My voting pack for the elections to the Council of the Canal & River Trust arrived at the weekend. I was a bit surprised at how little information was included about the voting process. Other than a bald statement that the election was to be conducted using "the single transferable vote", there was no explanation of what this system is or why it had been chosen over the familiar "first past the post" or any of the other alternative systems available and in use in various elections across the UK.
I understand that only four out of the 33 candidates will be elected. I can choose which of those four I would like to see win, but in doing so I have to rank them in order of preference - even when I would be equally happy to see them all succeed. To me, this suggests that although I have four choices my first choice actually carries far more weight (I won't fall into the trap of trying to calculate exactly how much more) than my fourth.
As in all elections there are some candidates that one would not wish to see elected at any price, so my first task was to run through the list and eliminate those. I struck out those who appeared to represent only one type of boater or boaters in only one particular area. I also discarded anyone with a connection to the Inland Waterways Association (IWA). I've nothing in particular against that organisation - indeed I was a member many years ago - and without it there would be no canal system as we know it today. It's also arguable that they should have been granted a seat on the council in their own right, as other organisations have, but to put up four candidates and attempt to take all the available seats allocated to boaters' interests is just too greedy!
One or two candidates didn't appear to understand the function of the Council and produced manifestos that suggested they would be involved in managing the Trust on a day-to-day basis.
Lastly, I eliminated anyone who appeared to be a serial committee member or trustee. The Council will have enough of these - we need more ordinary people!
Although this eliminated the majority of the candidates it was still difficult to choose between those remaining on the basis of the 150 word statement that candidates are allowed. You can vote for as many - or as few - candidates as you wish, but clearly only a trainspotter would try to distinguish between a 32nd and a 33rd choice on such a basis. With four seats on offer it seems to make sense to exercise at least four choices.
Andy Tidy was an obvious first choice - after all I was one of his sponsors! Sue Cawson also appealed with her emphasis on heritage and historic boats as did Alan Fincher who made an effort to emphasise the need to represent all boaters' interests. I also gave my vote for a complete unknown (to me) because, uniquely, he actually asked for it!
Then, unlike most readers I suspect, I filled in the voting form, put it in an envelope and took it to the post box. No on-line voting for little-old-luddite me!