This year’s series of the reality TV show Britain’s Got Talent started last weekend. Last year I felt that many of the wannabe’s were pretty average and no-one particularly stood out for me. This year could not be different. I was really impressed with several of the acts putting themselves forward last weekend.
Two acts however really stood out. The first was the amazing Welsh boy choir “Only Boys Aloud”. They performed “Calon Lan” in Welsh:
The second act was not one which caught anyone’s eye to start with. The programme showed audience members dismissing the act by their appearance and Simon Cowell making a dismissive remark. I really thought that people would have learned from the shock that people got when Susan Boyle opened her mouth and began to sing. Anyway see what you think:
Amazing or what?
It seems that “Only Boys Aloud” have been going for some time and I found this promotional clip from them which you may enjoy:
In a sensational result Labour have lost the formerly safe seat of Bradford West (Lab majority of 5,763 in 2010) to Respect’s George Galloway. It is rare indeed that an opposition party loses a Parliamentary by-election and Bradford West was a seat which Labour held since 1974, even throughout Mrs Thatcher’s landslide election wins.
This is a devastating result for the Labour leadership and will send shockwaves through the Labour movement. He will also be likely to be a thorn in the side of the Parliamentary Labour Party in the House of Commons.
It is worth stressing that, while the turnout was lower than would be the case in a general election, at 51% it was relatively high for a by-election. However, the circumstances of someone with the profile of George Galloway standing will not be repeated in many seats elsewhere.
The swing from Labour to Respect was a collossal 37%!
The final results were:
Respect – George Galloway - 18,341 (55.9%)
Labour – Imran Hussein - 8,201 (25%)
Conservative – Jackie Whiteley - 2,746 (8.4%)
Lib Dem – Jeanette Sunderland - 1,505 (4.6%)
UKIP – Sonja McNally – 1,085 (3.3%)
Green – Dawud Islam - 481 (1.5%)
Dem Nats – Neil Craig – 344 (1%)
Loony – Howling Laud Hope - 111 (0.3%)
Polls have now closed in the Bradford West by-election which is taking place today. Caused by the resignation of long-serving Labour MP Marsha Singh, the seat has been in Labour hands since 1974. However, if some rumours are to be believed there may be an upset on the cards.
What should be a dead cert for Labour has been thrown into doubt by the presence of Respect veteran (and former Labour MP) George Galloway.
The result in the 2010 General Election was:
Marsha Singh – Labour 18,401 – 45.3%
Zahid Iqbal – Conservative 12,638 – 31.1%
David Hall-Matthews – LD 4,732 – 11.7%
Jenny Sampson – BNP 1,370 – 3.4%
Arshad Ali – Respect 1,245 – 3.1%
David Ford – Green 940 – 2.3%
Jason Smith – UKIP 812 – 2.0%
Neil Craig – Dem Nats 438 – 1.1%
The candidates in the by-election are:
Labour – Imran Hussain
Respect – George Galloway
Conservative – Jackie Whiteley
Lib Dem – Jeanette Sunderland
Green – Dawud Islam
UKIP – Sonja McNally
Loony – Howling Laud Hope
Dem Nats – Neil Craig
We should get the results in the early hours of the morning and with Labour up in the polls since 2010 they should be expecting an increased majority. We will have to see whether that is the case or whether George Galloway will deal a blow to Labour and Ed Miliband’s leadership.
The UK Ministry of Defence has announced details of the ceremonial Military personnel who will play a key role in the Central Weekend celebrations for Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, in London 2-5 June.
Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh both served in the Armed Forces during the Second World War, in the Auxiliary Territorial Service and the Royal Navy respectively. In addition to being Head of the Armed Forces, The Queen also holds various appointments and honorary ranks, as does The Duke of Edinburgh and other members of The Royal Family. Such appointments include special relationships with certain ships, honorary colonels (known as Royal Colonels) in Army regiments and Corps, and honorary ranks connected with Royal Air Force stations.
The military elements involved are:
SATURDAY 2 JUNE
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery will perform the Coronation Day Gun Salute.
SUNDAY 3 JUNE
The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant
Accompanying the Royal Barge containing Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh will be several vessels of the Royal Navy. These will be two Royal Navy P2000 boats, two Royal Navy Picket Boats, two RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats) from HMS Diamond, and four ORCs (Off-shore Raiding Craft) from 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines.
A Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines will follow the Royal section of the pageant in a separate vessel.
The Honourable Artillery Company will fire a Gun Salute for The Queen as the Royal Barge passes HM Tower of London.
TUESDAY 5 JUNE
Step Lining outside St Paul’s Cathedral for the Service of Thanksgiving
Personnel from all three Services will line the steps in to St Paul’s Cathedral for Her Majesty’s arrival and departure at the Service of Thanksgiving.
Military musicians inside St Paul’s Cathedral
The State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry, the Band of the Welsh Guards, and the Royal Air Force Fanfare Trumpeters will perform at the Service of Thanksgiving.
The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals) will provide a Sovereign’s Escort of nine Officers and 109 Other Ranks to Her Majesty The Queen for the Carriage Procession from New Palace Yard to Buckingham Palace.
The Mounted Band of the Household Cavalry will ride along the route ahead of the procession.
The processional route will be lined with more than 1,000 personnel and military musicians from all three Services. This will include Officers and Other Ranks from:
- Ships, Submarines, the Fleet Air Arm and land establishments of the Royal Navy;
- The Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards of the Household Division, and The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment from the Army; and Troops from The Queen’s Colour Squadron, 63 Squadron RAF Regiment from the Royal Air Force.
Bands in support of the Street Liners
Tri-Service bands will line the processional route alongside the Street Liners. These will be:
- A Band of the Royal Marines;
- The Bands of the Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards of the Household Division; and
- A Band of the Royal Air Force.
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery will perform a Gun Salute from Horse Guards Parade to coincide with the carriage procession.
Guard of Honour and “Feu du Joie”
A Guard of Honour of 3 Officers and 101 Other Ranks from 1st Battalion Irish Guards will be on the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace for The Queen’s return in the carriage procession. When Her Majesty appears on the Balcony, the Guard of Honour will perform a feu du joie. Translated as “fire of joy”, a feu du joie is a ceremonial celebration whereby a salute is fired by rifles in rapid succession along a line of troops and back again, interspersed with bars of the National Anthem. The feu du joie was last performed in honour of Her Majesty The Queen’s 80th Birthday, following The Queen’s Birthday Parade in 2006.
Military personnel involved on the day will wear their respective Service ceremonial clothing.
There will be celebrations across many other nations of the Commonwealth, of which more later.
Conservative 34% (down 3%)
Labour 38% (down 1%)
Lib Dem 11% (no change)
This is quite different from the ComRes poll reported earlier tonight. Both polls were conducted around the same time, both before and after the breaking of the Conservative Treasurer story.
Changes shown are compared to the last Populus poll I covered on 20 February.
Populus interviewed a random sample of 1,500 adults by telephone and 2,056 adults online between 23-25 March.
Conservative 33% (down 4%)
Labour 43% (up 3%)
Lib Dem 11% (up 1%)
In the 337 interviews conducted on Saturday, before the cash-for-access revelations emerged, Labour enjoyed a lead of only four points. Labour was on 39 per cent, the Tories 35 per cent and the Lib Dems 11 per cent. But in the 350 interviews that took place on Sunday and Monday (today) after the discloures, Labour was 17 points ahead. Labour was on 47 per cent, the Tories on 30 per cent and the Lib Dems 11 per cent.
George Osborne’s decision to freeze personal tax allowances for pensioners is opposed by a margin of almost 2-1. Some 59 percent disagree with the statement that “the Government is right to freeze the personal tax allowances of pensioners to bring them into line with those for everyone else”, while 31 per cent agree and 10 per cent don’t know.
As with all major changes in poll leads or ratings, caution should be exercised until more than a single poll demonstrates a similar shift. Changes shown are compared to the last ComRes poll I covered on 17 March.
ComRes surveyed 1,000 GB adults by telephone on 23-26 March 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative and by past vote recall.
There is a new ICM poll in the Sunday Telegraph tomorrow showing Labour taking a slight lead once again after the last ICM Guardian poll showed the Conservatives ahead:
Conservative 37% (down 2%)
Labour 38% (up 2%)
Lib Dem 13% (down 2%)
The detailed findings of the poll suggest that many Budget measures were well received but that the “granny tax” was opposed by 63% of voters. Interestingly only 37% support scrapping existing Sunday trading laws.
ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 22-23 March 2012. 850 interviews were conducted on landlines and 150 on mobile phones.
Reading Borough Conservatives have announced the first of their candidates for the 3 May local elections.
The candidates are:
Battle – Imraan Ishtiaq – Imraan (left) has lived in the Reading area nearly all his life and has attended local schools in Battle and Tilehurst. Since finishing as a liaison officer for Thames Valley Police, Imraan has dedicated himself to tackling anti-social behaviour and making Reading a safer place for all its residents. When he stood in Battle ward last year he took up many cases for local residents and has pledged to continue to work for local people.
Caversham – Cllr Dave Luckett – Dave Luckett has been a Caversham ward Councillor since May 2008. Dave lives in the centre of the ward and is a trustee of a local charity. He has a long record of campaigning on local issues, including getting the Council to complete local road repairs and cracking down on boats abusing the moorings along the River Thames. Dave currently works full time as a Software Engineer in Reading. He is currently campaigning for safer roads with more 20mph zones in residential streets.
Church – Cllr Azam Janjua – Azam lives with his wife in the heart of Church ward and has two daughters who live locally with their own families. He was a Reading taxi driver for many years so has a comprehensive understanding of transport issues in the borough and living locally has suffered the problems of the Shinfield Road “enhancement” scheme. Azam’s campaign to find a solution is gaining great support and he supports residents who are demanding that the Council reinstall roundabouts on the Shinfield Road.
Kentwood – Cllr Emma Warman – local resident Emma has been selected to fight the Kentwood seat she first won in 2008. 35 year old Emma works for a life insurance company in London, commuting daily with many other frustrated rail users. Originally from Wales, she has lived in Reading for over 11 years and as well as being a Councillor she is a governor of a local Kentwood primary school.
Mapledurham – Cllr Isobel Ballsdon – Isobel (right) has been selected for Mapledurham Ward following the decision of long-serving Councillor Fred Pugh to retire from the Council. She lives in the ward but has represented neighbouring Thames Ward for the last six years. Isobel has had a variety of roles including the chairmanship of both the Planning Committee and also the Education & Children’s Services Scrutiny Panel. This January she was made Conservative Spokesman for Environment & Housing, as well as the party’s lead on Planning Management. Isobel is Chairman of Governors at The Avenue Special School and is the Council’s representative on the Berkshire Adoption Panel. In addition to these roles, Isobel is on the Mapledurham Playing Fields Management Committee and is part of the Fund Raising Group raising money to pay for a replacement hall.
Minster – Alanzo Seville – Alanzo (left) has stayed committed to changing things for the better in Minster ward. Since first running for election in 2011 he has continued working hard with the local Social Action Group on various projects and the Save the Bath Road Reservoir campaigners in the bid to save Minster’s ecosystem. He is also a governor of Reading’s first Free School. Having spent most of his life in Reading, Alanzo is passionate about providing care and support for vulnerable people and is keen to ensure that the Council is accountable for every decision made.
Peppard – Jane Stanford-Beale – Jane (right) is a very much a Caversham mother who has represented families since moving to Caversham in 1995, both as a parent and then Chair of Governors at New Bridge Nursery School, latterly as the Local Authority Governor. From April 2005 to October 2006 Jane was a Non Executive Director of Reading Primary Care Trust (‘PCT’) where she chaired the Remuneration Committee and oversaw its merger into Berkshire West PCT from November 2006 to March 2007. She also chaired the steering group for the Sure Start Caversham Children’s Centre. Jane runs her own project management and consulting business and lives in Caversham with her husband and 3 sons, aged 19, 17 and 12.
Thames – Ed Hopper – Ed (left) has lived in Reading since 1998 with his wife and two young daughters who both attend school in the town. As a father of a young family Ed is keen to see Reading’s facilities for families improved. Ed works a few miles outside Reading so he knows the pressures of commuting by car on Reading’s roads. Ed and his family are involved with their local church where he serves on the Parochial Church Council.
Tilehurst – Robert Vickers – Robert (right) and his wife Sandra, who became a Councillor for Tilehurst ward in the last local elections, have lived and worked in Reading all their lives, raised four children and have three grandchildren. Robert is passionate about making Reading better for all, and although now semi-retired from his previous job with a local housing association, he was for many years a Trade Union Official and was used to standing up, representing his colleagues and providing sensible solutions to difficult tasks. He is keen to use these skills for the benefit of the people of Tilehurst ward.
Conservative Leader Cllr Tim Harris said, “This is a superb and diverse group of candidates with a Trade Union official, three women, two Asian candidates, and the only black candidate announced by any Reading party so far. It demonstrates that not only are the Conservatives setting the agenda, from our Council Tax freeze to improved community care, but also in terms of diversity. Importantly, these candidates will bring a great deal of new energy and much needed experience from industry to our Council. I look forward to announcing the remaining candidates shortly.”
There is a new Ipsos MORI/Reuters poll reported today showing the Conservatives slashing Labour’s lead to just 1%:
Conservative 36% (up 1%)
Labour 37% (down 4%)
Lib Dem 11% (down 1%)
The public are split on whether George Osborne or Ed Balls would make the most capable Chancellor, 36% say Mr Osborne and 35% say Mr Balls. Neither the Chancellor nor the Shadow Chancellor have made any significant shifts in public opinion in a year, in March 2011 they were also neck-neck.
Confidence that the government’s policies will, in the long term, improve Britain’s economy has fallen dramatically since the Coalition took office. The public is now split evenly, with 46% agreeing that the government’s policies will improve the economy while 47% disagree. Despite this fall (61% agreed in June 2010, 29% disagreed), confidence in the government’s policies is still higher than throughout much of the previous Labour government’s second and third terms.
There is a new ICM poll in the Guardian tomorrow showing the Conservatives taking the lead once again after a series of polls showing Labour ahead:
Conservative 39% (up 3%)
Labour 36% (down 1%)
Lib Dem 15% (up 1%)
The detailed findings of the poll suggest that the Conservative lead may be fragile and the Budget will be important in determining many voters’ future preferences. However, the Conservatives maintain a lead on economic competence. Asked to set aside party preference and consider who is better placed to manage the economy, 42% prefer David Cameron and George Osborne, against just 25% for Labour’s Eds, Miliband and Balls.
As I have observed many times, ICM is considered to be the “gold standard” of opinion polls and is my equal rated pollster alongside YouGov.
ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 16-18 March 2012. 850 interviews were conducted on landlines and 150 on mobile phones.
Conservative 37% (down 2%)
Labour 40% (up 2%)
Lib Dem 10% (no change)
ComRes asked if people agreed or disagreed with eight options for George Osborne, the Chancellor, in the Budget next week. Most of the measures about which there has been speculation are popular, except for the “tycoon tax” of a minimum income tax rate of 30 per cent.
Raise the starting point of income tax from £7,475 to £10,000
Agree: 81% Disagree: 8%
Older people are more likely to agree than younger people – 87% of people aged 55 and over do so compared with 55% of people aged 18-24. Voters for all three main parties show similar levels of support for this.
Abolish the 50 per cent tax rate on incomes over £150,000
Agree: 21% Disagree: 58%
A majority of Conservative voters (51%) disagree that the 50 per cent tax rate should be abolished, as do 67% of Labour voters and 70% of Lib Dem voters.
Introduce an annual “mansion tax” on properties worth over £2m
Agree: 64% Disagree: 20%
The majority of Conservative voters (59%) agree with an annual “mansion tax” compared with 66% of Lib Dems, and 72% of Labour voters.
Introduce a minimum income tax rate of around 30 per cent, that everyone should pay, regardless of tax reliefs and schemes to reduce tax liability
Agree: 12% Disagree: 63%
Nick Clegg’s proposal for a “tycoon tax” is unpopular with supporters of all parties. Liberal Democrat sources were steering journalists to a level for the “tycoon tax” of between 20 and 30 per cent, so we asked about 30 per cent; presumably respondents did not like it because it is higher than the 20 per cent basic rate and they thought it might hit them.
Continue to pay child benefit to people paying the 40 per cent tax rate (over £42,475 a year), rather than cutting it as planned
Agree: 25% Disagree: 58%
Cut duty on petrol and diesel before cutting any other taxes
Agree: 74% Disagree: 15%
Younger people are less likely to agree than older people – 65% 18-24 year olds and 64% of 25-34 year olds agree, compared with 83% of people aged 65 and over. This cut is supported by 80% of Conservative voters, compared to 74% of Labour and 65% of Lib Dem voters.
Introduce a minimum price for a unit of alcohol
Agree: 44% Disagree: 41%
Supported by 51% of Conservative voters and 56% of Lib Dems.
Freeze the duty on beer in order to help save Britain’s pubs
Agree: 54% Disagree: 27%
We also asked if people agreed or disagreed with more general statements about the economy. A pair of statements about trust on the economy produced poor figures for Ed Miliband and Ed Balls:
I trust David Cameron and George Osborne to make the right decisions about the economy
Agree: 29% (-1 since November) Disagree: 49% (+4)
I trust Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to make the right decisions about the economy
Agree: 15% (-6 since November) Disagree: 59% (+9)
The net score for Cameron/Osborne has gone from -15 in November to -20, while that for Miliband/Balls has gone from -29 to -45.
Another pair of statements on the Budget judgement showed a marked shift in favour of tax cuts since two months ago:
The Chancellor should make tax cuts a priority in the forthcoming Budget
Agree: 45% (+8 since February) Disagree: 27% (-6)
The Chancellor should not make any tax cuts until the country’s public debt is better under control
Agree: 30% (-11 since February) Disagree: 43% (+11)
So net support for tax cuts has risen from +4 in February to +18, while support for prioritising debt reduction has fallen from +9 to -13.
The government is not doing enough to get the economy growing and unemployment down
Agree: 62% Disagree: 20%
Finally, we asked about the Prime Minister’s character:
I don’t really know what David Cameron stands for
Agree: 50% (+8 since September) Disagree: 36% (-9)
David Cameron is a conviction politician
Agree: 24% Disagree: 25% Don’t know: 50%
David Cameron does a good job of representing Britain abroad
Agree: 41% Disagree: 34%
Women are more likely to say “don’t know”; once we adjust for this, women are more likely to say that David Cameron is a conviction politician and that he does a good job of representing Britain abroad.
ComRes surveyed 2,010 GB adults online on 14-16 March 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative and by past vote recall.
The last week has not been a good one for the Labour Party. Ken Livingstone’s campaign for London Mayor has been rocked by claims that he has been using ways to minimise his personal tax bill despite criticising others for doing the same. Now comes news that the Labour Campaign HQ is riven by tensions and a lack of leadership.
At the start of the week Labour held a meeting of staff to update them on plans to reorganise the party’s structure, which by all accounts descended into chaos and resulted in numerous briefings to the press against the plans. The essence of the proposal is a plan to introduce a Board of seven members but staff see this as a way of purging the party hierarchy of supporters of leader Ed’s brother David. The meeting did not start well with the party’s General Secretary Iain McNicholl implicitly criticising Ed Miliband for the lack of strategy evident in the Shadow Cabinet’s approach. He highlighted the “short term tactics” which have characterised the younger Miliband’s time as leader and the party’s deficit of £1.7m last year.
According to reports in the Labour-leaning Guardian, one staffer said “Something has been crossed irretrievably. They will have to get rid of 20 or 30 staff, some of them very experienced, or else they will have to rework these ideas back. The anger stretches across organisation, policy, regional staff and strategy. The whole place is dysfunctional – serious officials, people with 20 years’ experience, are tearing their hair out. People are being asked to follow a strategy in which there is no conviction.”
Labour and Miliband’s misery has been compounded by reports from Tuesday’s Shadow Cabinet meeting which seems to have left Ed isolated and despised by many of his colleagues. Former Labour Party employee and Union official Dan Hodges has written in an extraordinary article that “Ed Miliband isn’t running the Labour Party. No one is.” That is a damning indictment of someone who was so recently elected leader thanks to the support of the Trades Unions. In the article Hodges quotes the views of some MP’s: ”Poisonous”, was one MP’s description of the atmosphere amongst Miliband’s inner circle. “Dysfunctional,” the view of another insider.
As the Labour Party centre seems to be in a state of turmoil word reaches me of tensions in the local Reading Labour Party over their candidate selection. The party has chosen a candidate for Church ward who lives in West Reading over the head of a more local candidate who was preferred by many party members from the ward. I am told that several members are refusing to deliver leaflets or work for her campaign, which is hampering their campaign to win this highly marginal ward. Conservatives by contrast have re-selected local resident and long-serving Councillor Azam Janjua.
It will be interesting to see what impact the chaos at the heart of Labour’s organisation has on the local and London election results in May.
Conservative 36% (down 4%)
Labour 43% (up 4%)
Lib Dem 9% (no change)
YouGov polls over the last week have been showing a Labour lead of around 5% and this poll is even better for them. Most polls are now showing a Labour lead which suggests that the Conservatives may have been damaged by the row over NHS reforms.
Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I covered on 3 March.
Yesterday (Sunday) I was pleased to join Emmer Green Residents’ Association (EGRA) and Caversham GLOBE for a RESCUE litter pick in the woods behind Marshland Square/St Luke’s Way and the rough land between Rotherfield Way and Southdown. I was joined by our Peppard ward candidate Jane Stanford-Beale, and a small team of us set off at about 11am with orange plastic bags for general rubbish, clear bags for recyclables and some litter picking sticks.
I’m not sure what I was expecting to find. Perhaps the usual coke and beer cans, plus sweet wrappers and a few glass bottles, but I was truly shocked at the quantity of rubbish we found.
At the end of a two hour session five of us had recovered 8 orange bags of general waste (including glass), 7 clear bags of recyclables, a car wheel, a tyre, part of a TV, a plastic car bumper, 2 mobile phones, a traffic cone, an estate agent’s board and part of the post, plus what looked like the metal frames of a pram and a rocking horse!
We saw quite a few local residents, most of whom encouraged us on our way with supportive comments and praise, but I was irritated by one local resident who despite seeing us clearing up proceeded to come out of his house several times to dump what looked like garden waste on the highway land between Rotherfield Way and Southdown. It was clear that this was a site for regular household fly-tipping as there were many black plastic bags and other household rubbish such as a mattress and an ironing board. Unfortunately we could not reach these so I have reported them to the Council hotline together with a photo.
It was an eye-opening experience and I am sure I will be out doing it again. Well done to EGRA for organising this event.
Last night it was my great pleasure to attend a function at 21 South Street organised by “Support U” a new Reading based charity sset up to support LGBT people in the Reading area. The charity was set up last year as a response to many requests received by the Reading Pride team for assistance and which they could not support.Led by Lorna McArdle the team got Support U established but the feedback indicated that a drop in centre was needed. That’s where local Conservatives stepped in to help. Cllr Tim Harris is involved with Reading Pride and he arranged for colleagues in the local Conservatives to collect signatures on a petition at Reading Pride. The team collected hundreds of signatures and the petition was presented to the Council together with a motion to provide the additional boost that Support U needed. The motion was passed and the Council identified South Street Arts Centre as a base for the charity.
The event last night was to promote the group to the local community and I was please to attend along with Cllrs Harris and Warman, and Cllrs of other parties including the Mayor of Reading and Kirsten Bayes of the Lib Dems and Jamie Wake. The highlight was the performances of local X-Factor contestant Danyl Johnson and an excellent female duo called “Vanilla Candy”.
We were also treated to several video clips, some of which told the story of the development of Support U but one which was profoundly moving. It was the tale of a young American lad who has suffered homophobic bullying. Watch it and see what you think!