Win, lose or draw, today was set to be a healthy day for British democracy. Until this: Boaty McBoatface is no more. Oh buoy.
Back in March, when the Natural Environment Research Council invited people to suggest names for their new £200m polar-research ship, this name shot to the top of the polls. Its success quickly kicked up a media storm, with commentators liking and loathing the prospect in equal measure: an irreverant symbol of national pride, said some; an embarrassment, said others. Much like Boris Johnson then.
Except, unlike Boris, McBoatface has been stripped of its democratic credentials. Science Minister Jo Johnson today announced that the results will be overruled, despite Boaty McBoatface winning four times more votes than its nearest competitor in the online poll. Instead the vessel is to be named “RRS Sir David Attenborough”, in honour of the broadcaster and naturalist.
The government has yet to decide whether the whole exercise has been a “triumph of public engagement, or a PR disaster”. Your mole thinks it’s a-boat time they made up their minds.
Democracy is alive and well, however, in St Ives. On Thursday, the Cornish town (otherwise known as “Kensington-on-sea”) held a referendum on whether or not to ban new second homes. In bad news for wealthy Londoners, more than 80 per cent of voters supported the plan. If the decision is upheld, it means that new builds will be reserved for full-time residents. As yet another sign that the British housing market is out of control, the government must be thankful that today’s media eyes are largely elsewhere.
A more chilling revelation that the elections nearly concealed from this mole’s senstitive snout is this morning’s quiet release of an impact assessment on the UK’s capacity market.
In order to prevent blackouts in the winter of 2017-18, the government plans to subsidise old power plants that would otherwise be at risk of shutting down. The Telegraph calculates that such subsidies could cost households up to £38 on their annual energy bills.
The government argues that blackouts would cause bills to spike, bringing the net cost of the levy down to £21. But Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow energy secretary responded: “The Tories are trying to bury this bad news. Every family’s energy bill is to shoot up to pay for these gross new handouts to the big energy companies.”