So, returning to the subject of boaters' representatives on the C&RT Council, what would I, as a voter, be looking for in a potential representative?
Well, first off, they would need to be a boater - not just a boat owner or a licence holder, although those are the minimal conditions for standing - but a boater who gets out there and boats, over a wide and varied area, throughout the year, giving them a good overview of the practicalities of negotiating the system.
Second, ideally they would be doing this in a full length boat, and a reasonable deep drafted one too. Only then will they have a real understanding of the issues affecting the full range of boaters - moorings near bridgeholes, lack of dredging, falling water levels - for which full length, deep drafted boats (like what I have got) provide an early warning system for everyone.
Third, they should be canal boaters. I like rivers as much as the next person (well, as long as they're the Trent), but rivers, on the whole, look after themselves, or, where they do require intervention, it is generally obvious what form this should take. Canals and their infrastructure however are wholly man made and frequently require decisions to be made that have far reaching effects. My ideal representative will love canal boating because of its unique nature and will be committed to respecting and retaining its industrial history and heritage, rather than trying to turn it into a linear nature park.
Fourth - although really this is a sine qua non - they should be an effective political operator, with a good understanding of how organisations, funding bodies and government work, the skills to maximise their impact on behalf of boaters and the ability to punch above their weight.
Finally (for now) they should hold the view that the waterways of Britain are first and foremost there for navigation. In the case of canals, they exist first, second, third, fourth and ad infinitum, for navigation. Fishermen, walkers, dogs etc etc, are all welcome to piggy back on this, but never, ever at the cost of compromising that primary purpose to any degree. It falls to the boaters' representatives to defend this position, because no one else will.
So, what are you looking for in your reps? And don't forget to enter the 'guess the length of the ballot paper sweepstake'. I wouldn't mind some suggestions as to what a suitable prize might be either.