Should action man Juan Watterson be defined as a bus klutz or by his police cuts?

The latest Manx minister to slide under the microscope is Juan Watterson.

While this week Juan’s department, the Department of Home Affairs, is highlighting the police force has been shortlisted for a management award, there is a lot more to consider.

The Isle of Man’s answer to Pitt the Younger has had an eventful first year in the cabinet. Credit where it is due, most people who were Minister for Home Affairs would do well to be remembered mainly for something other than a decision to close police stations, reduce the number of officers and also sanction cuts to the fire service.

But Juan, at the ripe old age of 31, made more headlines by getting drunk and falling asleep on a bus.

Was it astute political foresight that caused Juan to imbibe a little too much, knowing that people would forget his cuts to the 999 services a lot more readily if an embarrassing and humiliating discretion could be arranged a couple of months beforehand?

Doubtful, because that would require some pretty impressive forward thinking.

That certainly was not the case at a press conference when he urged Christmas revelers not to overdo the partying.

Just hours later, after his department’s Christmas do, he boarded a bus home in a tired and emotional state.

Unfortunately he nodded off and couldn’t be woken up when the bus reached Port St Mary, which resulted in the driver having to bring him back all the way into the Isle of Man’s capital of Douglas. To add to the fun, Mr Watterson was reportedly sick.

Obviously, he wasn’t the first politician to say one thing and do the other – and he certainly won’t be the last. But to contradict his own words so spectacularly and so soon after uttering them was impressive.

So well done Juan.

At least your first year at the helm won’t be remembered primarily for the fact that funding for the fire service was cut by £221,000, including the axing of three posts – through ‘natural turnover’ – and the need to leave the administrative headquarters.

Or for the £600,000 cut in funding for the police service, involving the axing of six posts and the closure of two police stations – Braddan and Onchan.

Just this week, we have been told that the Isle of Man Constabulary, despite its cutback in costs, has been shortlisted in the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s People Management Awards.

According to the DHA this is recognition that the force is a ‘values-driven, people-focused organisation’, which will be a big relief to those the officers protect and serve and, for that matter, the officers on the frontline with two fewer police stations from which to serve the community.

It’s unfair to mock, considering in 2006 a survey found that conditions were ‘poor’ for the officers. Any improvement in any part of the force should be welcomed.

Still, with a £600k cut, the public will be concerned that the values that are being driven include combating crime directly  – certainly more than arranging figures and ticking boxes.

Every year, stats are produced that say recorded crime has fallen and every year they are treated with a certain amount of scepticism.

The question is, really, have complaints dropped, or just the classification of them?

For if certain incidents are not investigated formally in the first place, such as improper behaviour on public transport, then perhaps it’s no wonder that recorded crime figures show a decline.

While the personal humiliation of the bus incident won’t have been enjoyable, it is not irrecoverable.

Yes, there will have been plenty of sniggering that the young whippersnapper has been put in his place.

Most people over the age of 30 probably rolled their eyes when Juan was first elected as a 26-year-old. It’s hard to imagine that anyone that age really has enough life experience to be a decent politician.

And the Kindergarten Keys member has had to deal with that ever since, particularly when he was made a minister at the age of 31 – the youngest ever cabinet appointment.

So there will have been a lot of quiet satisfaction in political circles, not to mention other areas, that the young upstart had been brought down a peg or two by his festive foolishness

Chief Minister Allan Bell has decided to stick with him though, a decision perhaps made easier when police decided no further action was necessary after the bus incident because the bus driver, did not submit a formal complaint.

However, the minister’s career trajectory may be flatlining for a year or two.

One suspects Watterson, with his financial background, craves the Treasury job. But that’s a long way off and not just because Eddie Teare is unlikely to be shifting for a while yet.

That isn’t a bad thing. A little less precociousness will prove beneficial to Juan. In time it may stop us seeing him and thinking of the dreadful teenage version of William Hague at the Conservative Party Conference.

The other thing he needs to sort out is his fashion sense. If you are out and about down south then you may have seen him in his white suit – it’s scary and someone needs to have a word.

Not to mention the picture of him in combat fatigues from a political delegation to Afghanistan a couple of years ago. At least it stopped him looking like Harry Potter for a moment, but only because he had the appearance of an eagle-eyes era Action Man.

Nevertheless, there are signs of promise hidden away in there, not least the bringing in of the Breastfeeding Act in 2011, making it a legal right for a mother to breastfeed in public. That’s a bigger achievement than you can imagine when you consider that the vast majority of members of the House of Keys have all the social modernity of Jim from the Royle Family.

So well done Juan, a young dad who, despite now being as old as 32, still has a lot to learn himself.

If he can find a darker suit, avoid cutting emergency services too much and stay on the lemonade at all future office dos, there may still be a bright future.

GNU Rating: 6/10. His loyalty has probably been guaranteed given that Allan Bell decided not to sack him for his bus misdemeanour.


Follow on Twitter: @Norbertsdad

If you found this article interesting, you may want to read this one about his fellow Rushen MHK and minister Phil Gawne:

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About Paul Speller

Writer, journalist, husband, dad.
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9 Responses to Should action man Juan Watterson be defined as a bus klutz or by his police cuts?

  1. daniel says:

    i complained about the police, so I for one think there are much better places for my tax money to go than to spend on them.
    As for Juan, he does not really have much of a choice about cuts now does he and who else would you give the job to? John Houghton…..Brenda Cannell……hmmmm

  2. daniel says:

    is it really your job to censor your own website? or would you rather they did not make your life difficult?

    • Paul Speller says:

      It is my job to ensure that nothing defamatory is posted on my website. I edited your comment to remove a potentially libelous remark.
      Any libelous comments could result in legal action against both of us.
      If you would prefer me to remove your post entirely, I am happy to do so.
      If you are able to provide details, I could look into the matter further.

  3. Mathew says:

    Is this the sort of defamatory where pointing out the truth where the authorities have behaved badly and the media have backed up the authorities is presented as libelous and defamatory. Permit me to give a historical example of the miner’s strike in the early 80s, the main event was the Battle of Orgreave and the police attacked the miners and the miners retaliated but in the media the sequence of events was presented as though the miners attacked the police and the police retaliated. After all the police would never tell outrageous and cynical lies and the media would never back them up now would they?

    Picking on Juan Watterson for his Christmas bus antics is rather cowardly and cheap journalism, whatever happened to the 4th estate as a force to be reckoned with?

    • Paul Speller says:

      No, it’s the sort of defamatory where accusations are made and not substantiated – not only in breach of any of the terms and conditions laid down by the hosts of this blog site, but also putting people at risk of legal action.
      I’m perfectly happy for criticism of the police to be made in any comments here – but I am not prepared to allow defamatory remarks to be made about anyone.
      It’s fairly clear that the first commenter was unhappy with the police, even without the legally unsafe allegations, which were removed. If you know them, feel free to suggest they get in touch with more detail and I am happy to look into it.

  4. daniel says:

    the sort of defamatory and libelous like the sun headline accusing the liverpool fans of picking the pockets of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster. This story appears to have its original source close to the South Yorkshire police.
    the sort of defamatory and libelous that mentions the outrageous lies told by the police after the death of ian tomlinson making accusations that the protesters were hampering efforts to save his life by throwing stones at the police, shown to be a lie as the whole of the events were filmed.
    the same sort of defamatory and libelous judicial report of Lord Widgery shortly after the bogside massacre whereby the relatives of those who were killed kept on and on for 30 years and eventually it was shown the authorities lied and lied and lied.
    Is this the same sort of defamation and libelous that led to the disgraceful reporting of the shooting dead of Mark Duggan who was unarmed by police in the summer of 2011.
    My truthful little story which i have complained about many many times in every feasible way to every person I can pales against the stories above. But believe me I know who is telling the truth and who is lying and i had hoped for a little bit of help from the media.

    We can see who the media serves and it is not the people.

    Picking on Juan does not serve the interests of the people, thank you for relieving me of the mistaken belief that you were a journalist with an interest in the public good.

    • Paul Speller says:

      I have asked twice for you to give details of your complaint so that I can look into it. This is despite the fact that this is a blog and not a news site.
      You haven’t given any details. I don’t even know your name.
      There is not much else I can do, if I don’t have anything to work on. You can pass on the information to me via this blog – nothing can go up without authorisation so it will remain private.
      If you aren’t prepared to elaborate on your initial accusation or offer any detail whatsoever about the nature of your first complaint to the police, there’s not much point in continuing discussion.
      I’m sorry if you’re not happy with the fact I won’t publish allegations without more detail but that position will not change. I can’t speak for any other media you suggest you have contacted, but most news outlets need something to work on -the law requires people to substantiate allegations made in public should they be challenged.
      Of course, you always have the option of creating your own website – and putting your name to any allegations you wish to make.
      I shall leave it for others to judge for themselves the tastefulness and plausibility of drawing the likes of the Hillsborough situation into your argument.
      Otherwise, unless you are prepared to give any information, there’s not really any purpose served in further conversations on this subject.
      With regards to Mr Watterson, I’m surprised you feel I’m picking on a government minister; most people seem to think that such politicians can look after themselves. They all have a right to reply. In fact some of the other ministers covered in this series have commented on my remarks – but none have questioned the fact that people are entitled to pass public comment.
      Your concern about my reference to Mr Watterson’s bus indiscretion is also a little puzzling. It’s difficult to review someone’s performance over a year without mentioning the one thing which has caused more public comment than any other.

  5. Pingback: Here is the GNUs: Isle of Man ministerial league table confirmed | Paul Speller

  6. Pingback: Bell needs to ring the changes in the next year | Paul Speller

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