There is a new YouGov poll published in today’s Sun newspaper showing Labour’s lead over the Conservatives being cut to just 4%:
Changes shown are compared to the last daily YouGov poll I reported on 20 March.
This is the first post-Budget poll and Labour should be concerned at their seeming inability to open up a decent lead over the Conservatives. It seems that the public are unconvinced by Ed Miliband and his senior team, and their lack of any positive alternative to government policies. The Conservatives were certainly braced to be substantially behind Labour by now and it is encouraging to note that the public seem to be accepting the argument that government action to tackle the deficit was necessary.
I have received some interesting intelligence on the Reading Labour party which I will post shortly when I have confirmed it with other sources.
Readers will be aware that I broke the story that under Labour the local Council Tax payer had been ‘secretly’ funding three full time Trades Union posts for many years to the tune of £1.4m. When this was revealed it caused outrage across the town and I still have local people contacting me to express their surprise and outrage that Council Tax should have been used to fund the same Trades Unions which then fund the local and national Labour party.
The Conservative / Lib Dem Coalition Council has decided to stop this use of public money and it has undoubtedly become an issue in the approaching local elections. You would have thought that Labour would have wished to let the matter die down, since it is clearly one which will not be winning them any new votes. However, the instinct in the local Labour Party to try to smear and undermine their opponents rather than defend their position politically, is clearly undimmed. Rather than argue the case for funding full-time Trade Union officials from the public purse the Labour Leader decided to try to smear me as “far right” and refer my blog article to the Council’s Standards Panel, which can rule on breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct.
I am delighted therefore that when the all-party sub-committee of the Standards Panel looked at Labour’s complaint that I had breached the Code of Conduct, they found that my blog article “had not breached the Code of Conduct” and that “no action be taken” on Labour’s “allegation”. However, they expressed the view that my description of the funding of the three posts as having been kept ”secret” was “misleading and inaccurate because the facilities agreement was not a ‘secret’”. The problem with the Standards process at this stage is that the person being accused has no right of attending to argue their case or debate the view of the sub-committee. That only comes if the matter is referred to the full Panel by the sub-committee. I was therefore unable to argue the point that an agreement which was signed in 1998 under Labour’s rule; not raised in any committee or panel that anyone has been able to find, since then; which is not available on the Council Website; and which pre-dates all but two Conservative or Lib Dem Councillors, could reasonably be described as “secret”.
I have rarely used the Standards process because it is largely ineffective under current legislation and only serves to take up an awful lot of Officer time. However, I did find the Labour Leader’s letter published on Cllr Ennis’s blogsite about Trade Union funding offensive when she described me as holding a “far right perspective”. I therefore asked the Standards committee to rule on whether this constituted a breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct by both Councillors. In an almost identically worded ruling as the one about me, the sub-committee ruled that it did not but they chided the Labour Leader for her use of ”emotive” language and requested that she and Cllr Ennis remove the accusation from his blogsite.
It is typical of Labour that rather than defend their own stance or attack an opposition policy position they prefer to attack or smear an individual. We have seen it time after time in Reading and sometimes nationally.
It has been interesting to see other authorities tackling the issue of full-time Union officials being funded from Council Tax and the Government has now urged local authorities to find savings in this area before they look to close libraries, public toilets and leisure facilities. It is noteworthy that some Labour controlled Councils have chosen to cut local community groups and facilities while continuing to fund full-time posts for their Trade Union buddies.
On 5th May Reading’s voters can chose between Conservative and Lib Dem candidates who believe that the Trades Unions should fund their own officials and that frontline services should be protected, or they can vote for Labour candidates who would prioritise spending Council Tax income on full-time Trades Union posts while closing libraries, voluntary groups and leisure facilities.