Long Live Boaty McBoatface!

Posted on 18 Oct 2016 by Anna Scott
To say 2016 has been littered with controversial election results would be an understatement, and the year isn’t over yet (more’s the pity). But there was one particular result that caused widespread public outrage – no, we’re not talking about THAT vote, but rather the one that should have given us a national research vessel called Boaty McBoatface, but, unbelievably, didn’t.

So before we drown our sorrows with Organic Wine Club promo codes, or stuff our faces using Thorntons discount codes, let’s take a look at how can such a decision was allowed to happen and whether we should we just sit back and accept this…


Never Trust the Public With a National Poll

NERC Boaty McBoatfaceYou ask the public for an opinion, then you’re going to get an opinion. The lesson authorities, in this case the National Environment Research Council, should take away is ‘be very careful how you phrase your question’. Not only did they ask the public for suggestions, but they let them vote without vetting them first. Big mistake. Huge. Don’t they ever go on social media? And you can hardly blame us for seeing an opportunity and running with it – laughs have been a bit thin on the ground so far this year, unless you count the odd online shopping spree to cheer ourselves up (always made a bit more affordable with Marks and Spencer discount vouchers).


Avoiding a PR Disaster

There was a get-out clause. Of course there was a get-out clause. And even if there wasn’t one when they first set up the poll, you can bet that they were thinking of one as soon as the words ‘Boaty McBoatface’ first floated across their screens. But was invoking this clause really that straightforward? Boaty McBoatface had given the National Environmental Research Council a huge amount of press coverage, something that doesn’t come along every day. Ignore the will of the public at their peril and they could have ended up with a PR disaster on their hands. There was only one thing for it. They had to find a solution to satisfy even the most ardent of Boaty McBoatface supporters…


Everyone Loves Sir David Attenborough

Sir David AttenboroughPerhaps the only person in the entire nation who no one objects to, if you’re going to avoid further public outcry, why not play the Attenborough card? And he didn’t even come second in the poll! But that doesn’t matter because if you’re going to ignore an entire poll that you set up, do it in style. They picked the only solution that could defuse the situation, so bravo National Environmental Research Council, bravo.


Long Live Boaty McBoatface

But this isn’t to say that Boaty McBoatface has been completely forgotten. The will of the British public lives on with the announcement that one of submarines on board The RRS Sir David Attenborough will bear the name. So, PR disaster avoided with the help of a much-loved national figure, some acknowledgement of the poll result after all and still lots of publicity for the boat and its mission – we think it’s fair to say that we can just about accept this state of affairs.


Lessons Going Forward

By some miracle, completely disregarding the result of an openly publicised poll actually turned out alright in the end, but it’s fair to argue that Sir David Attenborough can’t come to the rescue for every single allegation of rigged public votes in the future. So next time The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing or The Great British Bake Off face their own rigging controversies and dodgy shenanigans (inevitable at some point in every series), they’re just going to have to find their own versions of elderly national treasures to bail them out. This might work in the case of Mary Berry, but we’re not sure Simon Cowell quite fits the bill…

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