Richard Willis's Blog

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“Iain Dale for Bracknell” Website Launch

IainDaleWith the final short-list of seven Conservative prospective candidates chosen to go to an Open Primary Selection process, fellow blogger Iain Dale (left) has been quick to launch a campaign website. He has the usual biographical detail and contact information but has already amassed an impressive list of endorsements from across the political spectrum. He has also given what he describes as an “integrity pledge” with 10 promises to the people of the constituency as to how he will conduct himself as their MP if selected and subsequently elected.

Any Bracknell constituency resident on the electoral register can call 01344 868894 (by 5pm on 12th October) to register to attend the final selection meeting and vote for Iain or any of the other candidates. The meeting will take place in Bracknell at 1.30pm on 17th October at the Blue Mountain Golf Centre.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | Local | Leave a comment

The Sun Shines on the Right

Sun_logo300Hardly had the Labour Conference crowd dispersed after listening to Gordon Brown’s umpteenth make or break speech than the news began to filter through that Britain’s most popular tabloid newspaper was withdrawing its support for the Labour Party.

The Sun’s decision to back Labour in the run up to the 1997 General Election was undoubtedly symbolic of the national mood that the long Conservative ascendency was over and that “New Labour” were on course for victory. I have never been a subscriber to the view that any newspaper can determine the voting habits of its readers but it is undoubtedly influential at the margins. The claim that “It was The Sun Wot Won It” in 1992 was an example of hyperbole in the extreme.

However, the fact that The Sun has switched allegiance to back David Cameron and the Conservative Party as a “critical friend” will be welcomed in CCHQ and ensure that the tenor of The Sun’s editorials support the “time for a change” line. Delegates at the Labour Conference have suffered something of a roller-coaster ride this week with one poll showing them “surging” and another in third place behind the Lib Dems; a rousing Mandelson speech followed by a less than rousing leaders speech and then the news of the loss of The Sun’s support.

Opinion polls have shown Labour’s support to be consistently below 30% and The Sun’s announcement will only add to the impression of a party haemoraging support. With every passing day Labour’s chances of recovery under Gordon Brown’s leadership are shrinking. The onus is now on the Conservative leadership to set out an agenda for Government next week and avoid all impression of premature triumphalism.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | National | 2 Comments

Meet the Mayor

Fred Pugh 1Reading’s Mayor Cllr Fred Pugh is launching his monthly Meet the Mayor ‘open house’ sessions today (Tuesday 29 September).

He’ll be on hand to welcome visitors to the Mayor’s Parlour at the Civic Centre offering them a cup of tea and the chance to look behind the scenes and find out more about what the Mayor does.

Visitors can take a look at the Mayor’s robes, chain and the Mace and also view a selection of gifts received by Reading’s Mayors over the years. These include a large beautiful silver Indian jewel box received by the 1st Marquis of Reading when he was Viceroy of India, a Chinese good luck charm, an opera make up box from Peking, Japanese dolls, pictures, cut glass and items marking Reading’s links with Clonmel, Dusseldorf and Reading, Pennsylvania.

The open house sessions are on the final Tuesday of each month and run from 11am to 1pm. Everyone is welcome to come along.

‘I’ve had a very busy time since being made Mayor earlier this year. It’s been wonderful to meet so many friendly people and to find out more about some of the very impressive work being done by Reading folk to make the borough such a great place to live, work and visit.

‘The ‘Meet the Mayor’ sessions are my opportunity to share with people what I’ve been doing and what is planned,’ said Cllr Pugh.

Cllr Pugh has chosen Sue Ryder Care and Diabetes UK as his charities during his year in office and will be holding a number of events to raise money for these organisations.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Local | 6 Comments

New Ipsos MORI Poll – Lib Dems Overtake Labour

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There is a new Ipsos MORI poll reported tonight which shows a big boost for the Lib Dems (at the expense of the Conservatives) which is enough to put them ahead of Labour:

            Conservative              36% (down 7%)

            Lib Dem                      25% (up 8%) 

            Labour                       24% (down 2%) 

Earlier I said that having the Lib Dems level pegging with Labour could hardly be worse news at the start of their Conference. I was wrong. This is MUCH worse for Labour. Having said that, the usual caveats about Conference polls apply and MORI has shown something of a tendency for big swings between polls. Treat with caution.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 5 Comments

Reading Labour’s Kings Meadow U-Turn

KMC 2Tonight at Reading Borough Council’s Cabinet meeting the ruling Labour Executive reversed their previous vote on developing the Kings Meadow baths and voted to award a two-year exclusivity agreement to the community-based Kings Meadow Campaign (KMC). Lead Councillor Graeme Hoskin did his best to spin the volte face as a logical decision but in truth it was forced upon Labour by the “call in” of the Cabinet’s original decision to go with developer Askett Hawk.

Conservatives on the Council’s CCEA Scrutiny Panel rejected that decision earlier this year and called for the Cabinet to give both sides more time to come up with a scheme that met financial and planning development criteria for the sensitive site. I proposed the motion which Conservative colleagues supported. The Lib Dems abstained.

kings_meadow_3Cllr Hoskin gave three arguments to support his U-turn:

  1. The length of the lease demanded by Askett Hawk – they wanted 250 years.
  2. There was no guarantee of public access to the pool with Askett Hawk.
  3. Askett Hawk required the ability to appeal against any refusal of planning permission, which since their original scheme was over-sized and outside planning criteria was unacceptable.

He also made it clear that there would be no Council funds to support either group’s proposals, which could be a show-stopper for the KMC bid. At least now the KMC has time and the exclusivity agreement to bid in a meaningful way for lottery and other funding to achieve their aims.

I wish the KMC every success. If they cannot get sufficient funding, the Council will be left with a decaying listed building for which it has ultimate responsibility.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Local | 4 Comments

One More London Labour Councillor Joins the Conservatives

EniolaJust ten days ago I wrote about a Redbridge Labour Councillor who had defected to the Conservative Party and today there is another. Brent Councillor Francis Eniola joins a growing list of Black and Minority Ethnic members who have left the Labour Party for the Conservatives in recent years.

First elected in 2006 Cllr Eniola praised the “forward thinking” of David Cameron and condemned the “complacent attitude” in the Labour Party leadership. In some ways today’s defector is more significant for the party. Cllr Eniola is not just another obscure London Councillor. I am told that he is well known nationally within the Labour party and renowned for his effective and enthusiastic campaigning on issues dear to his heart.

He represents “Welsh Harp” ward, which in 2006 elected 3 Labour Councillors. His defection is therefore another boost to the London Conservatives and a blow to Labour on the first full day of their Conference.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | National | 1 Comment

Sky News Announce Daily Polling

skynewsFor opinion poll junkies like me there is some great news today. Sky News has teamed up with YouGov to produce daily voting intention polls during the Conference season. Unlike previous rolling polls this new sequence will sample 1,000 people daily which should ensure a more representative and reliable sample of public opinion.

It remains to be seen whether this will continue after the Party Conference season comes to an end but it will be interesting to watch the daily ebb and flow of political fortunes. The first series taken during the Lib Dem Conference has been published today and seems to suggest that after an initial boost (reflected in other recent polls) the Lib Dems have fallen back again. This would be consistent with findings in previous years at the time of the Lib Dem Conference. In today’s findings Labour have risen 5% and are now at 29%. YouGov’s Peter Kellner is describing this as a Labour surge but as YouGov’s own chart shows, just a week ago Labour were on 30%.

I do not intend to post an article on every daily change unless there is some significant development to report but I have added a link in my Websites list on the right of the screen.

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September 28, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

New ComRes Poll – Lib Dems and Labour Neck and Neck

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There is a new ComRes poll reported in tomorrow’s Independent which shows a small boost for the Lib Dems which is enough to put them level pegging with Labour:

            Conservative              38% (down 2%)

            Labour                       23% (down 1%) 

            Lib Dem                      23% (up 2%) 

Labour could hardly have worse news at the start of their Conference in Brighton. The poll also asks how the party would fare under a different leader, with the following results:

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I would treat the above with some caution as the results are usually not filtered in the same way as the main voting intention questions and tend to reflect how well recognised a politician is. Having said that all the polls about Brown before he took the leadership suggested that he would be a disaster for Labour and so he has proven.

September 27, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 3 Comments

New BPIX Poll – Another Lib Dem Boost

There is a new BPIX poll reported in today’s Mail on Sunday which shows a big boost for both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems at the expense of the “Others” compared to the last poll at the end of August:

            Conservative              40% (up 4%)

            Labour                       25% (up 1%)

            Lib Dem                      22% (up 5%)

This is very much in line with the earlier ICM poll. Usual caveats apply!

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September 27, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

EXCLUSIVE – The Bracknell Conservative Shortlist

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I am told that Bracknell Conservatives have selected their short-list of seven to replace sitting MP Andrew MacKay who is standing down. I am seeking final confirmation but I believe that they are:

   Iain Dale – top Conservative blogger, author and publisher. Iain stood in Norfolk North at the last election.

   Rory Stewart – author and former Army officer. I worked with Rory in the Foreign Office after the Iraq invasion. He was appointed Governor of Di Qar province in Iraq and is also famous for walking across Afghanistan in 2002

   Kate Lindsay – was previously shortlisted for Hampshire East

   Julia Manning – stood in Bristol East at the 2005 General Election

   Fiona Kemp – stood in Truro and St Austell in the 2005 General Election

   Philip Lee – a Doctor and project director of Conservative Friends of Bangladesh

   Ryan Robson – an investment banker and Chairman of the Centre for Social Justice’s Looked After Children Working Group.

   Margaret Doyle – a Westminster Councillor

It is an interesting selection of candidates with some very strong characters. I am also told that a small group of Bracknell Forest Councillors failed in their bid to have Bracknell Forest Council Leader Cllr Paul Bettison added to the short-list.

The seven will now go through to an Open Primary selection meeting on 17 October.

If anyone has any further information about members of the short-list please let me know.

CORRECTION: Two people have contacted me to tell me that Fiona Kemp was not short-listed and that the correct finalist is Margaret Doyle.

September 26, 2009 Posted by | Local | 18 Comments

New ICM Poll – Lib Dems Close on Labour

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There is a new ICM poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s News of the World which shows a 4% jump in the Lib Dem score to leave them just 3 points behind Labour:

            Conservative              40% (down 3%)

            Labour                       26% (no change) 

            Lib Dem                      23% (up 4%) 

Once again I will point out that polls during the Conference season should be treated with caution. The Lib Dems received a similar boost last year after their Conference which faded shortly afterwards.

September 26, 2009 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

Surrogates

Surrogates PosterLast night I went to see the new film “Surrogates”. The pre-publicity said that if you like films likes The Matrix, Minority Report and I-Robot you will like this one and that is certainly true as there are many similarities. The film is an adaption of Robert Venditti’s graphic novel and stars Bruce Willis (no relation!) as FBI Agent Greer. It is directed by Jonathan Mostow who also directed Terminator 3.

Essentially the world is largely populated with people who have purchased a better looking surrogate version of themselves and they stay at home living their lives vicariously through their surrogate selves. They cannot die or be injured and seem never to age. However, the inventor of the surrogate technology, Professor Canter (played by James Cromwell) has decided that it was a mistake and is seeking to stop his own invention. The world of surrogates is also resisted by small groups of humans who scratch out a living in slums areas without the aid of this technology. They are led by the secretive “Prophet” (played by Ving Rhames) who also preaches revolution and a return to normal human existence.

When a surrogate user is killed in mysterious circumstances the FBI must investigate the first murder in years and at the same time seek to conceal that fact that the user was killed as a result of his surrogate being terminated. There are many twists and turns as Greer is stripped of his badge and denied a replacement surrogate when his is destroyed by the Prophet’s followers and some comedy moments. At least as his human self Willis is credible whereas his surrogate sports a hilarious and incredible blond wig.

There are many action scenes and a surprising amount of violence for this 12A film but also a focus on Greer’s home life and his estrangement from his surrogate addicted wife. Needless to say, the film has a happy ending but raises some subtle questions for a generation that is addicted to our PCs and blogs!

I can thoroughly recommend this film to any sci-fi fans and agree that if you enjoyed the Matrix and I-Robot you will like this one.

September 26, 2009 Posted by | General Musings | Leave a comment

New YouGov Poll – Lib Dem Conference Boost

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The first poll following the Lib Dem Conference has been released by YouGov for the Daily Telegraph today and it shows a small boost for the Lib Dems despite their disastrous Conference in Bournemouth:

            Conservative              39% (down 2%)

            Labour                       26% (down 1%) 

            Lib Dem                     20% (up 3%)  

As cautioned before, polls during conference time can be distorted by the disproportionate coverage received by each of the parties and this affects the Lib Dems especially. We will have to wait for polls at the end of October to get a real feel for how things are.

September 26, 2009 Posted by | Polls | 2 Comments

HMS Ark Royal Sets Sail Again

Ark RoyalA faster, leaner and greener HMS Ark Royal (R07) took to the seas again today for the first time since February. The aircraft carrier has just undergone a £12m upgrade in her home port of Portsmouth and embarked today on two weeks of post-maintenance tests. She is heading to the Royal Navy’s training areas off the south west of England for marine and weapon engineering trials.

During the upgrade her hull was painted with new ‘intersleek’ paint – allowing her to cut through the seas more quickly – which will cut fuel costs and emissions by nine percent. It will also increase her top speed by two knots to 30 knots.

Ark Royal 2The work, carried out by BVT Surface Fleet, also included new exhaust systems, an updated IT network and improvements to sewage treatment plants. Her gearboxes, main engines and diesel generators have also been refurbished.

Ark Royal will resume her role as Fleet Flagship in the New Year, taking over from her sister ship HMS Illustrious (R06) which took on the honour during Ark Royal’s upgrade. She will also become the UK’s high-readiness ‘Strike Carrier’. 

HMS Invincible (of Falklands Conflict fame) decommissioned in 2005 and is currently on “Extended Readiness” in Portsmouth until next year when she is likely to be put up for sale.

The ships displace approximately 22,500 tonnes and measure 210m x 36m x 6.5m. They have a maximum speed of 28 knots (before the Ark’s paint upgrade) and can embark a tailored air group as required.

September 25, 2009 Posted by | Defence | 2 Comments

A Treasure Beyond Compare

Anglo Saxon Gold 1When I was a child I remember reading about the fabulous treasure that was the Sutton Hoo find. Anglo Saxon artefacts are relatively rare in England compared to the more plentiful and earlier Roman remains. So it was with excitement that I listened to the radio this morning as they described the new discovery of a fabulous Anglo Saxon gold and silver treasure hoard in Staffordshire, which formed a part of the ancient Kingdom of Mercia.

The new discovery is many times bigger than the Sutton Hoo hoard and arguably more significant. There are more than 1,300 different items ranging from sword and armour parts, a cross and a variety of jewellery. Whereas Sutton Hoo was a burial site, this new discovery is believed to be a deliberately buried hoard. In ancient times when conflict was far more prevalent, wealthy people Anglo Saxon Gold 9would often bury their wealth when threatened in the hope of returning to recover it when times were safer. The modern invention of the metal detector has meant that many such buried hoards have been found after centuries of laying undiscovered.

Although we still only have initial reports, this new Anglo Saxon hoard promises to be the equivalent of Tutankhamen’s tomb for British archaeologists. Some reports suggest that there are more items still being unearthed.

No doubt months of patient conservation and recording lie ahead but I look forward to visiting the exhibition when it is eventually displayed.

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September 24, 2009 Posted by | General Musings, National | 5 Comments