Well, someone can get it right
There’s been a couple of elections taking place with implications for the waterways. You may have noticed them.
One was for the governing council of the Canal & River Trust and, judging by all the complaints I’ve been hearing, it seems to have been a dog’s dinner with people voting who shouldn’t have been voting, people entitled to votes not getting them, and most of the electorate not bothering to vote at all.
The other election – on the face of it, an altogether less significant affair – was for a new logo for the London Boaters group on Facebook.
Now, for the benefit of the old crusties among you, I should explain that Facebook is the largest of the social media groups on the world wide web. It lets you keep in touch with friends wherever they are and it’s used a lot by continuous cruisers. More importantly, it allows you to join groups of like-minded people with similar interests.
Today there are countless canal-related groups on Facebook ranging from one called the Narrowboat Moaners and Ranters (which – what a nightmare! – seems to be populated with people just like me) to Canal Market Place which is for those wanting to buy and sell waterway crafts.
One of them is the 5000-strong London Boaters group, the core of which are those so-called bridge hoppers – the liveaboards so hated by CRT and the Inland Waterways Association who accuse them of everything, it sometimes seems, from clogging up visitor moorings to fighting for ISIS in Syria.
London Boaters, if you didn’t know already, don’t have a good reputation with many of us. Especially older boaters. This is a bit of a puzzle really, because most of those shuffling around the city on a continuous mission not to breach CRT’s mooring regulations are young people unable to afford astronomical London housing costs. And many of them are professionals who, but for an accident of birth, might have been the sons or daughters of those older, complaining boaters.
But they have an image problem. Some of them, it’s true, are eccentric warriors for individualism; most though are just young people looking for a home who came to the canals and fell in love with them. Their problem was that their Facebook logo reflected their anarchic rather than their cuddly side: it was a floating dead fox surmounted by a terrapin. Unsurprisingly, it was not popular with many in the group and, after complaints, the administrators succumbed to pressure and announced an election to choose a new image, the main proviso that it contained no dead things.
Anyone interested was invited to post a picture and the shortlist which was drawn up as a result was about as diverse as you’d expect from such an eclectic group of people. They ranged from a cat dressed as a pirate to a nauseating picture of an overflowing Elsan disposal point. What they shared was that each in its own way represented some facet of the London boating experience.
A date was set and the winner decided by the simple means of using the Facebook ‘Like’ button.
It was a system than lent itself to exploitation and gerrymandering. Actually, it was a system that invited it. But as far as I could tell, the vote for the new picture was free of any multiple voting allegations or, indeed, any other nefarious electoral practices. And crucially, a large number of people voted after what developed into a lively debate about what the winning picture was supposed to say about life afloat in the capital.
Afterwards, apart from the normal grumblings you’d expect following such a lively ballot, the majority seemed satisfied with the choice. The winner was an idealised, misty canal scene which I doubt would offend a single person on the cut in that it rather neatly summed up the romanticism that we all feel about the waterways, whether we’re moored in the middle of the countryside or opposite a gas holder in St Pancras.
I recount all this for two reasons. Firstly the efficiency with which this community of boaters organised itself to reach a decision stands as a rebuke to CRT’s inability, once again, to organise a credible election for itself. The second reason is just to remind you all that, different though they may be, boaters in London are a part of our community.
‘The logo reflected their anarchic rather than their cuddly side; it was a floating dead fox surmounted by a terrapin’
The winning logo picture