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They Can Ignore Our Boaty, But They Can Never Ignore Our Votey

06/05/2016 15:11 | Updated 06 May 2016

When it comes to politics, I admit I often find it hard to get terribly excited. The lacklustre offerings of our main parties, combined with the bizarre and sometimes even downright offensive fringe parties leave someone like me reluctant to expend too much energy pondering our political system.

Don't get me wrong, wild horses couldn't keep me away from exercising my democratic rights (our ancestors didn't chain themselves to the gates of Parliament for nothing etc etc). But I'm just not particularly animated about it.

But recently there was a vote which did get me - and many others - excited: the vote for the name of a new polar research vessel.

Some of the suggestions were touching and extremely worthy. The second most-voted name was the RRS Poppy-Mai - named after a 16-month-old girl whose father "married" her in an attempt to give her the wedding of her dreams after it was revealed she had incurable cancer. The RRS Henry Worsley, named after the explorer who died while attempting the first unassisted solo crossing of the Antarctic in January, was the third most popular with more than 15,000 votes.

But then of course there was the RRS Boaty McBoatFace, and a number of other amusing monikers, including RRS Onion Knight, RRS I Like Big Boats & I Cannot Lie, and RRS Capt'n Birdseye Get Off My Cod.

In the end though, it was Boaty that captured a nation's hearts.

However, today Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister, revealed the ship will instead be named RRS Sir David Attenborough "in tribute to a great broadcaster and natural scientist".

My initial reaction to the news was a petulant "it's not fair". We voted for Boaty! Boaty beat Attenborough by over 110,000 votes! Boaty doesn't deserve to be relegated to a rubbish little submarine. BOATY WON. (plus surely it should be Subby McSubface now?)

It felt personal. It felt like my views were being ignored. Don't ask the public what they want and then refuse to give it to them!

But after my initial tantrum and foot-stamping, I did concede that David Attenborough is a national treasure and probably does deserve to have a boat named after him.

Obviously I'm hamming this all up somewhat but there's a slightly more serious point at the bottom all this.

Maybe the NERC can get away with palming us off with a sub when what we wanted was a boat. But you know who can't? The government. When we cast our votes in local elections, mayoral elections, general elections or whatever they may be, there is no sub instead of a boat. We get the boat. They have to listen to us.

Today we're hearing the results of elections around the country and the will of the people will decide who will make up our councils, mayors, assemblies and so on. This is actually something that will affect our lives - as much as I hate to admit it, the name of a polar research vessel really isn't going to change my life.

At the end of the day there's something heartening about the fact that the Boaty poll proved that Britons can get animated about something - even something which many would regard as dry and sciencey.

While I can't quite see the leader of a political party capturing the nation's hearts like Boaty, perhaps if we can channel that enthusiasm for something far more important, we'll all take a bit more interest and pride in our democratic system.

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