Libby Purves May podcast: How well would a yacht club committee manage running the country? Probably better than the golf club, at least
“The commodore, presumably, would take on the role of Prime Minister”
Voting time! With the new fixed-term rule, General Election day approaches with all the fearful inevitability of Low Water Springs and the likelihood of four hours aground on a wet Sunday night stuck on the harbour bar.
The prospect seems to be affecting my husband, who woke up the other night from a troubled dream in which a multi-minority hung Parliament lost its nerve, gave up, and petulantly announced that from now on local clubs could run the country, and see how they liked it.
Sitting up in bed, he brooded sleepily on how it would work out (he’s a vice-commodore these days). Clearly the various clubs would have to make bids or take turns – yacht, golf, tennis, angling, athletics and (strictly amateur) football clubs. Possibly interspersed with book groups, stitch ’n’ bitch circles and Parent-Teacher mafiosi. He decided that yacht clubs would probably beat running the country: ‘golfers too shifty, anglers too humble, book groups too weird, PTAs too bossy’.
Sailing clubs, he reckoned sleepily, have a fine sense of hierarchy and a diverse set of skills. Not least because the more practical members would achieve what the Civil Service never can – a fine, independent habit of ignoring the committee’s endless deliberations, and quietly fixing stuff.
OK (I was awake by now, collaborating). Take one imaginary body: the Royal Mud Lump YC, suddenly tasked with running its bleak peninsula and surroundings. The commodore, presumably, would take on the role of Prime Minister, unless he is of the more ceremonial type, which would frankly do better as a constitutional monarch.
The treasurer and secretary would clearly be as ruthless in raising revenue as HMRC, and cheese-paringly economical (except on bunting for state occasions). Bert who looks after the dinghy park so efficiently is clearly Minister of Transport; the moorings officer and the house committee have most of the infrastructure and engineering skills you could want. They proved it when the plumbing played up and had to be heroically fixed overnight in Regatta week. And as for Education, Eric the sailing instructor has been demonstrating for years that children learn a huge amount of physics, meteorology, geometry, design-technology, and self-motivation simply by batting around in Optimists and Mirrors. They subsequently learn economics and entrepreneurship by craftily painting over the scratches and flogging their knackered boats to the next generation so they can buy an RS400. And then there’s all that Humanities and PHSE they get from Eric’s lectures on seamanlike behaviour, racing ethics, and a history curriculum based on how much better young people behaved back in his day.
The RMLYC foreign policy would perhaps be a little limited, taking an interest only in those nations with an agreeably indented coastline and reciprocal hospitality, but hostile military expeditions would be unlikely unless the destination was wildly attractive (cruising yachtsmen would have headed to the Falklands in fleets, struck a hasty peace treaty with the Argentinians over a beer in the Upland Goose, and gone off to find enticing anchorages and photograph penguins).
Domestic policing? What Home Office regime could be more rigorous than the Royal Mud Lump’s existing rules about not spending all night on the landing pontoon without permission? Perhaps capital punishment for taking the officer of the day’s reserved parking space is taking it a bit too far. But I still think (or I did at three in the morning) that they’d do better than the golf club would.
And obviously, democracy needs an opposition: who better to provide it than the RMLYC Protest Committee, locked in acrimonious permanent session?