Tony Blair today met US President Barack Obama at a prayer breakfast in Washington. Sky News has a clip here.
Watching it I couldn’t help but contrast Blair’s relaxed charm with the stilted style of current Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
More Sky news coverage here.
The Guardian has written of the obvious warmth between the two men as Obama described Blair as a “good friend” and they demonstrated their own special relationship.
John Prescott is not a man to pull his punches, so when my fellow blogger Iain Dale suggested that he was not in fact the author of what purported to be his blog, a response was to be expected. However, rather than seek to land one on Iain’s chin, Prescott recorded a good natured YouTube response. It is worth watching.
What John Prescott may not be so amused to learn is that his Parliamentary colleague Martin Salter thinks that he is a tragic insomniac who lacks social skills. That was Martin’s stated opinion on bloggers after I awarded him the title of “Luddite of the Reading political scene”.
I would advise Martin to keep out of Prescott’s reach for the foreseeable future because clearly as well as writing a blog Prescott is an avid reader of other people’s blogs. As Martin now knows to his cost, what plays well in Reading does not always go down so well in Westminster!
There were 38 people present who had braved the snow and slush, including representatives of local businesses, Council Officers, and Councillors from all three parties (9 Conservative, 3 Labour and 1 Lib Dem). There was the usual airing of views on the current situation and some agreement as to speeding up of payment of invoices by the Council and better sharing of information but very little of substance that will make any real difference.
It was reported that there was some anecdotal evidence of increased illegal lending by “loan sharks” in Reading and the editor of the Reading Post reported that about half the number of job ads were being placed now as was the case a year ago. We also learned that 6 pubs a day are closing across the country with 12 closed so far in Reading. There was some complaint that the Council was being too harsh in its collection of business rates and that this was pushing some smaller businesses into difficulties. The Chief Executive promised to look into this.
All in all, whilst I am sure that it is good for the Council to continue the dialogue with local business, voluntary groups and public sector agencies, I am not sure that a single job will have been saved or created by today’s summit.
The steering group will meet again soon and there will be a further summit in the summer.
You can find out more about what Reading Borough Council is doing to tackle the Credit Crunch here.
There was a YouGov poll of Lab / Cons marginals reported yesterday for Channel 4:
Conservative 43% (no change)
Labour 36% (down 2%)
Lib Dem 13% (up 1%)
It is significant that the Conservatives lead in every age band used and each social class. As Peter Kellner suggests in his analysis, this poll would give the Conservatives a majority of around 60 seats.
Interestingly the Conservatives are doing best in the Midlands/Wales region which is where a large number of the key marginals lie:
Lib Dem 12%
The poll was conducted in 60 seats where Labour’s majority is currently between 6% and 14% (on new boundaries), so it is a remarkable turnaround in 60 seats that are currently Labour. It would be interesting to see a sample in seats where the majority was currently 15%-20% and also in some Lib Dem held seats where Conservatives are challenging.