My brother is leader of a Scout troop – and I’ll hear none of your puerile jokes. We should none of us feel anything but gratitude and admiration for the magnificent, selfless work he and the 60,000 or so adult volunteers around Britain do to make the Scout Association one of the few success stories in our wheezing, overweight, broken nation.
The figures speak for themselves. This week, the Scout Association of Britain has announced its biggest surge in membership – a 3.5 per cent year-on-year rise – in four decades. Since January last year it has welcomed 16,500 new recruits, taking membership to nearly 500,000. Not bad for a youth organisation which still upholds such near-forgotten values as duty, selflessness, discipline and loyalty to the monarch; and which still demands of the iPod generation that they should regularly do weird, wholly unfamiliar things like wear uniforms, go on long walks, survive without TV and use knives without actually trying to kill someone.
So just why is Scouting so popular?