WRIGHT THINKING: Non-party politics seems to work very well

Isle of Man Chief Minister Allan Bell, whose speech was a revelation.
Isle of Man Chief Minister Allan Bell, whose speech was a revelation.

TIME for more odd links with a trilogy of an American comedy film, high-speed taxis, and one of the world’s shortest flights.

The film is Trains, Planes, and Automobiles, in which a poor chap tries to get home for the Thanksgiving holiday and every travel nightmare comes true.

Starring Steve Martin and John Candy, part of its knockabout enjoyment comes from the fact that you can laugh while being highly delighted that you are not the one facing the problems.

Two Fridays ago, I felt like one of the characters in the film when my best-laid travel plans nearly went pear-shaped.

I was due to speak at a big dinner on the Isle of Man, flying in from Manchester Airport, and I’d arranged to travel by train from Yarm on the usually splendid service which goes right into the terminal.

I’d checked that trains were running on time before I left home, and the splendid Steve of 23 Taxis dropped me at the station with plenty of time to spare.

As I walked down the ramp to the platform, something happened which now seems funny – but not at the time.

The electronic screen was showing my train running on time, but while I was actually looking at it, it changed to the dreaded word “cancelled.”

Slightly illogically, I stared at the message willing it to change back – it didn’t.

A quick call to the lovely lady on taxi control, and Steve was doing a U-turn to get me to Darlington to attempt a different approach.

I made it to the airport with minutes to spare and caught my flight.

This is the short flight I mentioned – up in the air and soon down again, with a lovely view as you land at the southern tip of the island, feeling as if the plane’s wheels are skipping over the sea.

My hotel was the Palace, right on the Douglas seafront, and also the venue for the dinner which had a very impressive guest list, including the First Minister, Allan Bell, who spoke before me, and he was a revelation.

You don’t often hear a politician’s speech full of honesty and incisive truth – but I did that night.

As you may know, the Isle of Man has a unique status – only 30 miles or so off the west coast of England, but not part of the United Kingdom.

It’s a self-governing state and has 33 non-party political members of the Tynwald (parliament) which seems to work very well indeed.

With an island population of about 85,000 (lower than Hartlepool), the ministers I met seemed wonderfully in tune with the people they serve.

The morning after, I took my blast of fresh air along the promenade, and was delighted to nod in appreciation to the statue of the late Sir Norman Wisdom outside the hotel which bears his name.

I had the pleasure of meeting him during his lifetime and I know he loved this island, where he settled in his later years.

He’d have appreciated the comedy potential of my journey to see him, and I look forward to renewing the acquaintance with his adopted home before too long.