Well, some­one can get it right

Canal Boat - - Me & My Boats -

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

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