Richard Willis's Blog

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New YouGov Poll – Tory Lead up to 16%

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There is a new YouGov poll reported in today’s Sunday Telegraph which shows an increased Conservative lead of 16%:

            Conservative              42% (no change)

            Labour                       26% (down 2%) 

            Lib Dem                      18% (down 1%)  

This is pretty much statistically unchanged. We are about to enter the Party Conference season and polls during this period should be treated with some caution as they can react to individual party announcements and speeches. Only once the Conference season is over will we know whether all the effort and expense of the conferences has shifted voting intentions in any meaningful way. Whatever ever picture emerges after the conferences is likely to be the situation that we see going into the General Election next year.

August 31, 2009 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

The X Factor 2009 – Initial Auditions

XFactorRegular readers of this blog will know that I love talent shows like “Britain’s Got Talent” and “American Idol”. I was therefore sorry to miss last week’s first audition for the new 2009 X-Factor show on ITV but I did manage to watch the second show last night.

Amongst the dross and the deluded there is already some real talent coming to the fore. Here in Reading there has already been much publicity for local teacher Danyl Johnson and his fantastic audition:

In last night’s show one group stood out for me and that was the girl group Miss Fitz. They performed an amazing arrangement of a Britney Spears track that was miles better than the original in my opinion:

However, from the two shows to date one talent stands out as head and shoulders above the others and that is 18 year old Joseph McElderry. He is simply brilliant and reminds me of the early auditions of David Archuletta on American Idol last season:

Keep watching, as this promises to be an excellent, talent-filled series.

August 30, 2009 Posted by | General Musings | 2 Comments

More Top Blogger Awards

blogsvote-1While I have been away I see that Total Politics magazine has released more of its “Top Blogs” listings. I was earlier voted the top Conservative Councillor Blog in the UK and third amongst all parties, for which I was surprised and very grateful to those among the 1,500 people participating who voted for me.

The latest listings indicate that this blog was voted 20th in the top 100 Conservative blogs and 42nd in the top 100 Right of Centre blogs. Local bloggers have also done well  with Cllr Dave Luckett coming in at 47 in the Conservative bloggers list along with Cllr Emma Warman at 70.

Local Green campaigner Adrian Windisch came in at 10th in the top 25 Green bloggers list, along with his colleague Rob White at 14th and Battle Ward Independent Councillor Tony Jones managed 45th place in the top 50 non-aligned blogs.

As Iain Dale highlights, the listings are compiled from the votes of more than 1,500 people who voted in the “Total Politics” annual blog awards in the second half of July.

August 30, 2009 Posted by | General Musings, National | Leave a comment

New Scottish YouGov Poll

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There is a new YouGov poll on Scottish voting intentions reported in Sunday’s Scottish Mail on Sunday which shows a close fight between Labour and the SNP:

            Labour                       30% (down 3%)

            SNP                            26% (up 1%)

            Conservative              20% (up 1%) 

            Lib Dem                      18% (up 2%)  

20% is a decent rating for the Conservatives in a Scottish Westminster poll and not far behind the SNP. Quite a few seats should be winnable for the Conservatives if they were to hit 20% in the General Election.

August 30, 2009 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

New Ipsos MORI Poll – Tory Increases to 17%

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There is a new MORI poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s Observer which shows an increased 17% Conservative lead:

            Conservative              43% (up 3%)

            Labour                       26% (up 2%) 

            Lib Dem                      17% (down 1%)  

This is a very good rating for the Conservatives and slightly reassuring for Labour but there is little comfort for the Lib Dems.

August 29, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

Back from Bulgaria – Normal Service Resumes

Bulgarian_flagI am back in the UK once again with full access to the Internet, after a relaxing 10 days in hot and sunny Bulgaria. I note that there have been a series of interesting political events both locally and nationally, in addition to the Reading West Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate deciding to throw in the towel just before a likely General Election. However, more of all that later.

Before I dive back into the political scene I wanted to post a few thoughts on my holiday. I flew from Luton Airport on Wizz Air, one of the many low cost airlines but I have used them a few times and always found them to be reliable and good value. I have not flown with any commercial airline for a couple of years and therefore read all the signs carefully about what you could and could not carry. I had already removed all sharp objects and made sure I finished my drink before I went through the scanners. As I had no liquids on me I thought I would be OK but the security staff took exception to my hair gel (which went straight into the bin!) and to my brand new tube of toothpaste. That apparently was a security threat as it was not in a clear plastic bag. Once I had paid £1 to buy some bags and carried that same tube in a clear plastic bag it ceased to be a security threat and I was allowed through. I then had to buy some more hair gel.

I appreciate that airports have to be extra careful about security these days but I cannot help thinking that some of the rules are merely a scam to extract more money from passengers. My hair gel was 150ml and therefore over the size allowed but the saga of my toothpaste was ridiculous. Someone later explained to me that the 150ml rule is to stop people having a container in which they can mix the ingredients for a bomb but this makes no sense if you consider that you can buy almost any sized container you like once you are through the security gates.

BurgasAnyway I arrived safely in Burgas Airport in Bulgaria. It is an excellent and efficient airport, largely due to the fact that it is privately run rather than by the Government (like Sofia). I had a great 10 days with my family in the town of Kameno, combining swimming in our pool with days at the beach and visiting local towns and historical sites. Bulgaria is full of the latter and I was fascinated to go to an archaeological site at Rusocastro in Kameno district. We were taken by the Mayors of the two local towns up a steep hill to a site that had been a fortress at the edge of the Byzantine Empire and before that had been used by the Thracians. With almost 3,000 years of use the ground was littered with shards of pottery spanning the entire period and it was possible to pick up glazed and patterned pieces as well as the more usual plain earthenware. On the site there was an old Orthodox church that had fallen into disrepair and in 2007 was rebuilt. The bones of those buried there had been excavated and placed into a single consecrated “shed” which was unlocked for us. It was quite disturbing to see so many femurs and skull fragments piled up in this small dark space.

Bulgaria has changed quite a bit in the two years since I was there last. The cars on the road are more modern and there are increasing numbers of modern looking houses and apartments, replacing the drab Soviet era blocks. Some have plaques on the side with the Bulgarian and EU flags, indicating that they have been at least part funded by the EU. European Union money is undoubtedly making a difference but I heard several tales of it ending up in the wrong hands and being directed to useless schemes. The Russian mafia have their tentacles in Bulgaria and they have been astute at tapping into EU funds to further their own aims. Some apartments that have been built are nothing more than a scheme for Russian criminals to launder their ill-gotten gains.

In Kameno, where our house is, there was a small seasonal stream running at the end of the road. There were occasional problems with mosquitoes and a few frogs got into our garden. It has now been covered over with concrete at huge cost and signs proudly display the EU flag and the message that this project was funded by the EU. However, it has been left unfinished as an unsightly concrete scar through the town and there would appear to be no access points where it could be cleaned out if it silts up in future. Locals are bemused as to why the scheme was needed. Far better would have been to have paid for decent roads, as all too often Bulgarian roads, outside of the main towns, are a mass of potholes and ruts where big lorries have destroyed the surface. These holes can be as much as 18 inches deep and sometimes run almost right across the width of the road. Bulgarians have a habit of driving down the middle of rural roads to avoid the worst of the holes which tend to form at the edges. Cars and lorries appear to play chicken until they swerve out of each-others’ way right at the last minute. This can be a little disconcerting!

My parents have set up the charity “Balkan Vision” which raises fund in the UK to help particularly older people in Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine. Children tend to be well supported by a range of charities now but old people in care homes are often forgotten in quite poor conditions still. We visited one home which had 3 or four people to one small room and flies buzzing around all of the time. Some people with physical disabilities are also in these homes as they have no-one to care for them. One man we met had withered legs and had been in one of these homes for over 45 years, or all of his adult life. We took some supplies of sheets, mattress covers and some food for them and were well received. My parents also had medical supplies that the NHS were throwing out as an expiry date had been reached but which the Bulgarian staff received with thanks. Why the NHS thinks that bandages should have an expiry date is beyond me.

Anyway I had a great holiday, with temperatures 28-30C every day, no meetings and no work! I will be catching up on postings over the next day or so.

August 29, 2009 Posted by | General Musings | 6 Comments

Conservative Party Political Broadcast 1988

This was a fascinating broadcast focussing on speeches from the party conference and setting the agenda for the 1990’s:

August 24, 2009 Posted by | National | 2 Comments

Reading Lib Dems in Turmoil as Candidate Quits

Patrick MurrayReading Lib Dems have been thrown into further turmoil as their Reading West Parliamentary candidate has announced that he is quitting. Oxford Councillor Patrick Murray had been criticised for being an invisible candidate but now that he is gone Reading Lib Dems face running a new selection process just months before an expected General Election.

After Labour’s selection of “gaffe prone” Waltham Forest Councillor Naz Sarkar, things could hardly look better for Conservative candidate Alok Sharma.

August 20, 2009 Posted by | Local | 4 Comments

Conservative Party Election Broadcast 1983

This was a striking election broadcast looking back to the Winter of Discontent and Margaret Thatcher’s achievements in her first term:

August 20, 2009 Posted by | National | 5 Comments

Conservative Chairman’s Summer Update from CCHQ

Conservative Chairman Eric Pickles has recorded his summer update for party members with some useful tips and comment on recent political events:

This kind of broadcast is an excellent way to keep local members up to date with what is happening and planned.

I am certainly taking his number one top tip to heart!

August 18, 2009 Posted by | National | 2 Comments

Dovijdane – A Holiday Beckons

Pool 2006I will be away on holiday from tomorrow for about 10 days but fear not I will have some access to the “Interweb” so hope to be able to post from time to time.

My parents live half of the year near to Bourgas, Bulgaria on the Black Sea coast and I will be joining them for a long awaited break from work and Council duties. I will be spending lots of time in our pool (left) as the temperatures are about 28-30 C there every day at the moment. 

If you have never been to Bulgaria it really is worth a look. The country has an incredible history as it has been at the cross-roads of so many invasions and different empires. The Greeks had settlements along the Black Sea coast; the Thracians occupied most of modern Bulgaria; as did the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium; then the Ottomans came; and in the late 1880’s the modern nation of Bulgaria was born. After a period under Communism it is now free once again and flourishing. Bulgaria is now proudly in the EU and NATO.

NesebarDue to its history the country is full of fascinating historical sites, including the amazing coastal town of Nesebur (right) which has Byzantine churches on every corner and has preserved the air of a Mediaeval town. The markets are usually full of modern rubbish but every few stalls there is one selling Roman coins, Byzantine bronze-work or Soviet era uniforms. Watch out for the fakes, which are very common.

Things are generally much cheaper in Bulgaria than the UK. Although prices have risen as the Pound has fallen back recently, you can still buy a meal for three people with drinks, for around £12. My family bought a property out there some years ago and have benefitted from the rise in prices which are still cheap by UK standards. The trick is to buy in a residential neighbourhood and not one of the purpose built holiday flats for foreigners.

Anyway I am looking forward to a week or so in the sun, without meetings or the day job. See you all next month!

Bulgaria_map

August 18, 2009 Posted by | General Musings | 4 Comments

Glasgow North East By-Election

Glasgow NEWe still don’t know the date for the Glasgow North East by-election which results from former Speaker Michael Martin’s decision to stand down.

The good people of Glasgow North East have now been without a Member of Parliament for over two months and it is likely to be another two months before they have their next one.

I am sure someone can tell me what the previous longest period that a constituency was without representation in Westminster was but this must surely be in the running for the longest in recent times.

All of the major party candidates are now in place although no doubt there will be the usual range of independents and fringe candidates to come:

 

    Labour – William Bain

    SNP – David Kerr

    Conservative – Ruth Davidson

    Lib Dem – Cllr Eileen Baxendale

    Scottish Socialist Party – Kevin McVey

    Solidarity – Tommy Sheridan

    BNP – Charlie Baillie

    Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party – John Swinburn

It is very difficult to make any comparison with previous election results as by convention the major national parties do not compete against a sitting Speaker seeking re-election. There have also been significant boundary changes that make any previous comparison pretty meaningless. However, with the crushing defeat suffered by Labour at the hands of the SNP in neighbouring Glasgow East last year, the SNP are the favourites to take the seat.

The SNP have made something of a meal of their candidate selection. The original candidate Grant Thoms stood down as he didn’t want to contest the by-election. The party then selected Cllr James Dornan who was forced to stand aside when he was the subject of allegations of financial irregularity. The SNP finally settled on David Kerr who now has huge expectations resting on his shoulders. He is a former BBC Scotland journalist and a member of the secretive Roman Catholic group “Opus Dei”, which is vehemently anti-abortion and has been described as anti-gay and anti-women.

The Conservatives by contrast have selected a young Protestant woman who used to serve with the Territorial Army and is openly gay. Ruth Davidson is 30 years old and also an ex-BBC Scotland journalist. She is a former Sunday school teacher, whose parents still live in the constituency.

Labour has chosen 36 year old William Bain, the Secretary of the local Labour Party and a Law lecturer at London’s South Bank University.

The Lib Dem candidate Eileen Baxendale is a South Lanarkshire Councillor and former Social Worker.

Glasgow is not exactly fertile territory for the Conservatives and this is likely to be a two-horse race between a strong local Labour candidate and his SNP challenger. Michael Martin was a popular local MP and William Bain will be hoping that the “Martin” factor will be enough to see off the SNP.

August 17, 2009 Posted by | National | Leave a comment

Reading Lib Dems Take Recycling to a New Level

Epps_Gareth_2007We all know that recycling is very much in vogue, with all of the major parties supporting its extension. However, Lib Dem Councillor Gareth Epps has been caught out passing off someone else’s comments as his own. A correspondent has sent me a link to this story in today’s Reading Post online edition where Epps pronounces, “Storing the DNA of thousands of innocent young people is unlikely to solve our crime problems.  It is a costly way of stigmatising young people.”

As a commentator below the article has pointed out, this is exactly the same quote used by the Lib Dem PPC for Holborn and St Pancras, Jo Shaw, in a recent Daily Mail article: “Storing the DNA of thousands of innocent young people is unlikely to solve our crime problems.  It is a costly way of stigmatising young people.” This is also pretty much the same quote she gave to her local paper as far back as 4th June.

So not only is it a recycled quotation but it is an old recycled quote which Cllr Epps is seeking to pass off as his own. I know the Lib Dems are hard up and that all parties sometimes use centrally issued template press releases but surely Cllr Epps can take a few minutes to create his own quotations!

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Local | 22 Comments

“Labour’s Decade of Irresponsibility”

I was sent this YouTube clip today. I know it has been around for a while but it is better than any Party Political broadcast I have seen and in the light of the latest economic news is even more appropriate:

Maybe the Conservative Party should have a word with Tory Bear and get this run on the national media.

August 16, 2009 Posted by | National | 3 Comments

New ICM Poll – Tories up to 43%

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There is a new ICM poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s Sunday Mirror which shows a jump in the Conservative lead to 17%:

            Conservative              43% (up 2%)

            Labour                       26% (down 1%) 

            Lib Dem                      19% (down 1%) 

Once again the changes are within the margin of error but the increase in the Conservative share and the slight fall in Labour and Lib Dem shares will be encouraging to Tory candidates. Both polls tonight are broadly showing the same position of a solid Conservative lead and a vote share over 40%. Since ICM and YouGov are considered by many to be the most reliable pollsters, that is encouraging news.

One note of caution though; the party conferences can cause big changes, as Gordon Brown knows to his cost. Only a month or so after the final conference will we have a clear picture of the likely position going into the coming General Election.

August 15, 2009 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment