Democracy: Taking On Water

Today I read an item in The Atlantic about an amusing story from the UK. Apparently Her Majesty’s Government has commissioned, at great expense, a state-of-the-art climate-research ship. The vessel needed a name, and so the public was asked to provide one. They did. The winner of the poll, by a large margin, was “Boaty McBoatface”.

This did not sit well with the Science Minister, Jo Johnson. (What is is with these Cabinet-level Johnsons, by the way? They’ve got ‘Jo’, and we’ve got ‘Jeh‘.) Mr. Johnson has announced that given “the serious nature” of ship’s mission, to wit, to “address global challenges that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people, including global warming, the melting of polar ice, and rising sea levels”, the people’s choice is simply unacceptable.

This, in turn, has not sat well with the demos — who would like to know just who, if their collective will is to be so summarily ignored by some snooty toff named Jo, is supposed to be the sovereign around here anyway? From this little spat, it seems, has arisen a “national conversation” on the nature of Democracy, and more than a few people are starting to get the idea that the whole thing might not be everything it’s cracked up to be. (Which, of course, it isn’t.) The fancy red ship is turning out to be a big red pill.

Reaction is in the air, people. Suddenly it’s everywhere you look.

Related content from Sphere


  1. Whitewall says

    When the little people begin to see and ask questions, democracy can be up for grabs or worse.

    Posted April 27, 2016 at 8:03 am | Permalink
  2. Bill says

    I’d rather see reaction than acquiescence.

    Posted April 27, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink
  3. JK says

    I’m gonna port with Jo on this one; Boaty McBoatface is a silly name for a ship.

    Dunno I, as an American, would get a vote for any HMS vessel but if I did I think I could get behind something like Akademik Shokalskiy II.

    Maybe put her (the ship – not Jo) under the command of say, an Australian. Come to think of it further too, I’d maybe also suggest changing the M (in the HMS part) to align with the public sentiment and go along with the “McBoat” part.

    That’d be a nod to the Scots. Maybe put the scientific part of the crew under the command appropriately.

    You’re of Scots descent are you not Malcolm? And, you’re wanting time for other than this blogging lark?

    Posted April 27, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink
  4. JK says

    Incidentally (oh and off-topic but) its about proper spelling.

    Is it Cleveland or Cleave-Land?

    Posted April 27, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink
  5. JK,

    It’s “cleaveland steamroller”.

    Posted April 27, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink
  6. pangur says

    To be fair, the people of England are so degraded that it’s hard to imagine them being sober enough to vote.

    Posted April 27, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink
  7. antiquarian says

    This kind of thing has been the subject of considerable recent discussion. I just read a very worthwhile book on modern democracy, its warts, and the increasing challenges (particularly from Asia) to the idea that it’s the “end of history”:

    Posted May 10, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink