about policies and action. I actually amended the Climate Change Bill to try and get government to take account of climate change in its own policies, you know, government departments to do that much sooner rather than what was laid out in the Bill. And in terms of, you know, of paying for it, well, you know, there's the cost not only to government, but also to, you know, to people, because I think that that emphasis on just transition is really important. And it's all just going to have to be looked at, in the round

Do you think that's the crucial issue to address first is who's going to pay for it, because if we're all .. if things are being pushed in a certain direction, whether that's purchasing new energy installations, or cars or whatever, who ultimately do you think should bear most of that cost, because government at the moment seemed to want to push that on to the private individual, rather than intervene in the state be that through sort of grants are whatever, who do you think should should form that transition primarily?

In the end, whether it is directly individuals or its government, it all boils down to the public paying one way or another, & I don't think it's really been fully established

Who drives the change primarily? That's the key thing

It's gonna have to be on government to drive the change, but they need to also be mindful of their own actions, because it's absolutely not acceptable to put all of these, you know, kind of actions and thresholds in place & not keep in check their own activities. And, you know, so there needs to be some, some parity on that. And, and we need an energy strategy, that's going to be really important. The big elephant in the room, of course, is the is the MUA, and that the, the the power plant down there, and I feel that people, you know, they they're going to everyone, you know, I think accepts that we need to work towards you know reducing emissions and dealing with climate change. But how people go about that does not yet seem very approachable.


So how would you, how would you make it approachable? What policies would you specifically bring in?

Well the climate change action plan is there and I think that's going to need to be followed carefully. But I do think that in every action that government takes, or everything that it seeks to put onto individuals, it needs to have proper engagement, so that so it's attainable, so that it's fair, it's not just for the people who, you know, that that, you know, it's thought, well, they can afford it. And actually, you know, the people who, who can't afford to invest in that, you know, it's that there needs to be fairness on that. So it's about how it's all rolled out. But I'm, you know, I believe much more in the action plan and the work that has come about of the resource, the point from Professor James Curran and the climate change team and board, I believe in all of that much more - still unresolved questions - than I do, then, you know, in all honesty about the things that were written down in the in the Climate Change Bill. It has to be about action, it can't just be words on a page. Thoughtful policy

Well, we’ll see what happens now. Lastly, reform of government. Now, before we get into this as a priority, I do have to address the issue of you being an MLC and standing for MHK. Now, some people would say, in the case of like the Corrin Home, for example, you’ve abused your position as an MLC to electioneer to be an MHK. What do you say to that?

What I say to that is I waited and waited and have waited for something else to happen, and it didn't happen. And it got to the point where...

But it's not your job

You cannot ignore these issues. You cannot ignore them. And, you know, the fact is that I you know, was, you know, I had to come to a view. I was contacted about things

The other MHKS in Peel & Glenfaba raised the issue. Couldn't you have worked behind the scenes  with them?

There were all these conversations, you know, going on ..  there’s been stacks of conversations, you know, you could flip that round really, couldn't you and say, well, actually should it ,should it have taken me and my position to try and drive forward some action and some result on that. So you can completely flip that round. So, but also, you have to remember that, you know, where I live, that has had two ministers there for I think the entire time. And, you know, it's actually not so bad to have somebody questioning or challenging

But is it an abuse of that position?

It’s absolutely not an abuse of that position And I've not had anybody say that to me, I think and . . 

Of course, they're happy that you're fighting for them, of course, but but you're an MLC, not an MHK and shouldn't you, isn't it ..wouldn’t it be the right thing to do would be to step down as an MLC while you're pursuing this role as MHK, to show people you're taking it seriously? And if you don't get in, you're not going to just stay in LegCo?

No, I don't think it would serve anybody well to do that

It wouldn’t serve you well. But do you not think it's the honest thing to do?

No, I absolutely stand by it. I have an existing duty to the Legislative Council. It is absolutely the business of Tynwald overall, Legislative Council to challenge, to have scrutiny, you know, particular issues pop up . .


You, you can use you can use your position in Tynwald to pursue local issues, which is not what an MLC ideally should be doing, you should be taking the broad view, the national view. So, I mean, I'll challenge you once again, do you not think at some point in this campaign, you're gonna have to step away from being an MLC, to be transparent and open about what your intentions are and what your commitment is to?

I think that is exactly because of the transparency and openness that I've announced early. And also, I don't see that anybody you know, else is being asked to resign from any job, because they're standing for the House of Keys

But they are already sitting members, they're applying for their own job again

No, I mean, anybody I mean, if, for example, if somebody was a civil servant, you know, I'm an ordinary working mother, I think it's actually quite an elitist view to think that, you know, people can just, you know, stop existing duties, commitments, jobs, in order to stand for an election. But there's a practical element to it as well, which is that if I stepped down from Legislative Council - and Legislative Council has been very, very busy -  and I think it's known that I pay, pay a full and active role in Legislative Council and Tynwald. If I do that, then that would trigger a by-election, so then you've got another election going on. And then in addition, in reality, once the new administration, and House of Keys settles in, it would literally be just over a year in reality, before my term would be up as Legislative Council member, you know, in which case, I think for the, the, the greater duty and the greater role would be, for me to if I'm not successful in the House of Keys, finish that term Legislative Council, and then obviously, you know, I would have my decisions to make and any future House of Keys would have their decisions to make about me, but I actually think in all honesty, it is making me a better Tynwald member, whichever way you put it, and I am still committed to my LegCo role, yeah.

Well thank you for addressing that, we'll move to reform of government then, because we've sort of touched on it there. Why reform of government? Is that in any way an extension, reform of Parliament or is it specifically government you're looking at?

Well, it's the need for some reforms in government, you know, which, which issues..

Why, why do we need them?

Well, most issues that go wrong boil down to fundamental issues, and we hear them repeated time and time again. But it's clearly, it's just overdue now, which is the need to make sure that there is proper solid policy development and proper strategic thinking, separated out from operational delivery. And whichever way you cut it in so many issues, doesn't matter whether it's infrastructure, doesn't matter, whether it's delivery of services, doesn't matter whether it's, you know, social care, a lot of it boils down to these same issues now. You know, that's the sort of thing which has started to happen in areas. But it, it really does matter to people

What about the Cabinet Office then? I mean, everything is going into the Cabinet Office, we have a more presidential perhaps approach to the role of Chief Minister than previous Chief Ministers. And there is a lot of centralization of power. So although you're talking about the benefits of separating operation and strategy, is there a danger of concentrating too much of that in one place?

I think there is a danger of that. That's why I think it needs some careful thought around it, in terms of, you know, presidential style, you know, is is that because that there is a Cabinet Office? Or is that just because of a particular, you know, style that has been adopted? You know, I don't know, I think it's what I'm thinking about sort of more, more structural, more about the repeated calls about, you know, siloed thinking and policies being very much individually developed in a, in a way in one department and then rising up through the system. So this is this is important for delivery, it's important for for it's important financially, it's important in every single aspect and stuff that, you know, ideally should have been progressed more by now,


Well linked question for you then, would you take up a role in a department if you were offered, if you were successful?

It feels a bit soon to sort of know or think about that. I think, ideally . . .

Do you want to be a part of government, or do you want to be in scrutiny from the outside?

I think the ideal balance that you'd have would be something that had a mix of the two so that you could give the broadest contribution. And clearly I'd be looking to give, you know, a different contribution in the way that I you know, as an MLC, you know, I'd already decided I wasn't going to sit in any department again. I think that there is a different role for MLCs to play. So in the hassle case, obviously, you'd want to contribute in a broad way and sort of see, obviously, it wouldn't be down to me is the thing, isn't it as well. So


Well, how would you deal and this is a question that's been raised a few times. How would you deal with the civil service if you had proposals and visions and ideas, and they just weren't being accepted, and you found you had a difficult relationship with a civil servant? How would you go about addressing that?

Well, I think it's um, you know, it's interesting, because really the the leadership and the political thought and the determination of course of action, that that needs to come from politicians

Doesn't always Would you accept that it doesn't always?

I would. Yeah. And I think that maybe maybe, you know, some some, you know, balance needs to be established there. You know, it's not, it's not always right, is it to sort of say, well, you know, we were advised X Y Z so that's what we do. And so you have to think what are politicians there for? They are there to, to forge that path, challenge back to make sure that they're structuring the right advice around them. You know, so that that's, that's very important. But that's a difficult thing to manage, if you like, because it depends on individual performance. It's quite subtle.

Well, we'll, we'll get into some Peel issues briefly now. If you were in an MHK's role, and for the Isle of Man Bank situation in Peel, what would you have done to try and keep that bank in Peel?

Well, I think that, I'm not sure how far is helpful to have the I think I would have perhaps tried to deal with things more directly with the bank behind the scenes. I think that, you know, I've certainly, as I get indications that that had happened in some ways, when the same issue had occurred down in Castletown. So I think that, you know, there is, you know, you asked me before about, you know, should I not have tried to do things behind the scenes with, with the Corrin Home, you know, what, you know, I did, but it got to a point where I had to bring it to Tynwald that absolutely had to be that, that that action happened there, because it's an urgent,

And that did happen with the bank eventually, in a manner of speaking

With the with the bank, was that do with the charity charges?

Charity charges.
Well, that I mean, well, that was a that was a good result, you know, but that was a you I think that was Treasury responding to something that was brought forward by Juan Watterson. And but with the with the banks, I think, you know, I just have I worry about things looking like they’re action, and saying that they're action, without something meaningful happening behind the scenes. It does, however, throw on to the point about actually services and towns, you know, so actually, the post office is something that, you know, that there is a chance for the government to consider, Tynwald to consider, the Post Office to consider, so it's difficult to get involved and force a private sector company, that's a, you know, a bank, you know, that to keep its operations going. So that was that was tricky for all around the Isle of Man Bank.


One more, big one -  sewage. Do you think the site should be in Peel or out of Peel, and how important do you think it is that the site is identified too?

It is just staggering that this has not been sorted out. And I was, I was looking back through the . .

That’s because Peel keeps rejecting, & Patrick then rejecting the plans. So neither community want it in their patch. How would you deal with that?

Isn’t that interesting? Because originally, I think there were other thoughts on the table and other proposals that were made by, you know, various scrutiny committees that said, look, we're not sure this is going to work or be cost effective in the long term. Is it not a matter for policy review? Is it not a matter at this stage to say, look, this was the plan in 2017/2018 hasn't worked, hasn't been delivered - why shouldn't we be going back? You know, should we still be pursuing regional? So, you know, it's, it's just staggering, that this issue has gone on so long, but actually, it speaks to the broader issue about why you need, why you need government reform, and also why I keep saying before you need listening leadership, you know, I said that in November, I maintain that now.

It's not going to go away, no doubt . . now, and because we are approaching the end of our interview, why should people of Peel and Glenfaba, why should they back you at this upcoming election?

They should back me because I genuinely care, and I challenge, and I've got a proven track record in that, you know, whether it is in Tynwald, you know, I've certainly held myself out there to you know, fight for things against all odds, to fix things where I can, and to challenge where appropriate. So it shows that you know, I'm not afraid to speak out, to speak up, to represent and try and steer things for a better course, you know, in the community, whether it's been things to do with early years education, to elderly care, to you know, to other matters to do with children and family, families, I think that there's people out there who know that I will listen and do my best. So that, on that basis, you know, with that experience and knowledge already, I would hope that people would feel comfortable to put their trust in me to represent them and know that I'll be, you know, fully committed to it.