Richard Willis's Blog

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Has Martin Salter No Shame?

salterReading West MP Martin Salter has often been criticised for trying to face both ways at once on issues that affect his Reading constituents. By and large he has brushed off such criticism and got away with it but this week may be different.

Martin has enjoyed portraying himself as the defender of Gurkha rights and even set up a Parliamentary group to support the Gurkhas fight to settle in this country. Last February I attended a packed meeting at the new Gurkha veterans’ offices in London Street where Martin promised them every support he could give in Parliament and outside. I also attended a meeting in the old Town Hall in Friar Street where he made the same promise before dashing off to another meeting. 

The message has been repeated time after time in the local and national press. He has also subtly tried to portray this as a Labour campaign for Gurkha rights, enlisting the dubious support of Keith Vaz MP in the process. His own website has the following statement:

“As far as I’m concerned the campaign for Gurkha justice continues and I and I know other colleagues on the Labour benches will be looking to use any Parliamentary means at our disposal to challenge this dreadfully disappointing decision. How can it be right for this country to offer settlement rights to former British soldiers from Jamaica or Fiji but to deny those same rights to the Gurkhas?”

Note the phrase that he would “use any Parliamentary means” at his disposal to fight for Gurkha rights.

Earlier this month he attacked the MOD for doing exactly what Gordon Brown did yesterday, using dubious numbers to suggest that there would be a massive cost to the tax-payer to allow Gurkhas to settle in the UK.

“The Labour MP also criticised the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for producing misleading figures concerning the anticipated cost to the taxpayer.

Mr Salter added: “The scare-mongering on the part of the MoD has been a disgrace, particularly their claims that former Gurkhas are likely to be a burden on the taxpayers when in fact everybody knows that the Gurkhas are extremely hard working and would pay taxes like everybody else.”

So what happened when Salter had the opportunity to really go to the wall for the Gurkhas and vote for the rights he had long professed to support? Did he rebel against the Government that was seeking to deny those rights? Did he stick by all the words he had uttered to Gurkha veterans promising them his support? Did he use the one “Parliamentary means” at his disposal to make a stand for the brave veteran who had stood for Britain?

NO – he wimped out and abstained on the vote. All that sound and fury and in the end he bottled it. Other local bloggers have commented on this betrayal but I am so angry about Martin’s actions that I wanted to put my own thoughts on here.

Martin Salter has lost all credibility on the issue of Gurkha rights. As others have said, he cannot continue as Chairman of the Parliamentary group and if he had any honour he would resign immediately. In a way it is a good job for him that he is standing down at the next election because I have no doubt at all that this rank hypocrisy and treachery would be hung around his neck at meeting after meeting, until he was swept away by the electorate.

Martin by your actions this week, you have not only betrayed the loyal Gurkha heroes but you have shown your true colours to the wider population of Reading.

You should be ashamed.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | Local | 4 Comments

William Hague Speaks Out

william_hagueThere is an interesting article in today’s Times newspaper in which William Hague gives a flavour of what a new Conservative Government would feel like. He makes a number of suggestions about Conservative policy including a referendum commitment on the Lisbon Treaty, if it is not already by then passed into law. He also talks about plans to set up a National Security Council with real decision making powers that would deal with those security issues that cross Government departmental boundaries.

Hague reaffirms the pledge to withdraw from the federalist European Peoples Party grouping in the European Parliament and form a new grouping with likeminded Euro-sceptic parties from across Europe. Interestingly the new group name has been decided and he states that a number of national parties are prepared to join in addition to the Czech ODS party that we already know about. I very much look forward to Conservatives breaking the connection with the EPP as they are a centralising and federalist group, very out of tune with most British people.

The ambition to ensure that a third of all Ministers in a Conservative Government will be women by the end of a first term will be greatly helped by the number of high quality women candidates that are likely to be elected next time.  It is also reassuring to hear that there is no intention for the party to sit back and hope to “coast to victory” at the General Election despite the very encouraging current opinion polls.

All in all it is an interesting interview with a man who has a huge amount to offer in Government. Hague is someone who shows every sign of a brilliant intellect coupled with a wicked sense of humour. It is not by chance that the Commons benches are usually packed when he is scheduled to make a major contribution to a debate. I am sure that his experience as leader is invaluable to David Cameron and it is ironic that if there had been a vacancy now Hague would probably be a leading contender and be far better suited than he was in 1997.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | National | 3 Comments

A Great Day for Our Gurkha Friends

gurkha-1It is rare these days that Parliament as an institution distinguishes itself. It is usually so dominated by Party Whips and underhand machinations that many wonder why they bother going to the polling station to vote for their local representative. However, today was a day when Parliament exerted itself and its rights and defeated the manoeuvring of the Government.

I have to say that much credit must go to Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg who used an opposition day debate to move a motion that greatly enhances Gurkha settlement rights. In so doing he managed to come across as a politician that was acting out of principle and not calculation. Gordon Brown seemed blissfully unaware of the defeat that was coming his way as he defended the Government’s small concessions to the Gurkhas at Prime Minister’s questions today and I am told that the faces on the Government benches were glum and shocked when the Government’s defeat was announced by the Speaker.

Of course the Lib Dems do not have the votes to defeat the Government and today’s triumph was only possible due to the mass votes of Conservative MPs and a small number of Labour rebels; aided of course by the Labour MPs that abstained. Usually Reading West MP Martin Salter likes to pose as a rebel in Reading while toadying to the Government in Westminster but according to reports even he was moved sufficiently to attack the Government that he usually so dutifully supports.

The death rattle of this Government is now audible and whilst today’s vote is not binding it is stark indicator of the loss of authority of Gordon Brown and his Ministers. How long before we see the first stunned and broken Labour MP stumble from the Government benches and cross the floor to one of the opposition parties?

However, today belongs to the Gurkhas. They are the heroes in this battle, ably assisted in their fight for justice by Joanna Lumley and others like her. We are privileged in Reading to have a sizeable Gurkha community and I always enjoy meeting them. I very much hope and expect that today marks the end of their long struggle and that this discredited and bankrupt Government will now relent and grant them full settlement rights.

UPDATE: I understand from a comment below and other local blogs that yet again the Reading West MP has tried to face both ways on this issue by abstaining on the vote. I have sat and listened as he addressed the Gurkhas, promising them his support but yet again when the chips were down he flunked it. He should hang his head in shame. He has not a fraction of the courage of any one of the Gurkhas he let down yesterday. 

April 29, 2009 Posted by | National | 5 Comments

Supporting Our Armed Forces

union-jackThe Ministry of Defence is encouraging local councils, businesses and homes across the country to show their support for Britain’s Armed Forces by flying a special flag designed for Armed Forces Day.
The Armed Forces Day Flag – available to order from today – will be flown to mark the first ever national Armed Forces Day on Saturday 27 June 2009. This new annual event celebrates the UK’s Armed Forces – past, present and future.
Hundreds of councils have pledged to raise the Armed Forces Day Flag at 10.30am on Monday 22 June to officially commence a week of celebrations in honour of our Armed Forces and now businesses and homes will be able to join them in showing their backing for the Forces.
The centrepiece of the celebrations on 27 June will be the historic dockyard at Chatham, Kent, and dozens of events are planned around the country to show appreciation for Her Majesty’s Forces. Major celebrations will take place in Cardiff, Glasgow, Blackpool, Portsmouth, Nottingham, Southend, Edinburgh, Caernarfon, Birmingham, Manchester, Stirling and Plymouth, among others.
Armed Forces Day at Chatham will include fly-pasts by historic and current aircraft, including the Red Arrows, have-a-go activities with the Armed Forces and a veteran’s parade in the Dockyard. Cardiff will see displays from the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team and the Red Devils, the Parachute Regiment Freefall Team, along with music from the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and the Welsh Guards Band.
The design of the Armed Forces Day flag is based on the Union Jack and it measures 5ft by 3ft. Flags cost £10, which includes postage and packaging to UK addresses, VAT and a £1 donation by the flag supplier, Piggotts, to the Forces Children’s Trust, a charity devoted to helping dependent children that have lost a parent whilst serving with the Armed Forces.
If you are interested in ordering an Armed Forces Day Flag you can get more information here or email

More information on Armed Forces Day and a full list of events confirmed so far are available here.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Defence | 3 Comments

Who Should You Vote for on 4th June?

euro-electionsThere is another of those interesting questionnaires that tells us what party we “should” be voting for in the European elections. It is based on a series of policy type questions and then weighted at the end.

Iain Dale apparently came out as a natural UKIP voter, whilst I am pleased to say that I came out as a Conservative. So that’s alright then!

Take the test here and let me know which party you are closest to.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | National | 3 Comments

New ComRes Poll – Tory Lead Surges to 19%




There is a new ComRes poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s Independent. As with all other recent polls it shows a jump in Conservative support and a lead of almost 20%:

            Conservative          45% (up 5%)

            Labour                       26% (down 2%)

            Lib Dem                    17% (down 1%)

All the recent polls are now showing a consistent message but it is useful to have the same findings from a pollster other than YouGov. It will be interesting to see if Gordon Brown’s position once again comes under threat from his own side.

I rather hope not!

April 27, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 3 Comments

New YouGov London Poll – Tory Lead Doubles





There is a new YouGov poll reported tonight for the Evening Standard on voting intentions in London. It shows a doubling of the Conservative lead from 6% to 12%:

            Conservative          45% (up 2%)

            Labour                       33% (down 4%)

            Lib Dem                    16% (up 3%)

This poll is remarkably close to the current national polls. In the previous YouGov London poll the Conservatives were doing less well than in the country at large.

On these results Labour could lose 14 seats to the Conservatives and the Lib Dems would probably lose Carshalton & Wallington, as well as my old seat of Sutton & Cheam.

Hat tip to Mike Smithson’s Political Betting.  

April 27, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

Another Blistering Speech from Dan Hannan

hannanDan Hannan Conservative MEP for the South East Region delivered another blistering attack on Gordon Brown at the Conservative Spring Conference in Cheltenham today.

See it here. It is well worth watching.

Dan became a YouTube sensation with an earlier speech delivered to the European Parliament in the presence of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Brown had to sit uncomfortably through an eloquently delivered speech that ripped his record to shreds.

April 26, 2009 Posted by | National | 8 Comments

Scottish Defections Rock Labour

paulmcbrideqcFollowing yesterday’s news of the Lib Dem PPC for Chelsea and Fulham joining the Conservatives, today I hear that a longstanding Labour supporter called McBride has defected. Fortunately it is top Scottish QC Paul McBride not Damian (the author of the email smears); we would not want the former aide to Gordon Brown in our party.

In a damning statement McBride says “I have been a supporter of Labour all my life. However, I now find myself in a position where I can no longer support a party that is serially mendacious and incompetent….The sooner there is a change of Government the better and David Cameron is that change.”

McBride has endorsed Scottish Conservative Leader Annabel Goldie and will be addressing the Scottish Conservative Conference next month. He will also now advise the party on legal matters.

In a further blow to Labour’s rapidly shrinking base in the business community, Scottish lingerie millionairess Michelle Mone has withdrawn her support (no pun intented) for the party.

These defections are doubly significant for being Scottish. Until recently Labour have dominated Scotland, almost like an old-fashioned one-party state. However, the SNP have made serious inroads into Labour support and now (as I predicted in an earlier post) the Conservatives are doing the same.

Labour has become increasingly reliant on business donations to keep their party afloat as Union contributions have shrunk. They will also find that it will become increasingly difficult to finance their party conferences as business support melts away.

It was one of the noticeable consequences of the post 1997 Labour ascendency that the number of trade stands and sponsored receptions at Conservative conferences plummeted as business leaders switched their support to Labour as the party of Government. Conservative conferences became a rather hollow affair as a result. However, last year’s Conference in Birmingham was notable for its number of stands and the buzz about the place.

Businesses survive and flourish by reading the movement of the market and the movement in the political market is no different. The next few Labour Conferences will be pretty lean affairs I would suspect.

April 26, 2009 Posted by | National | 5 Comments

New YouGov Poll – Tory Lead Unchanged at 18%





There is a new YouGov poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s Sunday People showing an unchanged 18% lead for the Conservatives:

            Conservative          45% (no change)

            Labour                       27% (no change)

            Lib Dem                    17% (down 1%)

This confirms the previous YouGov poll and the Lib Dem change is within the margin of error.

April 25, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

Lib Dem Defects to Conservatives

norsheen-bhattiTonight it is reported that the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate in Chelsea and Fulham, Norsheen Bhatti has defected to the Conservatives. She states that the Lib Dems are “out of touch with everyday life and people in our country” and she has praised David Cameron for doing more than the Lib Dems to get black and ethnic minority people elected to Parliament.

Miss Bhatti previously worked for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and her defection is a major coup for the Conservatives.

Unfortunately she has yet to take down her Lib Dem website (UPDATE: now removed).

April 25, 2009 Posted by | National | 4 Comments

Devastating Poll News Tonight?

Rumours are beginning to circulate of some devastating poll news for Labour tonight.

Sky News are hinting at a very bad poll for Labour and I am hearing that there may in fact be two polls tonight.

More will be published as soon as I hear anything.

April 25, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

Conservative National Convention Results






For those of you who are Conservative Party members you may be interested in the National Convention election results. These are the elections that determine the volunteer positions on the Party Board:

Chairman of the Convention

            Jeremy Middleton – 364 (ELECTED)

            Simon Mort – 164

            Sir Graham Bright – 57


Vice President (and Board Member)

            Fiona Hodgson – 450 (ELECTED)

            Charles Barwell – 367 (ELECTED)

            Paul Swaddle – 344 (ELECTED)

            John Walsh – 287

I am delighted that Paul Swaddle (from Reading/Wokingham) was successfully elected at the first attempt.

April 25, 2009 Posted by | National | 1 Comment

Fictional Forecasts

recession1In the budget this week Chancellor Alistair Darling forecast that the UK economy would shrink by 3.5% this year, before growth resumed next year. He has been widely derided for these forecasts and I have since heard him in interviews stating that 3.5% was in line with independent economic forecasters.

Thanks to “Mirthios” on Political Betting who highlighted the following independent forecasts for the economy this year:

-4.5% – Centre for Economics and Business Research Ltd
-4.3% – HSBC Holdings plc
-4.2% – IHS Global Insight
-4.1% – Citigroup
-4.1% – Daiwa Securities
-4.1% – IMF
-4.0% – Capital Economics
-4.0% – Deutsche Bank
-3.9% – Investec

As you can see not one is even close to the Chancellor’s forecast and most of them are significantly worse.

I fear that the hole in the budget figures will become even more apparent as the year progresses.

April 25, 2009 Posted by | National | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Tory Lead Up to 18%





There is a new YouGov poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph showing a massive 18% lead for the Conservatives, up from a mere 7% lead last month after a small post G20 “bounce” for Labour:

            Conservative          45% (up 4%)

            Labour                       27% (down 7%)

            Lib Dem                    18% (up 2%)

As always one poll does not a trend make but this is consistent with the last couple of major national polls on the parties’ standings. We will have to wait a bit to see the impact of yesterday’s budget but I suspect that it is unlikely to improve Labour’s position.

April 23, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 9 Comments