Playing the name game

THE GREAT British public were asked by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to vote on the naming of their new polar research ship. As the polls closed, the NERC, which distributes public money for research, was forced to reveal that the votes cast were overwhelmingly in favour of RRS Boaty McBoatface.

The suggestion, which sent the competition viral last month, received just over 124,000 votes – almost four times as many as the second placed Poppy-Mai – the name of a 16-month-old girl with incurable cancer. The name Boaty McBoatface, which sounds just like something out of Trumpton, was put forward by a former BBC radio presenter James Hand, who later expressed utter surprise at the furore the proposed name had caused.

The chief executive of the NERC, Duncan Wingham, who will make the final decision, now faces a big dilemma. Does he go with public opinion and move away from previous royal research ships named after the likes of arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton and naval officer James Clark Ross?

He must. Seeking the public’s views and then ignoring such a thumping majority is not an option. But I’m sure he’ll be thinking carefully before involving us again.

At least it’s better than reading the dreary day-to-day scaremongering (whichever side you are on) attached to the EU referendum. We’ll all be glad when June 23 – not to mention the local elections in May – are behind us so the media can move smoothly and swiftly into the ‘silly season’. Thank you Boaty McBoatface for a bit of early light relief.

I WAS sitting here this time last week reflecting on the fact that the Tories were up to their necks in the brown stuff and thinking that it couldn’t get any worse – when up pops Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale. He had been “unknowingly” dating a dominatrix, who he met on the dating site.

The 56-year-old divorced father-of-two admitted he had a relationship with her but insists he had no idea of her day job and says he broke it off immediately he found out. The Tory MP for Maldon said he did not know the woman, who lived locally to him and was a similar age (really?) was a sex worker and he broke off the relationship as somebody tried to sell the story to the press.

The problem was that, although it was before Whittingdale became a minister last May, he was the chairman of the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport select committee at the time and was in an influential position in relation to press regulation. When the story was ‘out there’ The People, The Mail on Sunday, The Sun and the Independent on Sunday, who it is believed discovered the story, all decided not to carry it.

They’ve been left with as many questions to answer as the embarrassed Minister.

He should have stood down and moved on even before the latest episode of the story emerged. He has now admitted that he accepted free hospitality from a London lap-dancing club while chairing an inquiry into its licensing regime. Mr Whittingdale and two other MPs were treated to dinner with managers and two female performers. He insisted it was an official visit as part of an inquiry by his committee into new laws cracking down on the clubs.

Is this bloke for real? Did he really think this freebie wouldn’t get out after the initial story broke. Perhaps there will be more to come. Perhaps he should tell us all now – and get on with writing that resignation letter.


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Kevan Blackadder

Written by Kevan Blackadder

Kevan Blackadder is a media consultant who runs Blackadder Media Limited. Kevan was previously editor of the Gloucestershire Echo and assistant editor of the Bristol Post. A Cumbrian who moved to the South West “for a couple of years” in the 1980s, he can’t quite believe he’s been there ever since.

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