Saturday, 26 November 2011

Boaters Manifesto

I have been reading Peter Underwoods proposal for a Boaters Manifesto (draft form) which you can find on his blogspot.

Peter describes himself as "Journalist for the past 44 years. Worked on daily newspapers, in TV news and on radio. Won awards for investigative journalism and been a political specialist, interviewing every PM between Wilson and Major. Run two PR companies. Now freelancing a drifting around the UK canal system."

The idea of a Boater Manifesto provides an interesting perspective on the changes to British Waterways during the transition to Canals and Rivers Trust and into to Charitable Status.  There is a great deal of additional information in the cut and thrust in the comments to the manifesto posting which should also be read.

A manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions, often political in nature. Manifestos may also be life stance-related. I think that the Boaters Manifesto brings in this context a worthwhile challenge to would otherwise be a rubber-stamp changeover from BW to CART.

John Dodwell who is one of the eight Canal and River Trust trustees has also joined in with comments and observations on the draft manifesto and with clarification on some of the issues raised.

John provided a synopsis of his boating background. "I volunteered at my first protest rally in 1962 at Woking ; did a lot of voluntary work on the 60’s Stourbridge Canal restoration; canoed in protest along the derelict K&A and Ashton and lower Peak Forest and Basingstoke Canals; volunteered at “Opash” and Ashtac”; volunteered on the Upper Avon rebuilding; hired boats for protest cruises (including at Christmas); was IWA General Secretary 1971-4; lobbied Parliament over the 68 Transport Act and was successful in 1973 in stopping BW being carved up under the regional water authorities; I’ve hired boats with my family and so know what it’s like to have to cope with small children on a boat; I’ve travelled over most the system and the Broads; on becoming a CRT trustee, I had to stop being chair of the CBOA and I had to leave IWAC and BWAF. I have my own 3 ft deep 51 ft long old BCN tug and sometimes cruise single-handedly; I know what it’s like when the bottom is too near the top. Maybe all that had some influence on my becoming a trustee, apart from my general wide business experience."

  • The final version of the manifesto can be found here.

  • If you agree with the terms of the manifesto, you can also append your name to a manifesto petition here.

Now there is another phase, with a call for boaters to stand for election to the Canal and Rivers Trust Council. The elected boaters are being asked to get involved in shaping the future of Britain’s waterways. The nominations for boaters’ positions on the Council open on 12 December 2011.

It will be interesting to see who actually stands for election to the CaRT Council and I look forward to reading their biography and their reasons why we should vote for them. But we need to keep a wary eye to ensure that there are no "jobs for the boys or girls" or the building of dynasties.
I remember many years ago when the local shop keepers where I lived were so scornful of the council that they put up their own candidate as a protest. One Mr Gee. Ernest "Jockey" Gee as he was known was a colourful local character - an entrepreneur of a different kind. Possibly the last person that anyone would expect to go down the route of public service and be one of the people looking to be elected.

Yet this was a protest vote, against a council that was failing.  The election also caught the public imagination. Needless to say Jockey was elected and the fun then began.

There were many stories of his exploits the truth of which were doubtful but quite funny. One that I will relate, allegedly took place during a debate on street lighting. When the then Councillor Gee made an impassioned plea for brand new electric gas lamps to be installed.
The moral of this story is - There is a great deal of opposition to the formulation of CaRT but it is essential for boaters to elect a good candidate and not necessarily someone standing in protest.



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