Richard Willis's Blog

First for local news and first for comment

New YouGov Poll – Lib Dems Down to 11%

There is a new YouGov poll reported in tomorrow’s Sun newspaper, showing the Conservative lead increasing again to 5% over Labour:

            Conservative              43% (up 2%)

            Labour                       38% (up 1%)

                                          Lib Dem                     11% (down 2%)

The Lib Dems are down to just 11%. On a happier note for the coalition the Government has maintained a small net positive rating with 40% approving and 39% disappoving of its record.

Changes shown are compared to the last daily YouGov poll I reported on 22 August.

August 31, 2010 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

Salt – The Movie

It has been a while since I have been to watch a film at one of the local cinemas but last night I had a choice of seeing the much promoted “Salt” or “Inception”. I opted for Salt and am very glad I did. The film features Angelina Jolie as a CIA senior agent Evelyn Salt whose life is thrown into confusion when a defecting Russian agent names her as a Russian sleeper agent.

Fearful that she will not be believed and worrying about the fate of her husband, Salt goes on the run. The chase scenes are a match for or better than any others I have seen, although they rather stretch credibility on more than one occasion. However, I was kept on the edge of my seat throughout as the plot unfolded and I was not able to predict where the plot was going. Was she really a deep cover Russian agent fulfilling her destiny, or an aggrieved wife determined to gain revenge? I will let you watch the film and decide.

I can thoroughly recommend this film. It is a 12A but is action packed and very well written. It has elements of the Bourne series of films and the action of Mission Impossible. The film is directed by Australian Philip Noyce, who has films such as “Clear and Present Danger”, “Patriot Games”, and “The Saint” to his name.

Jolie is undoubtedly the star of the film and the rest of the cast, although excellent, are relatively unknown. Liev Schreiber is credible as Salt’s fellow CIA agent Ted Winter, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is well cast as counter-intelligence agent Peabody, obsessed with tracking down Salt.

If you like action packed movies with thrilling chase scenes you will love this one. So many films are quite predictable but I was wondering throughout where this would go next. It is that sense of wanting to know the outcome that can keep a viewer’s attention and I certainly never for one moment found my attention wandering. I left very impressed with the movie and looking forward to the inevitable second instalment which the ending left as a distict possibility.

August 30, 2010 Posted by | General Musings | 4 Comments

Labour From Another Planet?

Following David Cameron likening Labour’s leadership contest to a Star Trek convention, Fraser Nelson has done a fun mock up picture:

All we are missing is Diane Abbott as Lt Uhura!

August 29, 2010 Posted by | National | 3 Comments

New YouGov Poll – Tories 4% Ahead

There is a new YouGov poll reported in tomorrow’s Sunday Times, showing the Conservative lead up slightly to 4% over Labour:

            Conservative              41% (no change)

            Labour                       37% (down 1%)

                                          Lib Dem                     13% (up 1%)

The Government has also moved into a small net positive rating with 41% approving and 40% disappoving of its record.

Changes shown are compared to the last daily YouGov poll I reported on 22 August.

August 28, 2010 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

From Horror to Heroes

One of the privileges of my current job is the many very interesting people I get to meet. Last Friday I was thrilled to be able to share a drink and a meal with eight Battle of Britain fighter pilots. Great names such as Bob Foster, William Walker and Geoffrey Wellum were present and I was able to chat to each of them. They are in no way special in the ordinary sense of the word and you would not spot them in a crowd. They are generally unassuming and modest individuals and certainly do not see themselves as heroes. However, one characteristic which stands out in most of them is their wicked sense of humour. Some of their comments and jokes would no doubt be frowned upon by the “politically correct” crowd which so dominates modern life but it is worth remembering that without their efforts and many like them, the modern politically correct crowd would have no democratic space in which to operate.

Today I met a completely different group which included holocaust survivors and some of the British “liberators” who were the first into the camps at Auschwitz and Belsen. They were around the same age as the first group of Battle of Britain veterans but included mostly Jewish  people from across Eastern Europe (Hungary, Poland and Lithuania) and even Berlin.

One of the sweetest ladies was Lilly from Hungary who had survived the horrors of Auschwitz, along with her sister and brother, although she had lost other family members there. She showed me her tattoo of a series of numbers on the lower underside of her left arm, inflicted on her by the Nazi’s to ensure that she could be traced and documented like the slave that she was considered to be by them. I have seen an Auschwitz tattoo before and to be honest I could feel myself welling up again!

I have never been to the site of Auschwitz but I know that people who have are greatly moved by the sense of what happened there. I know that the survivors I have met are the fortunate ones but I cannot help but be moved by the appalling suffering that they embodied standing there before me.

My generation read and heard about the events of World War 2 and we have watched most of the classic films but there is something enormously moving about meeting people that lived it. Whether it be the fighter pilot dashing across the sky in his Spitfire or Hurricane, or the emaciated survivor of a Nazi death camp they are heroes to me.

August 24, 2010 Posted by | General Musings | 3 Comments

New YouGov Poll – Tory Lead Cut to 3%

There is a new YouGov poll reported in today’s Sunday Times, showing the Conservatives lead cut to just 3% over Labour:

            Conservative              41% (down 3%)

            Labour                       38% (up 2%)

                                          Lib Dem                     12% (no change)

Changes shown are compared to the last daily YouGov poll I reported on 18 August.

August 22, 2010 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

Australia Decides

There is a general election campaign underway in Australia which concludes with the voting tomorrow. When the campaign began Labor leader Julia Gillard was odds on favorite to win, having succesfully booted out her predecessor Kevin Rudd whose popularity had nose-dived. Opposition leader Tony Abbott was seen as a pleasant man but unlikely Prime Minister, in this election at least.

However, the campaign has not gone as Gillard would have wished. She has faced flak for her coup against Rudd and for a series of gaffes that emanated from the Labor campaign, even leading to her having to seek support from the man she pushed aside.

For the opposition Liberal/National coalition it has been a relatively uneventful campaign, pursued with quiet competence and Abbott seems to have grown on the Australian electorate with a resulting increase in his coalition’s poll ratings.

The general election has been stated to be “too close to call” by the pundits and some have suggested that Australia will join the UK in having a hung Parliament. In a desperate last attempt to shore up her core vote Helen Gillard appealed to the republican sympathisers by suggesting that when the Queen dies Australia should and will become a republic. This was rebuffed by Tony Abbott, who, like the last Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, is a staunch Monarchist.

The final campaign  polls in Australia confirm the tightness of the race:

 Newspoll has Labor on 50.2% and the Liberal/National coalition on 49.8%

 Neilsen has Labor on 52% and the Liberal/ National coalition on 48%

Much will depend on the distribution of votes in the key marginals but I would not be surprised to see the coalition emerge as the largest party in a hung Parliament. Usually the party with the momentum at the end of a campaign wins.

Good luck to Tony Abbott and all of his team!

August 20, 2010 Posted by | International | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Tory Lead Jumps to 8%

There is a new YouGov poll reported in tomorrow’s Sun newspaper, showing the Conservatives surging to an 8% lead over Labour:

            Conservative              44% (up 2%)

            Labour                       36% (down 1%)

                                          Lib Dem                     12% (down 1%)

Changes shown are compared to the last daily YouGov poll I reported on 15 August.

August 18, 2010 Posted by | Polls | 5 Comments

Clampers Get the Boot

I think I heard a loud cheer yesterday when the news that car clampers on private land are to be outlawed by the coalition government was announced. Clampers have earned themselves a largely deserved reputation for sharp practice and extortionate charges and their demise will be unlikely to raise many protests.

There have been numerous reports of people being left stranded when their car has been towed away from an area with poorly marked warning signs and I well remember the protests when the retail park on Vastern Road decided to introduce clamping for people visiting the Royal Mail depot to pick up their parcels. There were reports of clampers watching from a vehicle and then pouncing as soon as the Royal Mail customer was out of sight. Fortunately sense prevailed and several bays were designated for Royal Mail customers to park.

Full details of the alternative powers proposed for the Police are yet to be published but it looks as though the Police will be able to remove vehicles that are causing an obstruction on private land, as they can on public highways.

This is a populist measure from the new coalition government and it is noteworthy that the announcement was fronted by Lib Dem spokesmen. I am sure that the policy will receive widespread support from those of all parties and none!

August 18, 2010 Posted by | National | 1 Comment

New ICM Poll – Tories and Labour Level Pegging

There is a new ICM poll in tomorrow’s Guardian showing Labour pulling level with the Conservatives on 37% each:

            Conservative              37% (down 1%)

                                                  Labour                       37% (up 3%) 

                                                  Lib Dem                      18% (down 1%) 

This poll is somewhat out of line with other recent (mainly YouGov) polls and as with any poll that seems to show a different message it should be treated with caution until other polls confirm a trend. However, ICM is a respected pollster and along with YouGov has been the “gold standard” for many poll-followers.

The Lib Dems will be pleased and relieved to be on a very healthy 18% share, unlike the crazy Sky News so-called poll reported earlier today.

August 17, 2010 Posted by | Polls | 2 Comments


Sky News are leading on a “poll” which they gleefully report has the Lib Dems down at 8%, with Labour on 24% and the Conservatives on 43%. The reporting majors on the Lib Dems being under 10% and I looked to see the detail as to which credible organisation could have conducted the poll, what weighting was applied and the size of the sample surveyed.

The good news is that it is a respectable sample of over 1,500. However, that is where the credibility ends. This is a “poll” of the Sky News “Panel”. There was no weighting applied, leading to the ludicrous situation that 17% recalled as having voted Labour in the last election (when in fact they achieved 29%). Thus 24% is arguably an improved position for Labour.

The figures also include 13.5% of “dont knows”, “didnt vote” and “not eligible to vote”, which are normally stripped out of the final figures by any reputable pollster. This would boost all the major party shares if the figures were rebased in the normal way. I am not going to attempt to do this but I am sure some reader  can do so!

My best advice on this poll is ignore it. It is what we call a “voodoo poll” which appears to have as much to do with gaining a sensational headline as informing the political debate.

UPDATE: The well regarded UK Polling Report now has a comment on this Sky News “Poll”. Whilst he says that it is not strictly a “voodoo” poll, as I called it, he is scathing about the methodology and supports my advice to ignore it!

August 17, 2010 Posted by | Polls | 3 Comments

UKIP Leader Quits

Lord Pearson

Today came the surprise news that the Leader of UKIP, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has resigned as party leader. In what might be seen as a refreshing burst of honesty he described himself as unsuited to the job of party leader and stated that he hadn’t really done a very good job. 

In an age of professional marketing of parties and party leaders UKIP has always stood out as a rag-tag collection of Colonel Blimp types or as they were once described “gadflies and fruit-cakes”! Lord Pearson’s admission and resignation will only add to that view. 

The party has been very successful in European elections, winning 13 seats at the last Euro poll but has failed to make any break-through at general or local elections. The evidence is that the party is seen as a convenient protest vote in the Euro elections but is not taken seriously at elections that matter in determining local or national government. 

Nigel Farage was probably the most plausible leader the party has had but he had problems with some sections of the party and I am told, was frustrated with the lack of team working by some of his senior colleagues in the party. Whether he decides to seek the leadership once again may be determined as much by his physical health, following his appalling plane crash on polling day, as it is by whether he has the spirit for the internal fights that the leadership will entail.

August 17, 2010 Posted by | National | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Tories 5% Ahead

There is a new YouGov poll reported in today’s Sunday Times newspaper, showing the Conservatives 5% ahead of Labour:

            Conservative              42% (no change)

            Labour                       37% (up 1%)

                                          Lib Dem                     13% (no change)

The Lib Dems are again unchanged and overall this whole poll is statistically unchanged from last week.

Changes shown are compared to the last daily YouGov poll I reported last Sunday.

August 15, 2010 Posted by | Polls | 2 Comments

Another Quango Bites the Dust

Before the General Election it was long a Conservative policy to review and abolish a large number of the quangos that multiplied under Labour’s 13 years in office. For those that don’t follow these things, a “quango” is a “quasi-autonomous non-government organisation”. They are unelected bodies established firstly to remove responsibility (and by extension, blame) from Ministers, and secondly to be seen to be doing something. Some of them have evolved into monstrous bodies spending hundreds of millions of pounds and with senior staff on salaries several times that of the Prime Minister.

Today’s news is that the behemoth that is the Audit Commission is to be abolished. The Audit Commission has been the “big brother” breathing down the next of Local Government for many years. The body reportedly spends £200m per year and has around 2,000 staff. The plan is that local councils will be empowered to employ their own external auditors with estimated savings of £50m per year. Today’s news follows the earlier news that Communities Secretary vetoed the intended £240,000 salary for the new head of the Audit Commission.

Quangoes whose abolition has been announced so far include:

          The Audit Commission

          The Qualifications & Curriculum Development Agency

          The General Teaching Council

          British Educational Communications and Technology Agency

          The Health Protection Agency

          National Patient Safety Agency

          NHS Institute for Innovation & Improvement

          The Alcohol Education & Research Council

          National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse

          The Commission for Rural Communities

          The Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property

          Simplifying International Trade

          Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Advisory Body

          The British Shipbuilders Corporation

          Infrastructure Planning Commission

          UK Film Council

          Museums, Libraries and Archives Council

          Advisory Council on Libraries

          Legal Deposit Advisory Panel

          Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites

          Advisory Committee on National Historic Ships

          Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

          Human Tissue Authority


          All eight regional Government Offices: South-West, South-East, East Midlands, West Midlands, East of England, North-West, Yorkshire & the Humber and North-East

          Eight out of the nine regional development agencies (not London) and some of their local subsidiaries: Advantage West Midlands, East Midlands Development Agency, Yorkshire Forward, South-West Regional Development Agency, South-East England Development Agency, East of England Development Agency, North-West Regional Development Agency, One North-East

           Hearing Aid Council

           Agricultural Wages Board, the 15 Agricultural Wages Committees, the 16 Agricultural Dwelling House Advisory Committees and the Committee on Agricultural Valuation

           Inland Waterways Advisory Council

           All Primary Care Trusts

And that is just those that I can find! I know I have missed some and there are many more to come. Others have been merged together with savings to come from the management structures being cut.

I am delighted with the energy that the government is cutting back the expensive bureaucracy that Labour constructed. There are billions of pounds of savings to be had and I doubt that most people will notice any difference whatsoever. The other benefit from cutting quangos is that the busy-body element in the public sector will have far fewer means to intrude into our lives and to dictate how we are governed by our elected local Councils.

Now having abolished many of the bodies it is time to start looking at cutting back the legislation and petty bureaucracy that has all but destroyed local community activity and bound us up in health’n’safety red tape.

August 13, 2010 Posted by | National | 9 Comments

Additional RAF Tornados for Afghanistan

The UK is to send two additional Royal Air Force Tornado jets to Afghanistan, the Defence Secretary has announced on a visit to British forces serving there. Dr Liam Fox, on his second visit to Afghanistan since being appointed Secretary of State, confirmed that the two Tornado GR4 aircraft have been sent from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, and will be arriving at Kandahar Airfield tomorrow (Thursday 12 August).

The deployment follows a request by the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), General David Petraeus, for an increase in air support to provide greater protection to ground forces. The aircraft will join the eight RAF Tornado GR4s already provided to support the multinational pool and will boost flying hours by 25 per cent, or an extra 130 flying hours per month.

An increase in the number of ISAF and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) personnel on the ground in southern Afghanistan has generated the requirement for additional air cover. The demand for capability provided by the fast jets is also expected to increase in the run-up to the Afghan elections in September.

Following discussions, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, and the Defence Secretary, have agreed that the extra Tornados will deploy for three months.

The Tornado GR4 deployed to Afghanistan in June 2009, taking over from the Harrier force, and is currently operated by No.13 Squadron, based at Kandahar.

Since their deployment to theatre, Tornado GR4s have played a key role in support of ground operations in Afghanistan, particularly the fight against improvised explosive devices. A highly capable and versatile aircraft, the GR4 provides show of force and, when required, precison air-delivered weapons.

GR4 also delivers detailed imagery of insurgent activity from its state of the art RAPTOR (Reconnaissance Airborne Pod Tornado) system. The RAPTOR pod is the envy of coalition forces, such is its ability to clearly spot insurgents laying IEDs from sufficient height to be undetected from the ground.

These are the very same Tornado aircraft that various media reports have claimed are being considered for early retirement as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review which reports in the autumn. The government should reflect on that fact that the aircraft which are deemed so vital to operations in Afghanistan might be worth the resources to maintain in service for several more years until aircraft such as the Lightning II is ready to come into full scale service with the RAF and RN.

August 11, 2010 Posted by | Defence | 1 Comment