I notice that policies and measures invariably come on rafts nowadays; ‘a raft of new measures’.  This is alarming because I have always considered rafts to be inadequate things, prone to falling apart and becoming water logged.

Years ago I was heavily involved with an Outward Bound course at Eskdale, up in the Lake District. (I realise that the Lake District might not be ‘up’ for you, but down here, in the south east, it is definitely up. The homeward journey always takes less time because, of course, it is down.) One of the many team exercises we used set ICI graduates during a week of challenges was to build a raft.

This was a teamwork task designed to test the graduates’ ability to cooperate under time pressure whist constructing a raft from a miscellaneous mixture of ropes, lengths of timber and oil drums. The teams would have to test the sea worthiness of their rafts by racing them across an inhospitable tarn. So long as you weren’t on board a raft (I politely declined invitations explaining that I was supposed to be observing the process, not participating), this was hilarious. Most rafts would either immediately capsize or rapidly become submerged with the weight of the team. Those that survived these initial hazards, would slowly disintegrate as they were paddled out into the tarn, with inadequate knots unravelling allowing oil drums to float off independently, oblivious of their essential contribution to collective buoyancy.

And I fondly remember another raft, way back in time when I was a teenager, built with friends out of various bits and pieces; an old hip bath stabilised, or so we thought, with a platform of planks. The day came to launch our craft on the Thames at Port Meadow, in Oxford. We clambered aboard and pushed off, only to have to abandon ship a few yards from the shore.

So, in my experience, rafts are not at all suitable for launching important things like policies and measures. They require something far more robust if they are to survive the choppy waters of voter’s scepticism, not to mention, Parliamentary scrutiny.

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