Who’s the favourite?

By Nilfanion (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Nilfanion (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Two weeks tomorrow the Cheltenham Festival starts and the big race on Day 1 is the Champion Hurdle. There are many multiple winners of this race and Hurricane Fly tries to win the race for the third time (following 2011 and 2013).  His main rival may be The New One who (appropriately enough) is having his first attempt at this race.  Hurricane Fly has proved almost unbeatable in bog-like conditions in his native Ireland – winning the Irish Champion Hurdle in each of the last four years.

The going looks like it will be on the Irish side of soft for Cheltenham. More on this nearer the time.

The Environment Agency has faced some heavy going recently.  It was briefly in a bit of a Pickles.


Applications for the post of Chair of EA have now closed. We don’t know the runners – but we do have some information on the recent form.

Previous winners have been (in descending order including at the end the Chairman of the predecessor body that fulfilled the same statutory flood defence functions – the National Rivers Authority):

  •  Chris Smith, Lord Smith of Finsbury (life peer), former cabinet minister in the Blair ‘Labour’ Government
  •  John Harman, Sir John Harman, former leader of Kirklees Council and Labour Party member
  • Photo: Christian Lylloff via wikimedia commons
    Photo: Christian Lylloff via wikimedia commons

    John Fellowes,  Lord de Ramsey (hereditary peer), Cambridgeshire landowner, former President of the CLA, sat on the Tory benches when in the House of Lords

  •  Nicholas Edwards, Lord Crickhowell (life peer), former cabinet minister in the Thatcher Government

So the form might suggest a former Tory minister and/or a country landowner.

One of the past practices has been to place the next Chairman on to the Board to gain some experience before being promoted to the top job.  So who are the current Board members?  They are:

Robert Light (Deputy Chairman)
Peter Ainsworth
Karen Burrows
Dr Clive Elphick
Emma Howard Boyd
Richard Leafe
Richard Macdonald
John Varley
Jeremy Walker

Photo: Tony Grist via wikimedia commons
Photo: Tony Grist via wikimedia commons

Note the preponderance of stallions and colts (we have no reason to believe that they are geldings – although that would be government’s preferred state) even though this race is open to fillies and mares too.

How would you price up the market? Here’s a go – though I am not taking bets on this race.

A non Board-member, male 15/8

Robert Light  9/4

Karen Burrows, Richard Macdonald  11/2

A non Board-member, female,  10/1

Peter Ainsworth, John Varley 12/1

Bar  20/1


Where is the clever money going, I wonder? Anne McIntosh or Tim Yeo?


9 Replies to “Who’s the favourite?”

  1. An over-round of 126% ? You’d have made a good bookmaker Mark, I can just picture ‘Honest Mark’ in his sheepskin coat and fedora hat pitched between Barry Dennis and Freddie Williams.

    However despite your stingy over-round I think you may be offering some value in Richard Macdonald at 11/2. The Macdonald Report was well received by the farming industry, a colleague of mine described some of the recommendations in the report as “dragging nutrient management planning back into the dark ages”, I don’t think he was too far wide of the mark. In the eyes of Sir Les, this probably makes him a very strong candidate.

    At 9/4 I would certainly lay Robert Light, I don’t know much about him or his credentials, they may well be excellent. But given the widespread criticism of the EA from our nation of armchair hydrologists, I think being vice-Chairman of the EA during the last 12-months could be a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s probably a tad unlucky in that respect.

    1. Ernest – yes indeed! You know your stuff. I did consider the over-round was quite generous to me but actually this would be a contest that I suspect real bookmakers would flee from – very tricky to assess.

      I thought that the odds on Robert Light were perhaps on the generous side but then went through the same thinking that you have described. And that was why I made a male non-Board member the favourite.

      It was clearly just a bit of fun, and you have taken it in that way, but it was also quite an interesting exercise for one who is accustomed to being on the other side of the odds!

  2. On the basis that they will need one soon, lawyer Karen Burrows seems a good choice. Several of the others are appropriately qualified, which rules them out.

    Otherwise, my money is on Graham Norton

    1. I think there are too many non-environmentalists in charge of environmental organisations already. Lawyers, accountants etc. but following your idea, how about michael parkinson. He seems to know a lot of people. NE are suffering from lack of environmental knowledge at the top. Perhaps this is the reason for so much criticism from the public and the possibility of NE being removed or replaced, by higher sources? To follow your example Filbert maybe more comedians should be appointed to top positions? Any suggestions?

        1. How about bringing Baroness Young of Old Scone out of comedic retirement – she’s got previous and would certainly go down a storm with the local and soggy inhabitants as she merrily set about dynamiting pumping stations in flood prone areas whilst warbling ‘….just add water….’

  3. Bit of an outside chance – but Richard Leafe would be good. Ex-EN (passion for wildlife and the environment and would know an independant advisor to Government if he fell over one, unlikely though that might be in the current climate) and a coastal geomorphologist so some relevant expertise….. All in all – not surprising that he didn’t make your list of runners and riders.

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