Richard Willis's Blog

First for local news and first for comment

New YouGov Poll – Lib Dems Down to 12%

There is a new YouGov poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s Sunday Times, showing the Lib Dem slide continuing down to a new low of just 12%:

            Conservative              42% (down 2%)

            Labour                       38% (up 3%)

                                          Lib Dem                     12% (down 1%)

The continuing poor showing for the Lib Dems will be causing alarm in both Lib Dem and Conservative HQs. Whilst I am sure that both parties are prepared to tolerate some unpopularity, the growing differential between Lib Dem and Conservative support will be likely to lead to increased dissent in the Lib Dems particularly.

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 21 July.

July 31, 2010 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

Treasury Threat to UK Security

There have been a growing number of articles in national newspapers speculating on the cuts that might be made in Britain’s defence capability as a result of the shambles that Labour left behind, both in the national finances and the Ministry of Defence equipment programmes. Commentators have suggested that the RAF may have to chose between its Tornado fleet of fighter jets and the joint Harrier force that it shares with the Royal Navy and which provides air cover for the fleet. Some have suggested that the Navy’s new aircraft carriers should be scrapped or that the Army will lose most of its heavy tanks.

The Treasury had already asked the MOD to identify cuts of 10-20% in defence spending at the same time as the Defence Secretary has commissioned a Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). It should be remembered that the armed forces have already been cut massively following the end of the Cold War and a conflict still rages in Afghanistan. Just to balance the books and put the equipment programme on a sustainable basis would entail some cuts in planned programmes and cause real pain to our armed forces.

The latest news is that the Treasury has now reversed previous practice by refusing to fund the capital cost of the Trident replacement programme over and above the MOD budget. Any replacement will have to come out of planned defence spending totals, placing a further big strain on the budget. SDSR should be a policy led review, considering what the UK wants from its armed forces and providing the resources to meet those requirements. It is looking increasing likely that it is a Treasury led exercise, seeking to cut the forces to match a greatly reduced defence budget.

It is beyond doubt that a large part of the UK’s international influence comes from the capability of our armed forces and our willingness as a nation to use them. This is key to our relationship with the USA and important to our allies around the world. We also have responsibilities for British subjects in overseas territories in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific. Without the ability to defend them against potential aggressors we would have abrogated our responsibilities.

When Margaret Thatcher came to office in 1979 following the years of economic chaos under Edward Heath and Labour, her Government pledged to increase defence spending by 3% per year in real terms. This was achieved despite the poor economic circumstances and the increases were maintained year on year until 1986. Conservatives believe that the fundamental duty of a government is to maintain external and internal security. Defence is obviously a key element of this.

A Conservative Government should not be cutting defence spending at a time when our forces are engaged in combat operations overseas and insisting that Trident replacement is funded from the core defence budget is a backdoor cut. I fear that further cuts are to come and that the result will be a greatly weakened nation even more subject to the whims of others.

I hope that Conservative MPs will lobby the Chancellor of the Exchequer and that the Prime Minister will add his weight to the Comprehensive Spending Review to ensure that Defence is spared further cuts. To do otherwise would be a catastrophic decision for our nation and a failure of the first duty of government.

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Defence, National | 4 Comments

Lib Dem Councillor Defects to Conservatives

A Berkshire Liberal Democrat Councillor has decided to defect to the Conservative Party. Cllr Wilson Hendry of Windsor and Maidenhead Council has abandoned the party he has represented since 1991 in order to join the administration of the Royal Borough.

Cllr Wilson Hendry (Con, Pinkneys Green), said: “This is not a decision that I have taken lightly, but the Conservative led council has an excellent track record locally and have taken bold and decisive steps, such as actually cutting council tax. I believe that it is important that the residents of Pinkneys Green have a strong voice in the Council and by joining the Conservatives I will help to achieve this rather than remaining as a Liberal Democrat.”

All like-minded folk are welcome in the new Conservative Party!

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Local, National | 3 Comments

Labour Sued by Sood

Former Labour Parliamentary candidate for North West Norfolk, Manish Sood, has launched a case against the Labour Party which suspended him just before the General Election. He is seeking £100,000 in compensation for what he describes as the Party’s lack of support for him and his campaign in the constituency.

You might recall that Mr Sood hit the headlines shortly before election day for revealing to the electorate that he thought that Gordon Brown was the “worst Prime Minister in history”! In an interview on Sky News he broadened his attack to describe the current Labour party and its policies as “a total disaster for the country”. Not a statement calculated to endear him to his own party leadership.

Manish Sood is a Councillor on Leicester City Council. Formerly Labour, he was suspended from his party group after his remarks and he now sits as an Independent. He was also criticised by his mother who is also a Leicester City Councillor and who still takes the Labour Whip.

I suspect that Mr Sood wont be standing again as a Labour candidate in the near future!

July 28, 2010 Posted by | National | 2 Comments

New Ipsos MORI Poll – Labour Surge as Lib Dems Drop

A new Ipsos MORI poll has been published tonight for Reuters showing Labour surging to close the gap to just 2% behind the Conservatives:

            Conservative              40% (up 1%)

                                                        Labour                       38% (up 7%)

                                                        Lib Dem                      14% (down 5%)

The Lib Dem drop is consistent with that shown by YouGov but it should be noted that MORI has a history of big swings which are sometimes reversed when the next poll is published.

Satisfaction with Clegg, Cameron and the government have decreased since last month although are still positive. Net satisfaction with Nick Clegg (the percentage satisfied minus the percentage dissatisfied) stands at +13, from +26 in June. For David Cameron, it has dropped from +31 to +23, and net satisfaction for the government is at +3, from +10 in June.

Nick Clegg’s net satisfaction amongst Liberal Democrat supporters has dropped 26 points, from +64 in June to +38, whilst Cameron’s ratings among Conservative supporters have improved by seven percentage points, from +81 to +88.

MORI’s Economic Optimism Index returns to positive territory, at +3%, from -5 in June.  There is still uncertainty about Britain’s economic prospects for the next 12 months. Over a third (37%) think that the economic condition of the country will improve over the next 12 months, but a similar percentage (34%) think that it will get worse.

The public are also split on whether the government’s policies will improve the state of Britain’s public services – around half (45%) agree, and the same percentage disagree. However, this is better than any score the Labour government got since the end of 2001.

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,009 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 23-25 July 2010.  Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

July 27, 2010 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

Construction Phase Commences on New British Aircraft Carriers

The nationwide programme to build the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers has passed another milestone today, as construction on the first ship, the Queen Elizabeth, began on the Mersey.

Minister for International Security and Strategy, Gerald Howarth, started the crane that laid the first of the steel plates for the ship’s giant flight deck.

Birkenhead company Cammell Laird is the final shipyard in the programme to begin construction. It will build two of the sections that will make up the ship’s flight deck, which will eventually be the size of three football pitches. Together they will weigh in at 7,500 tonnes – more than a Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer. The work is worth £44 million to Cammell Laird and will provide a significant number of jobs in the area, boosting the local economy.

As he toured the yard, the Minister met some of the 1,200 strong workforce involved in the project – including some of the 72 apprentices. He said: “Aircraft carriers represent a national asset for the UK. Power and versatility make them a formidable war fighting tool, and they are able to fulfil a wide range of requirements in an increasingly diverse and changing global defence landscape. The workers that I met today are rightly proud to be a part of it, and it’s particularly exciting to see so many young apprentices learning their trade on such a prestigious project.”

Six shipyards across the UK are involved in the massive construction project – Govan and Rosyth in Scotland, Portsmouth and Devon on the South coast of England, Newcastle and now Liverpool in the North – supporting around 10,000 jobs, with thousands more suppliers contributing with smaller contracts through the supply chain.

I am encouraged by this endorsement of the carrier project by a Government Minister and hope that this suggests that the two new carriers are safe in the defence review.

Queen Elizabeth Class facts: 

The dimensions are: 65,000 tonnes at full displacement; 56m from keel to masthead; 11m max draft (keel to waterline); 9 decks plus flight deck; 40 aircraft can be embarked.

Each ship weighs more than 40,000 average family cars.

Each ship will be similar size and weight as the retired ocean liner the QE2.

Their top speed could see the carriers cross from Dover to Calais in an hour.

Annual fuel consumption is expected to be very similar to that of the current Invincible Class Carriers which is impressive considering each ship is approximately three times the weight. 

The flight deck is the size of three football pitches.

Each ship will have 1.5 million m2 of paintwork, which is 370 acres or slightly more than size of Hyde Park.

Each ship’s two propellers are 6.7m across and weigh 33 tonnes – nearly two & half times as heavy as a double decker bus and one & half times as high.

The anchors are 3.1m high and weigh 13 tonnes – almost as much as a double decker bus.

The aircraft lifts can move two Joint Combat Aircraft from the hangar to the flight deck in 60 seconds. They’re so powerful that together they could lift the weight of the entire ship’s crew.

80,000 tonnes of steel has been ordered for the two ships – three times that used in Wembley Stadium.

July 27, 2010 Posted by | Defence | 9 Comments

New ICM Poll – Tory Lead Cut to 4%

There is a new ICM poll in tomorrow’s Guardian showing a reversal of the recent position of a strengthening Conservative share with the Lib Dems slipping :

            Conservative              38% (down 3%)

                                                  Labour                       34% (down 1%) 

                                                  Lib Dem                      19% (up 3%) 

I believe there may also be a MORI poll out tonight and it will be interesting to see if the picture above is repeated or if the results are closer to recent YouGov polls.

July 26, 2010 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

Total Politics Blogging Awards 2010

Dear Readers,

Can I ask you to do me a favour? Once again Total Politics are conducting their survey of the best Blogs nationwide. I would be grateful for your support in voting for me as one of your top political blogs.

The instructions are as follows:

1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and rank them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
2. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
3. You MUST include at least FIVE blogs in your list, but please list ten if you can. If you include fewer than five, your vote will not count.
4. Email your vote to
5. Only vote once.
6. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents or based on UK politics are eligible. No eligible blog will be excluded from voting.
7. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name
8. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2010. Any votes received after that date will not count.

If you want some ideas for populating your list you could look at the list of my recommended blogs to the right of this page.

July 26, 2010 Posted by | General Musings | 1 Comment

New OnePoll – Tories 10% Ahead of Labour

There is a new OnePoll reported tonight for Sunday’s People newspaper, showing the Conservatives 10% ahead of Labour and the Lib Dems at 23%:

            Conservative              40%

            Labour                       30%

            Lib Dem                      23%

This poll is in direct contradiction with YouGov regarding the Lib Dem share of the vote. Whilst YouGov has shown the Lib Dems sliding to the 13-15% range, this pollster has them 10% higher.

Both pollsters cannot be right!

UPDATE: Anthony Wells has commented that OnePoll should be given limited credibility due to their unwillingness to publish the data behind their polls and their gross inaccuracy in their final poll before the General Election. It looks like YouGov’s poll in the S Times which has Cons 41%, Lab 36%, Lib Dem 14% is the more reliable indicator.

July 25, 2010 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

“Front Office” – Six Month Update

It has been some time since any local blogger has published stats for individual Councillors’ use of the Council’s “Front Office” (formerly “Acolaid”) case logging system. As I have said before, some Councillors use the system more than others but its use is encouraged.

It should be noted that some Councillors were only elected in May and therefore their stats are only for two months (shown with *):


                         Cllr Isobel Ballsdon (Thames) – 48

                         Cllr Tom Steele (Kentwood) – 42

                         Cllr Tim Harris (Church) – 35

                         Cllr Mark Ralph (Peppard) – 34

                         Cllr Tom Stanway (Caversham) – 32

                         Cllr Andrew Cumpsty (Caversham) – 28

                         Cllr Richard Willis (Peppard) – 25

                         Cllr Wazir Hussain (Park) – 22

                         Cllr Jamie Chowdhary (Peppard) – 18

                         Cllr Jenny Rynn (Kentwood) – 14

                         Cllr Emma Warman (Kentwood) – 14

                         Cllr Fred Pugh (Mapledurham) – 10

                         Cllr Dave Luckett (Caversham) – 9

                         Cllr Mike Townend (Church) – 8

                         Cllr David Stevens (Thames) – 5

                         Cllr Jeanette Skeats (Thames) – 4

                         Cllr Azam Janjua (Church) – 0

                         Lib Dem

                         Cllr Gareth Epps (Katesgrove) – 102

                         Cllr Glenn Goodall (Redlands) – 68

                         Cllr Daisy Benson (Redlands) – 65

                         Cllr Kirsten Bayes (Redlands) – 33

                         Cllr Ricky Duveen (Tilehurst) – 31

                         Cllr Peter Beard (Tilehurst) – 19

                         Cllr Chris Harris (Tilehurst) – 9

                         Cllr Warren Swaine (Katesgrove) – 8

                         Cllr Rebecca Rye* (Katesgrove) – 3


                         Cllr Tony Page (Abbey) – 120

                         Cllr John Ennis (Southcote) – 117

                         Cllr Mike Orton (Whitley) – 76

                         Cllr Jo Lovelock (Noroct) – 63

                         Cllr Rachel Eden* – (Whitley) – 29

                         Cllr Deborah Edwards (Southcote) – 27

                         Cllr Bet Tickner (Abbey) – 26

                         Cllr Gul Khan (Battle) – 24

                         Cllr Paul Gittings (Minster) – 23

                         Cllr John Hartley (Park) – 23

                         Cllr Pete Ruhemann (Southcote) – 14

                         Cllr Jim Hanley (Whitley) – 9

                         Cllr Mohammed Ayub (Abbey) – 9

                         Cllr Graeme Hoskin (Norcot) – 5

                         Cllr Deborah Watson (Minster) – 5

                         Cllr Chris Maskell (Battle) – 3

                         Cllr Peter Jones (Norcot) – 2

                         Cllr Marion Livingstone* (Minster) – 2

                         Cllr Sarah Hacker* (Battle) – 0


                         Cllr Rob White* (Park) – 76

Once again each party has a spread of activity levels based on this one measure, with some of the newly elected Councillors have got off to a flying start. Cllr Tony Page (Labour) again tops the table but he looks set to be quickly overtaken by newly elected Cllr Rob White (Green), who in just two months is already in fourth place overall.

This is just one measure of Councillor activity and it should be borne in mind that some wards generate less casework than others and there are more ways of serving our constituents than just entering (sometimes trivial) cases onto the Front Office system. I will be making further enquiries about how much it costs to process a Front Office case and whether all items entered are actual cases or perhaps could be dealt with more efficiently through other means.

Anyway, enjoy these stats!

July 24, 2010 Posted by | Local | 2 Comments

New YouGov Poll – Tories Hit High of 44%

There is a new YouGov daily poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s Sun newspaper, showing the Conservatives hitting a new high of 44% this year:

            Conservative              44% (up 1%)

            Labour                       35% (no change)

                                          Lib Dem                     13% (down 1%)

Unfortunately the Lib Dem side seems to be continuing to a new low this year of 13%. Both coalition parties need to consider what might be causing the two parties to move in opposite directionsand what could be done to address it, as this divergence is not consistent with maintaining happy back-benchers and local government base in the Liberal Democrats.

July 21, 2010 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

New YouGov Poll – Lib Dems Drop to 14%

There is a new YouGov poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s Sun newspaper, showing the Conservatives holding a solid lead over Labour:

            Conservative              43% (no change)

            Labour                       35% (up 1%)

                                          Lib Dem                     14% (down 1%)

What is more noteworthy is that the Lib Dems seems to be suffering disproportionately from the coalition government’s decisions. This is surprising as I would have expected the two parties to have benefitted or suffered equally. Perhaps it is the case that some of the more left-leaning Lib Dems are unhappy with their party’s support for the very necessary repair to the public finances after Labour came close to wrecking our economy.

All changes are within the margin of error and are shown compared to the last daily YouGov poll I reported on 14 July.

July 20, 2010 Posted by | Polls | 4 Comments

Frankie and Benny’s

Last night I went to Frankie and Benny’s restaurant in Earley. I had never been to a Frankie and Benny’s before, which is described as a New York style Italian restaurant. I was not sure what to expect but the overall style and atmosphere can best be described as rather similar to TGI Fridays but slightly more upmarket.

We arrived and were reasonably quickly shown to a table but that’s where the quickness of anything stopped! We waited for an age for anyone to show us any further attention, until by staring at one of the waiters he came over to take our order. After placing the order we once again had a long wait before the drinks arrived. The starters arrived shortly afterwards and they looked good but quite small. However, once we started eating our disappointment with the place disappeared. The food was absolutely delicious and very rich. I had mushrooms on garlic ciabatta, with a cheese sauce.

There was another wait before the main course arrived but when it did it was huge! I ordered a triple decker chicken club sandwich with fries. I could barely eat it all and certainly had no room for desert. We ordered some more drinks during the main meal but they did not arrive until after we had finished eating. I asked our waiter what was happening and he explained that some of the staff were new and “lacked confidence”. Not a very credible explanation for a restaurant that was only two thirds full at best while we were there. Some people we saw get up and leave in frustration at the slow service.

One other VERY annoying feature was the dimming of the lights and playing of a “Happy Birthday” music track followed by Cliff Richard’s “Congratulations” both of which were too loud. This seemed to happen about every ten minutes and became increasingly irritating. When the bill came it was reasonable – £42 for two.

The redeeming feature of the night was the quality of the food which was excellent. I don’t think I will be rushing back there but for a birthday gathering of friends it would be fun.

July 17, 2010 Posted by | General Musings | 2 Comments

New YouGov Poll – Tories Hit 43% With a 9% Lead

There is a new YouGov poll reported tonight for tomorrow’s Sun newspaper, showing the Conservatives up again to their highest level with YouGov this year:

            Conservative              43% (up 1%)

            Labour                       34% (no change)

                                          Lib Dem                     15% (down 2%)

All changes are within the margin of error but Labour are going no where and the Lib Dems are back at 15% once again.

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 11 July. As I have said before I am not intending to report every single YouGov poll, which are now produced daily.

July 14, 2010 Posted by | Polls | 9 Comments

New British Unmanned Stealth Plane is Unveiled

A new British prototype unmanned combat aircraft of the future, Taranis, has been unveiled by the MOD for the first time today. Named after the Celtic god of thunder, the concept demonstrator will test the possibility of developing the first ever autonomous stealthy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) that would ultimately be capable of precisely striking targets at long range, even in another continent.

Should such systems enter into service, they will at all times be under the control of highly trained military crews on the ground. Speaking at the unveiling ceremony at BAE Systems in Warton, Lancashire, Minister for International Security Strategy Gerald Howarth said: “Taranis is a truly trailblazing project. The first of its kind in the UK, it reflects the best of our nation’s advanced design and technology skills and is a leading programme on the global stage.”

Representing the pinnacle of British engineering and aeronautical design, Taranis is an informal partnership of the MOD and industry talents including BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, QinetiQ and GE Aviation. Speaking on behalf of the industry team, Nigel Whitehead, Group managing director of BAE Systems’ Programmes & Support business, said: “Taranis has been three and a half years in the making and is the product of more than a million man-hours. It represents a significant step forward in this country’s fast-jet capability. This technology is key to sustaining a strong industrial base and to maintain the UK’s leading position as a centre for engineering excellence and innovation.”

Looking very similar to manned US stealth aircraft, the Taranis prototype will provide the MOD with critical knowledge on the technical and manufacturing challenges and the potential capabilities of Unmanned Combat Air Systems. Flight trials are due to commence next year.

July 12, 2010 Posted by | Defence | 8 Comments