Reading Conservatives have announced the second tranche of their candidates for the 22 May local elections with the Vice-Chair and Co-Chair of the Pakistan Community Centre both standing in Park ward.
Conservative Group Leader Cllr Jeanette Skeats said, “I am delighted to be announcing the Conservative candidates for the remaining wards in Reading. I am especially pleased that two Pakistani community leaders have agreed to stand for us in Park ward. We now have a good slate with a variety of new candidates and some returning to stand again, demonstrating once again that the Conservatives are the party for all people and all communities in the Borough”
Mohammad Basharat (left)has been selected to contest Park ward. Mohammad came to the UK in 1975 and attended Katesgrove Primary School and Alfred Sutton School. Mohammad is the Vice-Chairman of the Pakistan Community Centre in Park ward and he has ensured that the centre is open to people of all faiths and beliefs. Mohammad has worked as an electronics engineer and a taxi driver and now owns a local taxi business. He lives in the ward with his family.
Shanaz Akhtar (right) has been selected to contest the Park ward by-election. Shanaz is the co-Chair of the Pakistan Community Centre and is already heavily involved in community activities, running a Muslim ladies group and having her own programme on a community radio station. She attended Alfred Sutton School and now lives in the ward with her two daughters. Shanaz is keen to bring her experience and local connections to represent local people on the Council.
Katie Black (left) has been selected for Minster ward. Katie who lives locally in Reading, has been a marketing manager, supporting young adults with learning disabilities in the workplace, and a small business owner. Katie now works in people development for a large telecommunications company. In her spare time she volunteers to mentor underachieving students.
Ellis Wiggins (right) has been selected to contest Southcote ward. Ellis, who lives locally in Tilehurst, previously volunteered in a British Red Cross charity shop, and his work experience includes being a deliverer and volunteer with Oxford City Council. He currently works part-time as a caseworker for Alok Sharma MP, helping local residents with their problems. At university, Ellis was part of a successful campaign to lengthen opening hours of bars used by students and members of the local community. He also acted as a representative for students to raise issues and complaints with academic staff.
Laurence Taylor (left) has been selected to contest Abbey ward. Laurence has lived locally in Reading for the last ten years, and is married to Amandeep with two young daughters. For the last three years he has volunteered as Chairman of Reading Young Enterprise, working with eleven schools to help students start-up and run their own businesses. He is also a keen fundraiser, most recently sleeping out in Eldon Square to raise money for Action for Children. Laurence is passionate about the Royal Berks hospital, and wants all families to experience the same standard of excellent care his twin daughters received when they were born there prematurely 18 months ago.
Mother of two Clare Vose (right), who lives locally in the Dee Park estate, is the Conservative Council candidate in Norcot ward for the 2014 local elections. Clare is Norcot through and through having lived, gone to school and worked locally here all her life. A local campaigner who is passionate about improving the local area for everyone, Clare has chaired the Dee Park Residents’ Association for the past three years. In 2013 DPRA organised two coach trips to the seaside for the local residents. Clare is a Family Worker at English Martyrs and St Michael’s primary schools. Previously, Clare supervised the Breakfast Club and After School Club set up for local children by Ranikhet Extended Services.
Emma Warman (left) has been selected to contest Katesgrove ward. Emma first moved to Reading from Wales almost 20 years ago to study history at Reading University. She later lived in London for a few years whilst studying to become a barrister. Emma has been involved in local politics for almost as long and first stood as a candidate for Minster ward in 1999. As a former Reading Borough Councillor (Kentwood ward 2008-2012), Emma is experienced in representing the interests of local people on the Council. Like many other Reading residents, Emma commutes by train and tube to the City of London, where she now works as a Compliance Officer for a large multi-national insurance broker.
Nick Brown has been selected to contest Whitley ward in which he has lived for 23 years. Nick works locally in a Reading based technology-based manufacturer which has a worldwide customer base. Nick’s experience in the field of purchasing would lend itself ideally to getting value for money out of our Council Tax contributions and he would work to ensure it is spent wisely in the right places for those that need it.
There is a new Populus online poll out today which shows Labour’s lead over the Conservatives at just 2%:
Conservative 33% (down 1%)
Labour 35% (no change)
Lib Dem 11% (no change)
UKIP 13% (up 1%)
This poll suggests that Labour is barely maintaining a lead over the Conservatives despite all the bad news for the Government over Maria Miller’s expenses. This week will see more economic good news and it will be interesting to see how the polls look over the Easter weekend.
Populus interviewed a random sample of 2,011 adults online between 11th-13th April 2014. Interviews were conducted across Great Britain and the results have been weighted to be representative of all British adults. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
There is a new ICM poll in the Guardian tomorrow showing Labour’s lead in Westminster voting intentions edging up to 5% while the Lib Dems remain ahead of UKIP for the second month in a row:
Conservative 32% (down 3%)
Labour 37% (down 1%)
Lib Dem 12% (no change)
UKIP 11% (up 2%)
Despite all the coverage of Maria Miller’s expenses and her consequent resignation Labour can still only manage a 5% lead in the most reliable pollster’s findings.
ICM also has a European Election poll which has UKIP in third place. It finds Labour ahead with 36% (+1%), Cons 25% (NC), UKIP 20% (NC), LD 6% (-3%), Green 6% (-1%).
ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 11-13 April 2014. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.
This year’s season of Britain’s Got Talent got off to a flying start tonight with some fantastic acts. The two that impressed me the most were:
Roll on next week!
There is a new Populus online poll out today which shows Labour’s lead over the Conservatives down to just 1%:
Conservative 34% (no change)
Labour 35% (down 2%)
Lib Dem 11% (up 2%)
UKIP 12% (down 2%)
This poll suggests that the narrowing we saw following the Budget was no short-lived bounce. The biggest lead Labour has managed in the last week has been 6% and we have the monthly ICM poll to come in the next few days.
Populus interviewed a random sample of 2,051 adults online between 9th-10th April 2014. Interviews were conducted across Great Britain and the results have been weighted to be representative of all British adults. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
There is a new Populus online poll out today which shows Labour’s lead over the Conservatives down to 3%:
Conservative 34% (up 1%)
Labour 37% (no change)
Lib Dem 9% (down 1%)
UKIP 14% (up 1%)
After a spate of polls with Labour’s lead slashed to a mere 1% we have seen most polls in the last week showing some improvement in Labour’s position. However, the furthest ahead Labour has managed is 7% in one poll. The average lead is currently just 3-5%.
Populus interviewed a random sample of 2,034 adults online between 4th-6th April 2014. Interviews were conducted across Great Britain and the results have been weighted to be representative of all British adults. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
Today has come the news that Cllr Melanie Eastwood has resigned from Reading Borough Council causing a by-election which will take place on the same day as the other local elections – 22 May. Melanie was elected as the second Green Party Councillor in Park ward in 2011 and quickly earned a reputation as a friendly and decent ward champion. However, she clearly grew impatient with the style of debate coming from the Labour benches and the way that the ruling Labour group was able to stitch up some decisions. Melanie stood her ground and often gave as good as she got from Labour.
I have always got on well with Melanie who is far less ideological than her Green Party Park ward colleague Cllr Rob White, who was rumoured to be reluctant to share the limelight he had earned in the long campaign he fought to win the ward from Labour. I served with Melanie on the Planning Committee and always respected her willingness to stand up for what she believed to be right for her residents and for Reading.
I contacted Melanie this evening and she said, “I am heartened by how kind opposing members have been. I have enjoyed my time as a Councillor and have met many decent and hard working people across all parties including the Conservatives. It is with regret that my own circumstances have meant I can no longer continue with the level of commitment [being] a Councillor demands.”
With two vacancies in Park ward on 22 May Labour will no doubt throw the kitchen sink at regaining both seats. They have always resented losing what they consider to be one of their heartland wards in the town centre. They will not have it all their own way as will be seen when the Conservatives announce our candidates!
Conservatives on Reading Borough Council have re-stated their long-standing call for Crossrail to terminate in Reading rather than Maidenhead. Plans published by the last Labour Government saw the new cross-London service terminate in Maidenhead rather than Reading. Thanks to the efforts of Reading East MP Rob Wilson and former Reading West MP Martin Salter, the route was protected to Reading, which could allow a change of mind to extend the service to the town.
Local Conservatives have continued the pressure to reverse Labour’s decision to terminate at Maidenhead. Conservative Councillors have lobbied Rob Wilson MP who has had numerous meetings with Ministers to press for a faster Crossrail service from Reading to Paddington at peak hours and to ensure the necessary additional investment for a premium service.
Conservative Transport Spokesman Cllr Richard Willis said, “It is time to reverse Labour’s decision to terminate Crossrail at Maidenhead. It makes no sense to have a newly improved Reading Station and not to connect this new service to one of the busiest stations in the country. I understand that a decision will be announced very shortly that Crossrail is to come to Reading.”
Rob Wilson MP said, “I have fought for years to see Reading protected as the eventual end point for Crossrail. However it is important that it is a service that enhances existing services into London even if it takes a few years. I have met with Conservative Ministers in recent weeks and am very much looking forward to the outcome of those discussions.”
UPDATE: Rob Wilson MP’s statement of 27 March follows:
The Reading East MP has welcomed the Government’s announcement today that Crossrail will extend to Reading, after initial plans for the service to run only as far as Maidenhead. However, Wilson, who was instrumental in keeping the option for a Reading terminus open, said today’s announcement was only the first of a 2-stage process in delivering the full benefits of Crossrail for Reading and the wider economic area.
According to the original plans of Labour governments under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, under which the Crossrail scheme was launched, services would only have run as far as Maidenhead to the west of London. Following today’s announcement, they will now run as far as Reading, replacing a planned shuttle train service between Reading and Slough. Transport Minister Stephen Hammond MP said today that the extension of Crossrail to Reading is only possible as a result of the efforts of Wilson and others, who had been “closely involved” in lobbying “over many years” for Crossrail to have its western terminus at Reading, that persuaded the previous Government to safeguard the route needed for Crossrail’s extension.
In phase 1, which opens in 2019, Crossrail will not offer faster journey times between Reading and London. It is currently envisaged that Crossrail trains from Reading will take 50 minutes to reach London Paddington, around the same times as the slow, “stopper” services, and far slower than the approx 25 minute fast Intercity services that run frequently between Reading Station and London Paddington. In addition, Crossrail trains will lack many of the facilities, such as toilets and catering facilities, offered by the existing rail services. While giving a huge welcome to today’s announcement, Wilson said that it couldn’t be seen as the end of the process of extending Crossrail to Reading, and that as Minister’s accepted a “Stage 2” was needed to maximise the benefits for Reading and the Thames Valley.
In response, Transport Minister Stephen Hammond confirmed in a letter today that the Department for Transport will now order a detailed study of the benefits and costs of constructing additional loop facilities to enable faster Crossrail trains between Reading and Paddington. The findings of the study will be published alongside Network Rail’s draft priorities for rail routes in the west of Britain in October 2014. The Transport Minister acknowledged that Wilson had already made a “strong and powerful” case for improved Crossrail services between Reading and London via such additional loop facilities.
Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: “Crossrail reaching Reading is further proof of our commitment to deliver a transport network fit for the 21st century. It will improve connectivity and deliver greater choice and convenience for passengers travelling into London. It will also make better use of the already congested Great Western Main Line, freeing up capacity for further improvements including potential direct services from Reading to Heathrow as part of the Western Access Scheme. In addition I have requested Network Rail to look as the cost benefit analysis of increasing the number of faster trains between Reading and Paddington.”
Reading East MP Rob Wilson said: “I welcome that the Government has finally confirmed that Crossrail will come to Reading. As Reading East’s MP I have fought hard to keep this option open. After the last Labour government decided that Crossrail would only go as far as Maidenhead, I (along with others) was able to persuade them to safeguard the route on which to build a possible extension. This has made today’s announcement possible.
“However, this can only be seen as “Stage 1” in the process of delivering Crossrail for Reading. This first phase will not reap the full benefits that Crossrail can and should bring to benefit people and businesses in Reading and the wider region. Because there will be so many stops between here and London, journey times to London will be no faster than they are now.
“With a bit of foresight and planning, Crossrail can and should offer a direct link between Reading and central London, the City and Canary Wharf at competitive speeds, offering greater convenience and choice to Reading’s businesses, commuters and residents. As a result of a lack of forward thinking about Reading’s needs by the Labour Government and civil servants, this opportunity risked being lost. That is why we need a “Stage 2” to make sure that the benefits of Crossrail are fully realised for people in Reading and the Thames Valley.
“I am therefore pleased that the rail minister has announced that the infrastructure improvements needed to deliver a more rapid and direct Crossrail service with fewer stops and faster journey times will be fully analysed as part of the next investment review. The relevant infrastructure could be put in place as soon as 2020/21, just two years after Crossrail services to Reading start. If places like Watford can have fast and semi-fast services on their metro trains into London, there is no reason why Reading can’t have the same.
“I have had to lobby extremely hard behind the scenes to get the Government to commit to Stage 2 of the extension of Crossrail to Reading and the full benefits it will bring, in contrast to others who have sat on their hands and were happy to take whatever they were given. Unlike them, I won’t accept second-best for Reading.”
There is a new Populus online poll out today which also shows Labour’s lead over the Conservatives down to just 1%:
Conservative 34% (no change)
Labour 35% (down 3%)
Lib Dem 10% (up 1%)
UKIP 13% (up 1%)
All recent polls have shown Labour’s lead falling and this is the third poll in so many days which has Labour’s lead at just 1%. With suggestions of unrest on Labour’s backbenches it will be interesting to see the reaction when the first poll has the Conservatives ahead!
Populus interviewed a random sample of 2,039 adults online between 21st-23rd March 2014. Interviews were conducted across Great Britain and the results have been weighted to be representative of all British adults. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
There is a new YouGov poll in today’s Sunday Times showing Labour’s lead almost vanishing. Post Budget it is now just 1%:
Conservative 36% (up 1%)
Labour 37% (no change)
Lib Dem 9% (no change)
UKIP 11% (down 1%)
This poll is almost identical to the Mail on Sunday Survation poll which has the Conservatives on 35% and Labour on 36%.
33% now approve of the Government’s record with 52% disapproving, giving a net -19%. The best rating for some time.
On the leaders ratings David Cameron is on -9% (up from -14% a week ago), Ed Miliband on -31% (up from -32%), and Nick Clegg on -44% (up from -53%). Chancellor George Osborne has seen his rating improve to -6% from -33% since April 2013.
The poll above is compared with the YouGov poll I reported on 12 March.
I have been sent some interesting insights into the developing Labour leadership contest from a Reading Borough Councillor who prefers to remain anonymous. I have taken their own assessments and added a few of my own:
Rumours are rife in the Council chamber and in the local press that all is not well within the Reading Labour Group. Moves are reportedly afoot within the Labour Group to depose their leader Cllr Jo Lovelock this May after a number of years at the helm.
Whether Labour’s falling poll position nationally is starting to give local Labour Councillors and candidates the jitters remains to be seen.
Cllr Rachel Eden is reported to have thrown her hat into the ring, being forced to respond to rumours in “GetReading” on Friday 21st March, relying upon a rather bland statement about “protocols” rather than an outright denial. One thing is for sure, Cllr Lovelock is not going to go quietly…
With a leadership challenge seemingly on the cards let’s take a look at the Labour benches at the potential runners and riders:
Abbey Bet Tickner – stood down from a lead councillor role a year ago, unlikely to seek a front bench position again, let alone the leadership.
Abbey Mohammed Ayub – not a prolific contributor during Council meetings so unlikely to want to lead the Council.
Abbey Tony Page – Considered by many to be the real power behind the throne of the Labour group. Has been content to be Deputy to Cllr Lovelock and sure to be listened to within Labour group plotting sessions. If he says Cllr Lovelock should stay, who would have the courage to stand up to him?
Battle Chris Maskell – former Mayor and current Chair of Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport Committee. Unlikely to seek to lead the Council.
Battle Gul Khan – another former Mayor, but seemingly happy on the back benches.
Battle Sarah Hacker – daughter of fellow Battle Ward Councillor Chris Maskell. A possibility, and would get at least 1 vote.
Caversham Richard Davis – extremely ambitious and known to command the support of the “Young” Labour group of activists. Stood for selection as Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Reading East but was soundly beaten by Katesgrove’s Cllr Rodda. If he thinks there is a vacancy, will he stand? Probably.
Church Eileen McElligott – pleasant person but so far has not made much impact in the Council Chamber and does not appear to have any ambitions.
Church Paul Woodward – strong character, and probably thinks he could do it. But would he have the support?
Katesgrove Matt Rodda – Busily running around Reading East trying desperately to find an issue to latch himself onto in order to raise his profile for 2015 whilst watching all the funds being channelled into Reading West. Rarely speaks in the Council Chamber and has yet to make any impact. Definitely not.
Katesgrove Rose Williams – another former Mayor (many years ago now) who is well liked across the Chamber. Seems happy to remain on the back-benches and is more likely to want to be Mayor again than the leadership.
Kentwood Daya Pal Singh – A quiet Councillor who seems happy at present on the back benches.
Minster Liz Terry – Formerly a senior Council officer. May find it odd to lead a political grouping, let alone take over as leader of the Council. Would certainly have the support of husband Cllr Tony Jones (Redlands).
Minster Marian Livingstone – Currently the Mayor of Reading. Unlikely to have the time to do the lobbying required to unseat Councillor Lovelock.
Minster Paul Gittings – Recently seemed to get very riled in the Council Chamber, attacking local campaigners and being forced to issue an apology in the press. This has damaged his stock, so an unlikely candidate.
Norcot Graeme Hoskin – Rumoured to have tried to take the top job in the past, was defeated and was cast into the back bench wilderness for a couple of years. Now back as a front bencher but probably a case of “once bitten, twice shy”.
Norcot Jo Lovelock – Has stated her intention to stay on as the Leader, but who knows how much longer she will want to stay on the Council. Currently elected to 2016, but may stand down then, especially if husband Pete Ruhemann stands down in 2015 as rumoured.
Norcot Peter Jones – standing down this May.
Redlands Jan Gavin – hugely ambitious and very political operator. Rarely appears to listen to the opinions of others and can turn almost any topic into a party political issue. Unlikely to command support across her group.
Redlands Tony Jones – A maverick who previously left the Labour group in a huff to sit as an Independent. Lucky to have been allowed back into the Group, but looking forward to being Mayor (again) next year. Will not challenge Cllr Lovelock for the leadership and would not command support among many of the “younger generation”.
Southcote Deborah Edwards – Former Mayor, popular locally and in the chamber but does not seem to covet higher office. A possible if she chose to run.
Southcote John Ennis – Very close to Cllr Lovelock. Unlikely to stand against her.
Southcote Pete Ruhemann – married to Cllr Lovelock so standing against her is a domestic impossibility.
Whitley Kelly Edwards – Quiet in the Council chamber, and seems more focussed on her professional career than on local politics.
Whitley Mike Orton – long standing Councillor and well respected across the chamber. Probably not looking to lead at this stage of his political career. Also rumoured to be standing down at the next opportunity.
Whitley Rachel Eden – Clearly ambitious, and currently the rumoured front runner to challenge Cllr Lovelock. Was damaged politically by her cack-handed closure of Arthur Clark Care Home and has a tendency to get emotional in debates but definitely cannot be ruled out if she chooses to challenge Cllr Lovelock. Would she be ready for the internal repercussions if she is unsuccessful, however?
The assessment – Councillors Lovelock, Eden, Davies, Hoskins and Gavin will be lobbying behind the scenes for support within the Labour Group. The final decision will probably come down to who “kingmaker” Cllr Tony Page throws his weight behind, eventually leading to an acrimonious run off between Eden and Lovelock.
There will undoubtedly be blood on the carpet and it will be fascinating to see who wins!
There is a new Populus online poll out today which shows Labour’s lead over the Conservatives being almost eliminated:
Conservative 34% (no change)
Labour 35% (down 3%)
Lib Dem 10% (up 1%)
UKIP 13% (up 1%)
Labour is struggling to hold onto a lead in almost all recent polls, with the biggest lead in the last few days being YouGov’s 5% Labour lead. This is also one of the few recent polls to show UKIP ahead of the Lib Dems.
Populus interviewed a random sample of 2053 adults online between 12th-13th March 2014. Interviews were conducted across Great Britain and the results have been weighted to be representative of all British adults. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
There is a new Ipsos MORI poll reported today for the London Evening Standard showing the Conservatives closing the gap with Labour:
Conservative 32% (up 1%)
Labour 35% (down 3%)
Lib Dem 13% (up 1%)
UKIP 11% (up 1%)
MORI does have a reputation as being somewhat erratic month on month but this poll is consistent with other recent polls in showing a Labour lead of around 3%. It is also interesting in that again MORI shows UKIP back in fourth place behind the Lib Dems. I had expected that UKIP would be at about 20% in the polls in the run up to the Euro elections.
In further findings:
This month’s Ipsos MORI poll shows the Conservatives continuing to lead Labour on managing the economy, although they are neck-and-neck with regard to taxation policy and Labour lead on unemployment policy. One in three (35%) think the Conservatives have the best policies on managing the economy, compared with 22% for Labour; Labour lead the Conservatives on unemployment by 32% to 27%, and the two are almost level on taxation with Labour supported by 27% and the Conservatives on 25%.
The public still think George Osborne would make a more capable Chancellor than Ed Balls, although the gap between them has narrowed since we last asked this question in December 2013. Mr Osborne now has a five percentage point lead over Mr Balls, backed by 38% to Mr Balls’ 33%. This is down from an eleven point advantage for Mr Osborne in December.
Britons are split as to whether the government has done a good job on managing the economy, however – despite the Conservative lead in this area. Just under half each say the government has done a good job (47%) and a bad job (46%) at managing the economy. The public are similarly split regarding the government’s performance on keeping unemployment down (44% think it has done a bad good job, 48% a bad job). More than half (56%) think the government has done a bad job on handling taxation and public expenditure, however, with 35% saying they’ve done a good job.
However, this does represent a significant improvement for the government’s ratings since October 2011. The proportion thinking they have done a good job managing the economy has increased from 36% to 47%, and those thinking they have done a good job keeping unemployment down have increased from 15% to 44% (ratings on taxation and public expenditure have only increased slightly from 32% to 35%). All, though, are still below the heights Labour achieved when it was in power.
Economic optimism remains high. Nearly half (48%) think the general economic condition of the country will improve over the next 12 months, while 25% think it will get worse, and 24% stay the same. This gives an Ipsos MORI Economic Optimism Index (% get better minus % get worse) of +23.
Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,011 aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 8-12 March 2014.
Conservative 35% (up 1%)
Labour 37% (no change)
Lib Dem 9% (down 1%)
UKIP 12% (up 2%)
The Labour and Conservative shares are almost identical to that found by today’s ICM poll in the Guardian. The difference, of course is in the findings and relative positions of UKIP and the Lib Dems. We have now seen several polls with the Conservatives around 34-35% and Labour well under 40%.
I remind readers that most followers of UK political polling consider ICM and YouGov to be the best in the business. Although it is notable that YouGov has been more erratic than usual over the last month.
The poll above is compared with the YouGov poll I reported on 5 March.