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24th July 2024 11:51 am

“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries."

Parliamentary duplicity, some Grand National tips, and a frictionless potato peeler.

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As luck (entirely the wrong word for what transpired) would have it, I decided at about 6:30 on Wednesday night to see how the Commons was getting on with what passes for political debate these days, and have a gander at the Opposition Day SNP motion in action. It’s normally quite sporty because the SNP are always so sanctimonious and can make Jean Brodie sound like a rough, old scouser. Also, they get terribly angry in their Puritan zeal.

Given that their motion and its amendments were meaningless – Israel does not fret about what our parliament says – and the outcome was symbolic at almost every level… the ensuing political bloodbath and visceral anger was a moment in history. What I saw felt a little like the end of the political system that has seen us through the last century or more – and it had nothing to do with Gaza.

Largely for my benefit, as I am still agog, here is what I think happened.

Since he took over leadership, Starmer has had a major issue with anti-Semitism in various guises from activists and MPs in several constituencies with large Muslim populations. Regardless of whether one argues that Israel isn’t just Jewish, or that the Comorrah is all Catholic, the public perception is that the Labour Party is anti-semitic and that Starmer has been weak in dealing with it. On Tuesday, Starmer realised he has a revolt on his hands over an SNP parliamentary motion on Wednesday – calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza — three months after 56 of his Labour MPs, including 10 frontbenchers, rebelled in a similar vote. The whips told him that this potential rebellion was nearer 100.

On the Gaza-Israel question, Starmer has aligned himself in the main with Sunak, since the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7, hacking off a large number of young and pro-Muslim Labour activists (the backbone of the General Election machine) who wanted him to condemn Israel after the first wave of retaliatory attacks. Sensing a political opportunity, the Scottish National Party, who will lose seats to Labour in the general election, used its Opposition Day to have a motion which demanded an “immediate ceasefire”. With only the Government at that moment in time able to amend the motion, it would have put Labour on the back foot, as they could only vote with The Tories, with The SNP or abstain.

On Tuesday, Labour announced it had amendments to the SNP motion, and asked the Speaker to allow it, as the larger Opposition party, to be heard first. It was a motion that for the first time demanded an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire.” It was vaguely in line with the Five I partnership position, which gave the Labour motion some notional cred. However, because Starmer can’t leave well alone, he went further, and the Labour amendments also added that “Israel cannot be expected to cease fighting if Hamas continues with violence” — and omitted the phrases “collective punishment” and “slaughter” to describe Israel’s bombing of Gaza. Inevitably by Tuesday night, half of the Labour MPs thought it had too many caveats and the other half thought it was tone-deaf and wanted to vote for the SNP motion.

Overhanging the political shenanigans was the ongoing fear that MPs who are not seen to be condemning Israel, face a potentially physical threat to themselves and their families’ safety. In my mind that is a separate issue, but then I don’t have a mob baying at my door and frightening the children.

Wednesday afternoon was to be given over to the debate on the SNP’s Opposition Day motion and as I said earlier, the Conservatives had also planned to offer their own Gaza motion in amendment form. But before they could start the debate they had to finish some other business – and The Speaker was not in his Chair – just his Deputy. “Hold the Fort” asked the Labour Whips, “We have a cunning plan.”

Enter the most pompous self-righteous man on the opposition benches, Christ Bryant – who talked and talked and talked. There was the Deputy Speaker – still no Speaker – and then there was half an hour of Points of Order- still no Speaker and then, just when everyone wondered what the hell was going on, The Speaker arrived and announced that despite all advice to the contrary, and in the face of all precedence, he was going to allow Labour to put forward its amendment to the motion first, with its generally softer, yet sterner tone. The Speaker made some stiff (code for fudge) remarks about outdated procedures, but he did authorise the Clerk of the Commons, Tom Goldsmith, to place in the library the contrary legal and procedural opinion the Clerks’ Office had given him. He then left.

The decision effectively denied the SNP — seeking to exploit Labour divisions in Gaza — a chance to put their Opposition Day motion. The intervention, it was noted by many, came after a long meeting between The Speaker, Starmer and The Labour Chief Whip after PMQs.

When I joined at 6:30, The Leader of the House Penny “The Sword ” Mordaunt was just declaring that the Speaker’s intervention was wrong and that as a result, the Government benches would be taking no further part in the debate. The Speaker was still not in the Chamber, and the deeply ineffectual Deputy Dame Rosie Winterton, then faced several Points of Order including an incandescent SNP leader demanding to know where The Speaker was, and how could he be brought to The Chamber. Slapped down like an irritating child, Dame Rosie (who coincidentally announced her retirement at the next General Election exactly two years today so has no long-term concerns about employment or legacy), continued her lack of progress, at which point, many Tories and the SNP walked out of the Chamber.

There was then a call for an In Camera vote, allowing the House to turn off the TV cameras and clear the public gallery. That vote failed, the Speaker arrived, and before he had taken his seat, Dame Rosie, increasingly looking like Imelda Staunton the wicked wizard running Hogwarts, and amidst a huge din, held the votes on the Motion and its amendments, astonishingly calling the results as having no opposition, and ending any further discussions. The Speaker then took the seat, made his shamefaced apologies, left, and that was about it.

A reasonable summary might be: Parliamentary Procedures and Precedents were discarded last night because the Labour Party put enormous pressure on the Speaker – which may or may not have included a threat to his job post-election – ostensibly because MPs feel physically threatened by their constituency voters. Shorter still – Democracy is dead because MPs are frightened.

That is beyond the pale  – not least because all the solutions are draconian, censorious, or deeply corrosive.


Meanwhile, the rest of the Nation continued to fall apart in sympathy.

The other headlines, on Thursday all signalled that the week and possibly just Wednesday marked the beginning of the End of Blighty as we knew it.

  • PLANS TO EXTEND 4G SERVICE TO 95% OF UK BEHIND SCHEDULE (Not in the headline but should have been: ...Thanks to Lazy Vaizey’s time as the Minister in charge of Telecom enlargement which translated as Chief Fund Raiser for BT!)

Where is private Frasier when you need him… We’re all doomed, I tell you, doomed!


Meanwhile, in sport, the Grand National weights were announced and apparently, the field will be entirely Irish apart from two British horses and a Maltese Pit Pony who accepted the challenge providing the weights remained as is.

I rarely give antipasti (damn spellchecker) advice, but I shall give you this now. In The Grand National (William Hill and 888 are going NRNB):

How did last year’s 2nd VANILLIER [9/1 Fav ] get 10st 8lbs? Because Gavin Cromwell is a genius. GC would have settled for anything under 11st 2lbs. He’s run three times this season and I can see him winning this. Of all Fat Gordy’s probable 8+ runners, CHEMICAL ENERGY [25/1] is the wrong price and I also think that MEETINGOFTHEWATERS [33/1] will turn out to be Danny Mullins’ ride. The latest prices are in brackets.


The Gambling Commission has announced the details of its Pilot Scheme to bring the racing industry to its knees, and drive punters into the arms of the illegal and/or offshore gambling trade:

At the lower level, customers would be subject to checks at a net spend of just £125 over 30 days or £500 in a year, focusing on publicly available data. This tier of checks will not require bookmakers to consider a customer’s details such as postcode or job title.

A Civil Servant who probably works from home and wants to work four days a week for the same money and a better pension said:

“To ease the introduction of these checks they will initially come into force at a higher threshold for a short period, before reverting to a lower threshold later in the year to smooth implementation for consumers.”

The second tier of ‘financial risk’ assessments will be initiated if a customer runs up a net loss of £1,000 in 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days, and would entail more detailed checks of a customer’s finances.

The government has promised such checks would be frictionless, although at present no frictionless method of finding such information is available – but what everyone keeps failing to mention – is that any “frictionless” enquiry will automatically register on your credit reference agency score and could impact mortgages, loans and even job applications.

The Civil Servant who must have been on response autopilot, said checks would be frictionless…

“…for the vast majority of customers who undergo them… it will enable us to test the details of data-sharing in practice, working with credit reference agencies and gambling businesses.”

The ground will be very hard work at Newcastle I suggest, described officially as Heavy Sot on places- but with a drying breeze to make it properly claggy. Kempton will be Soft Heavy in places.

1:15 KEMPTON Coral Racing Club Hcap Hdl Cl3 (4yo+ 0-140) 2m5f 15 run

SEA INVASION cost £110k and has shown promise – running well against superior horses including a 5¼l 3rd to Supreme hopeful Jeriko Du Reponet at Newbury in December and again under Bryony Frost over 2m hers 2 months ago. This step up in distance will certainly help and his handicap mark is patently lenient. Chris Gordon is in hot form at the moment 3/9 in the last fortnight. He is however very short for such a tricky handicap, and I fancy SAMUEL SPADE to do much better than his LTO result suggests.

SEA INVASION 4 pts Win – SAMUEL SPADE 2 pts e/w

1:50 KEMPTON Coral Adonis Juvenile Hdl (G2) Cl1 (4yo) 2m 6 run

SWIFT HAWK doesn’t go and on reputation, KALIF DE BERLAIS appears better than the rest and the odds-on price seems correct. But… what’s he beaten? His Novice at Kempton where his RPR was 126+ had him 9¼l ahead of a 105 and a 102 who have improved to 113 and 105+. Not heady stuff by any means. The same could be said for GIVEMEFIVE who won by 18l LTO against some ordinary horse and the subsequent form lines of his debut hurdle looks like someone fell in a bowl of spaghetti soup there are so many letters. Then there’s Gary Moore’s PEKING OPERA who was with AOB and was 4th in last year’s Irish Derby! He’s got black type, won well on debut LTO travelling strongly and coming away in the last 150 yards. OK, he was getting a stone-plus, but he’s a decent each-way shout.

PEKING OPERA 2 pts e/w

2:08 NEWCASTLE Betting.Bet Eider Hcap Chase Cl2 (5yo+) 4m1½f 13 run

This will be as tough as it gets – 4m+ on this ground will be a real stretch. SIDI ISMAEL is out and based on all the trends I have it down to CHRISTOPHER WOOD and ANGLERS CRAG, the 4/1 favourite. The latter is on a four-timer and is 126 up from 106 at the beginning of this season.  For most of the previous season, he was running between 115 and 109 – but his victories have only come on GS ground and with a rating of 115 or less. He’s going to need to find some further improvement to take this and I believe the ground is wrong for him. Last year’s runner-up returns but I think has too big a burden although THE GALLOPING BEAR does get a handy 5lbs taken off by Joe Anderson. The improving FENLAND TIGER has a decent chance if he stays this marathon trip. However, the more obvious choice is Venetia’s CHRISTOPHER WOOD, who is a sensible e/w price. OK, he is not the horse he was under Paul Nicholls, when he was a 150-rated Hurdler, and his chasing career hasn’t caught too many eyes  – except mine when he was a respectable 5l 3rd on his seasonal debut and he came home steadily (plodded would be too strong a word) in the Musselburgh National. But hey its Venetia!


2:27 KEMPTON Coral Pendil Novices’ Chase (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f 6 run

I have this between LE PATRON and TAHMURAS. The former is 3/4 this season and won The G1 Henry VIII and was 4th LTO in the Scilly Isles which was run at a stupid pace, on unsuitably good ground, and where he suffered some small interference during the race. TAHMURAS has a very similar profile to Nicholls other winners of this race he regularly harvests.

LE PATRON and TAHMURAS 8 pt Dutch ¼ pt RFC

2:45 SOUTHWELL (AW) BetUK Hever Sprint Stakes Cl1 (4yo+) 5f 11 run

HIYA MAITE is now a non-runner and CLARENDON HOUSE looks the one to beat. He will take DILIGENT HARRY on early and will do him for toe. For an each-way chance, I fancy David O’Meara’s ABERAMA GOLD who I’m trusting can repeat some of last year’s form, is here because he is primed by the maestro and that he is race fit.

ABERAMA GOLD 3 pts e/w ½ pt RFC with the Fav.

3:00 KEMPTON Coral Dovecote Novices’ Hdl (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m 7 run

Three of these have form lines through Hendo’s G2 winner Jeriko Du Reponet, with all three coming to within 2l off level weights. The best of those I think is…


3:20 SOUTHWELL (AW) BetUK Winter Derby Stakes (G3) Cl1 (4yo+) 1m3f 6 run

EYDON 4 pts win

3:37 KEMPTON Coral Trophy Hcap Chase Cl1 (5yo+) 3m 12 run

Anthony Honeyball has three in the field here, and of the three SAM BROWN’s price is the most attractive. On the trends, I have IL RIDOTO, TWEED SKIRT and FORWARD PLAN, the latter another Honeyball runner. I could also make a case for at least three others.

FORWARD PLAN 4 pts Win – SAM  BROWN 3 pts e/w –  6 x ¼ pt CFC Honeyball’s runners.




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