Richard Willis's Blog

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New ICM Poll – Labour Jump Ahead

There is a new ICM poll in tomorrow’s Guardian showing Labour pulling ahead of the Conservatives for the first time with this pollster since the General Election:

            Conservative              35% (down 2%)

                                                  Labour                       37% (up 3%) 

                                                  Lib Dem                      18% (down 1%) 

The results are somewhat odd as the Labour lead comes from a fall in the Conservative share rather than an improvement in Labour’s position.

ONce  again the Lib Dems will find comfort in their unchanged 18% share.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

The Unions Have Imposed Their Candidate on the Labour Party

It has been interesting to follow the debate around the Labour leadership result and some of the facts underlying the result.

What amazes me is how a supposedly democratic party can claim any credibility when it has elected a leader that was not supported by the majority of its MPs, the majority of its MEPs AND (more importantly) the majority of its members. Labour seems very sensitive about the fact that the only reason Ed rather than David Miliband won was because of the Trades Unions’ support. Despite only 9% of eligible Trades Union members voting in the contest, it was enough to ensure a narrow victory for the younger Miliband. Many of those Union members will also be Party members and therefore will have been able to exercise two or more votes for their preferred candidate.

Another cause for concern over the democratic credentials of the Labour party is the huge number of spoiled ballots that were not counted. Out of a total of about 330,000 valid votes cast, around 36,000 were not counted and treated as spoiled or invalid. That amounts to around 10% of votes cast and more than the winning margin. In any election there are a few spoiled ballots but these usually amount to less than 1% of the total ballot.

Something went seriously wrong with Labour’s election process and may have even changed the outcome. I have read that most of the 36,000 discounted ballots were as a result of a failure to tick a tiny box on the bottom of the ballot paper confirming that the voter was a “Labour supporter”.

Interestingly Labour supporters in both Reading East and Reading West voted to back Ed Miliband. They will understandably be pleased at the outcome but from an email I have received from a known Labour supporter their delight is not shared by many other party members. I think when the initial excitement at change has died down, there will be trouble at several levels within the Labour party.

The essential truth remains that the Unions have lumbered Labour with a leader that the MPs, MEPs and members did not want!

UPDATE: A reader has contacted me to point out that in fact the Reading Labour Party appears to be as divided as the national party. Despite the two constituency parties hierarchies opting to support Ed Miliband the local CLPs voted for David. Reading East voted 123 for David and 115 for Ed; West voted 78 for David and 69 for Ed.

September 28, 2010 Posted by | National | 3 Comments

New YouGov Poll – Labour Ahead by a Nose

There is a new YouGov poll reported in tomorrow’s Sun newspaper, showing Labour edging into a small lead of 1% for the first time since the General Election:

            Conservative              39% (down 4%)

            Labour                       40% (up 4%)

                                          Lib Dem                     12% (down 2%)

Labour may have benefitted from the leadership coverage an possibly from the start of their conference. They key will be the situation after the Conservative conference when the polls have settled.

The Government’s approval rating has reverted to negative territory with a net -5% approving (38% approve – 43% disapprove).

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

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

It’s Ed Miliband – Yes!!

This afternoon the news came through that the next Labour leader is to be Ed Miliband. Ed beat older brother David by a narrow margin, mainly due to the disproportionate influence that the Trades Unions have on the Labour Party election process. I am now kicking myself that I didn’t post an article this morning publicly making my prediction that Ed would beat David (who was the favorite)! One of my sources contacted me to say that they were confident Ed would win and I wrestled with going public on it. Oh well!

David Cameron made no secret of the fact that he thought David the more credible Miliband; a view undoubtedly shared by many in the Conservative party. David has a smoothness and polished image that Ed can only aspire to. David is also the more experienced at top levels of Government. Depite the banana incident he was seen as the natural Blairite successor to the leadership, with Ed playing more to the left of the party and of course the Trades Unions.

The only candidate that would probably have delighted Conservatives more by winning was Ed Balls, who has a creepy quality on TV. Also I doubt that Diane Abbott would have been likely to lead Labour to victory any time in the next century! According to news reports David Cameron punched the air with delight when he heard that Ed had sneaked the Labour leadership. As Roy Hattersley reports in the Guardian, Ed Miliband is likely to take the Labour Party back to the left. New Labour is now most likely dead!

The next interesting development will be to learn who Labour members have elected to the Shadow Cabinet. Unlike the Conservatives, a Labour leader in opposition cannot chose his Shadow Cabinet, he can only decide which posts to grant to those the party gives him. Also will David M serve under his younger brother?

It will be very interesting to see which way Labour jumps now. Every indication is that Ed the Younger will pander to the left wing prejudices of the party membership and unions. Conservatives up and down the country will be praying that he does.

UPDATE: I am told that David won the MPs, MEPs, and members. Ed only won the unions section and won overall. So the MPs, MEPs and members got the leader the unions wanted and not what they voted for. Is this a recipe for future trouble?

September 25, 2010 Posted by | National | 3 Comments

New YouGov Poll – Tories Stretch Lead to 7%

There is a new YouGov poll reported in tomorrow’s Sun newspaper, showing the Conservative lead increasing to 7% over Labour:

            Conservative              43% (no change)

            Labour                       36% (down 1%)

                                          Lib Dem                     14% (up 2%)

The Lib Dems are up a couple of points to 14% possibly as result of greater Conference coverage.

The Government’s approval rating is also back into positive territory with a net 1% approving after recent negative ratings (41% approve – 40% disapprove).

Changes shown are compared to the last daily YouGov poll I reported on 1 September.

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

IDR Slip Roads to be Kept Open

Plans to deck over the Inner Distribution Road (IDR) and close two key slip roads as part of Phase 2 of the Chatham Place town centre development are to be reconsidered by the Council’s Cabinet on 27 September. The previous Labour administration of Reading Borough Council entered into an agreement with developer MUSE in December 2003 for the complete redevelopment of the Chatham Street area of the town centre which included decking over the IDR and closing two key slip roads.

Construction on Phase One of the scheme began in 2006, was completed in 2009 and includes a new award-winning 600 space multi-storey car park, private and affordable residential homes and new retail facilities. The second phase of the scheme proposed the decking over of the IDR with new offices, open space and the possibility of a new hotel and swimming pool.

The change in economic conditions may mean a significantly smaller Phase Two development contained within the current Chatham Street boundaries. This will not include the decking over of the IDR, but will build on the quality of environment already established on the site by the successful first phase.

Since I took over as Lead for Strategic Planning and Transport I have been determined to find a way to keep the two slip roads open and avoid the traffic problems that would have flowed from their closure. A report will therefore be considered during the closed session of Cabinet on September 27 where future proposals for the development of Chatham Place by Reading Borough Council and development partners MUSE will be discussed. It is in the closed session because it includes confidential details of the development agreement with the Council’s partners.

If the report is approved then this will lead to MUSE carrying out a revised development which will result in the slips remaining open and there being no decking over the IDR. It would also mean that a Public Inquiry – called following concerns about the effect the stopping up orders would have on neighbouring streets and traffic flow on the IDR – would be cancelled.

I have had a number of meetings with Council officers and with MUSE in recent weeks to try and establish a way forward and ensure that there was a viable way to develop the remainder of the site. With the downturn in the economy it has become clear that decking over the IDR is not viable for the developer and therefore we have reached agreement that we will seek a further development option which retains the existing slip roads.

September 21, 2010 Posted by | Local | 6 Comments

Rank Labour Hypocrisy

Anyone following the Reading political scene or Reading media will know about the problems that have been experienced with the Shinfield Road traffic scheme. Since the traffic lights were switched on there have been increased delays, partly resulting from initial problems with the lights themselves and partly from continued works being undertaken in the area.

As I have highlighted before, this was a scheme I inherited from Labour, who had backed it to the hilt and refused almost all requests for changes made by opposition Councillors. I experienced that personally when I submitted a list of requested changes last year, only to be told that all but one would not be implemented. Over a period of two years Labour ignored almost all requests to reconsider aspects of the scheme and the then Labour Cabinet repeatedly voted unanimously for the scheme. When a small number of local residents began to raise objections with me and the ward Councillors it was far too late to achieve the major changes they wanted.

I have already announced a compehensive review of the scheme including the traffic-lighted junctions in six months time, with the promise that if congestion has worsened we will look to take the lights out. In the mean time I have instituted an immediate review of all aspects of the scheme to investigate what might be done to improve the flow of traffic. This has to be done affordably, legally and safely.

Since this was Labour’s scheme and they were so keen to dismiss suggestions for changes I was amazed today to receive a copy of a Press Release issued in the name of Labour’s three Whitley Ward Councillors. It reads as follows:

Shinfield Road improvement scheme: “We can’t go on like this”

Whitley’s three Labour councillors have said they want a review of the Shinfield Road traffic scheme if things have not improved within two weeks. Officials have said that the full implementation is only just starting and needs time to settle in, and Reading Borough Council’s lead councillor says there will be a review in six months.

But the councillors for Whitley say this is not good enough. They say that the hold ups to traffic are unacceptable and more traffic is now using residential roads in south Reading to avoid the bottleneck. They say six months is far too long to wait to see if the scheme will work.

In a joint statement, Labour councillors for Whitley, Rachel Eden, Jim Hanley and Mike Orton said,

“We share the concerns being put to us by local residents in our area. The Shinfield Road scheme is clogging up cars and buses alike.  As local councillors representing south Reading we are experiencing the problems ourselves and are having them reported to us daily. We can’t go on like this.

“Officials say that it is only just being implemented fully and needs time to settle down. The Lead councillor for transport has promised a review in six months. This is not good enough. We are monitoring the situation closely and if things have not improved significantly within the next two weeks we will be demanding a full review and reconsideration of this scheme.

“In the meantime, people can contact us directly to report problems and we will continue to follow up any comments.” 

These three Labour Councillors have ignored the fact that when the scheme was first proposed ALL of the Church ward Councillors were Labour and also that one of their number (Orton) was a Cabinet member who was jointly responsible for the original Shinfield Road scheme. Their call for a review in two week’s time also contradicts the statements of their own Group Transport Spokesman Cllr Tony Page, who only a week ago derided those calling for an immediate review of the traffic lights and agreed that the works should be finished and the scheme settle down before it is reviewed. Do they not speak to each other now that they are in opposition?

I perfectly accept that individuals are entitled to their views and I am very aware that many people are extremely unhappy with Labour’s changes on the Shinfield Road but the press release from the three Whitley Labour Councillors is rank hypocrisy and an attempt to jump on a bandwagon. I think that most people will treat this naked opportunism with the contempt it deserves.  It is also worth re-reading Cllr Tony Page’s answer to the petition presented at the 26 January Council meeting.

I am encouraged by the emails I have received from many people who have welcomed what I and my Conservative and Lib Dem colleagues are doing to unpick Labour’s disastrous transport legacy. More announcements will follow shortly.

September 20, 2010 Posted by | Local | 21 Comments

New ComRes Poll – Coalition Beginning to Lose Support

There is a new ComRes poll published tonight for tomorrow’s Independent on Sunday/Sunday Mirror which shows the Conservative lead continuing to narrow and the Lib Dems down 3%:

              Conservative             37% (down 1%)

                                        Labour                      35% (up 1%)

                                        Lib Dem                    15% (down 3%) 

In other findings:

By going into coalition with the Conservatives, the Lib Dems appear to have sold out on their principles
Agree: 52% (41% May) – Lib Dem voters 52%
Disagree: 28% (47% May)  –  Lib Dem voters 32%
I would have voted differently at the election if I had known that the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives would enter into a coalition
Agree: 19% – Lib Dem voters 40%
Disagree: 64%  – Lib Dem voters 47%

I don’t really know what David Cameron stands for  
Agree: 37%  (was 53% in July 2009)
Disagree: 51% (was 42% in July 2009)
I don’t really know what Nick Clegg stands for
Agree: 57% – Lib Dem voters 42%
Disagree: 31% – Lib Dem voters 47%

(“Lib Dem voters” say they voted Lib Dem in 2010. In subsequent questions, “Lib Dem supporters” refers to respondents who say they would vote Lib Dem in a general election tomorrow.)
The spending cuts proposed by the Coalition Government go too far
Agree: 52% – Lib Dem supporters 48%
Disagree: 32%  – Lib Dem voters 37%
The Conservatives have more to gain than the Liberal Democrats by being in the coalition
Agree: 54% – Lib Dem supporters 64%
Disagree: 26% – Lib Dem voters 25%
Replacing student tuition fees with a tax on all graduates
Support: 34% – Lib Dem supporters 41%
Oppose: 34% – Lib Dem voters 27%

Cancelling the schools building programme to save money

Support: 24% – Lib Dem supporters 24%
Oppose: 59%  – Lib Dem voters 59%
Renewing Britain’s Trident nuclear submarine fleet
Support: 24% – Lib Dem supporters 19%
Oppose: 50%  – Lib Dem voters 63%
Building new nuclear power stations

Support: 48% – Lib Dem supporters 45%
Oppose: 30%  – Lib Dem voters 37%
Raising VAT to 20%
Support: 26% – Lib Dem supporters 35%
Oppose: 64% – Lib Dem voters 57%
The Government commitment to cuts across spending departments of up to 40%

Support: 43% – Lib Dem supporters 50%
Oppose: 40% – Lib Dem voters 34%

ComRes interviewed a representative sample of 2,028 GB adults online 14-16 September 2010.

September 18, 2010 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

Two Lib Dem Councillors Defect to Tories

There has been a veritable stream of defections in the last week or so. I am grateful to a reader who has messaged me to point out the two Lib Dem Councillors that have decided to leave their party and join the Conservatives.

The first was Cllr Ron Cockings (left) who is a Warwickshire County Councillor and also on Stratford-on-Avon District Council. He has decided to join the local Conservative group in order to show hs support for the new Coalition government.

The second is Cllr John Yates (right), a Northampton Borough Councillor. He is the third on his Council in recent years to leave the party. The other two now sit as Independents.

The Lib Dems have also suffered other recent defections to Labour in Sheffield and Solihull. The party enters its Conference with rumblings from the wings of the party, particularly from the left. Nick Clegg and his senior colleagues have a job to do to make the case for the Coalition government and the compromises that inevitably have to be made. After all, that is what the Lib Dems have advocated for so many years!

September 18, 2010 Posted by | National | Leave a comment

New Ipsos MORI Poll – Labour and Tories Level Pegging

There is a a new Ipsos MORI poll published tonight by Reuters showing both Labour and the Conservatives down to 37% each:

            Conservative              37% (down 3%)

                                                        Labour                       37% (down 1%)

                                                        Lib Dem                      15% (up 1%)

The Lib Dems are up a point to 15%, a fact that is not reflected in the Reuters report.

For the first time since May’s election, more people were dissatisfied than satisfied with the government. Some 43 percent said they were satisfied compared with 47 percent who were dissatisfied.

Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg were viewed more positively. Cameron’s rating (57 percent were satisfied with the way he is doing his job) is the highest he has ever received.

Unusually for a party leader, Clegg was more popular with Conservative supporters than supporters of his own party.

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,004 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone September 10-12, 2010. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

Battle of Britain Day – 15 September

Today 15 September is Battle of Britain Day. It is also the 70th anniversary of the peak day of the Battle and was described in the Air Ministry account ‘as one of the greatest days’.

The actions of that momentous day were described by the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, in the House of Commons as:  “The most brilliant and fruitful of any fought upon a large scale up to that date by the fighters of the Royal Air Force”

Britain’s air defence rested principally on the pilots of Fighter Command of the Royal Air Force. While Bomber Command and Coastal Command would both make a significant contribution to the Battle by attacking the German invasion preparations and airfields across the Channel, and the Army’s anti-aircraft guns would inflict losses on any raiders, only the pilots of Fighter Command, under Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, could meet the Luftwaffe head on.

Nearly 3,000 aircrew would serve with Fighter Command in the course of the Battle, of whom nearly 600 (around 20%) were from the British Dominions, and occupied European or neutral countries.

Of especial note was the contribution of the Polish airmen, many of whom had endured many hardships to escape from the twin evils of Hitler and Stalin in order to join the RAF and fight. Indeed it was the Polish 303 (Kosciuszko) Squadron which was the highest scoring squadron in the whole of the Battle of Britain. I am privileged to have got to meet some of those Polish airmen.

To compensate for the lack of numbers, the RAF had the advantage of a highly efficient and advanced command and control system. At various levels in the command structure, Operations Rooms gathered and collated information gleaned from the radar sites that looked out from Britain’s coastline, from the volunteers who staffed Observer Corps posts further inland, from aircraft in the air, and other sources to build a remarkably accurate and near ‘real-time’ picture of the situation in the skies above. This allowed the commanders to direct their sparse resources towards the points where they were most needed, rather than wasting effort guarding empty skies.

The Battle of Britain acts as a touchstone for today’s RAF. The courage and self-sacrifice demonstrated serves as a continuing inspiration to serving personnel, and also acts as a constant reminder that the RAF’s foremost duty remains the control of the air. The threat to the UK may have changed in character, and the ongoing control of the air mission in Afghanistan takes a very different form from the air battles over Kent and Sussex 70 years ago, but the objective remains the same: to secure the free use of the air for ourselves and our allies and to deny it to our adversaries.

September 15, 2010 Posted by | General Musings | 2 Comments

New Populus Poll – Labour Up 4% at Lib Dem Expense

There is a new Populus poll in tomorrow’s Times which shows the Conservatives holding firm at 39% but Labour taking 4% off the Lib Dems:

            Conservative              39% (no change)

            Labour                       37% (up 4%)

                                                           Lib Dem                      14% (down 4%)

This poll is broadly in line with the many recent YouGov polls. Non-YouGov polls are quite rare since the election so it is useful to have the confirmation from another major pollster that YouGov are not significantly out of line with other findings.

For comparison tomorrow’s daily YouGov poll shows Cons 41%, Lab 38% and LD 12%.

September 13, 2010 Posted by | Polls | 3 Comments

A Come Back for Tony Jones?

Tony Jones, former Battle Ward Councillor, Mayor, and Chairman of Reading Buses, stood down from the Council at the last local elections. He was elected as a Labour Councillor but resigned the Whip and sat as an Independent for the last couple of years of his term. All the indications were that he was to be joined by fellow Battle Ward Councillor Chris Maskell. However, if rumours are to be believed Chris was “got at” rather heavily by the then Reading West MP Martin Salter and after announcing his resignation from Labour to the Reading Post, Chris got cold feet and stuck with Labour. Tony was therefore left rather isolated.

Tony floated the possibility of standing for the Reading West Parliamentary seat before deciding better of it. After the local elections his website was closed down and some of us thought Tony had retired from the Reading political scene. However, he appears to have had second thoughts.

Rather unexpectedly a new website appeared last month but it has only now come to my attention. Tony appears to be relaunching himself as an independent voice in Redlands ward where he lives and he has the Lib Dems very clearly in his sights. Will this lead to him standing as an Independent in Redlands ward next May?

I welcome Tony back to active commentary but I do think he has the wrong target in his sights. He should be attacking his former Labour colleagues who left the nation in such a mess and didn’t exactly do a good job in Reading either. Remember the one-way IDR, the failures in Childrens’ services, the bio-ethanol buses and the waste of money on the Civic Office plans Tony!

You can find Tony’s blog here.

September 12, 2010 Posted by | Local | 3 Comments

Another Milestone Passed

Within the last hour or so this blog has passed another small milestone. Since I started blogging in December 2008 I have had over 300,000 hits on articles I have written. There have been peaks and troughs, with the run up to the General Election seeing numbers of hits of around 800 a day. It has fallen back a bit since then and I have been too busy to post as often as I would like but unlike some other blogs that were riding high when I started, I am still here and going strong.

I was very pleased to have been voted the top Conservative Councillor blogger (sorry Paul), and in the top 20 of the Conservative bloggers list compiled by Total Politics. I will be interested to see the “right of centre” and “political blogs” lists when they are published.

One thing I have noticed since the change of control nationally and locally is that my “usual sources” from the other parties have rather dried up of late. So come on dear readers, if you have any interesting inside gossip on what is happening in the local Labour Party, Greens or UKIP please do drop me a line!

September 11, 2010 Posted by | General Musings | Leave a comment

New ComRes Poll – Lib Dems Up to 18%

There is a new ComRes poll published tonight for tomorrow’s Independent which is the first non-YouGov poll for a while. It shows a much healthier position for the Lib Dems who have reversed last month’s 2% fall:

              Conservative             38% (down 1%)

                                        Labour                      34% (up 1%)

                                        Lib Dem                    18% (up 2%) 

In other findings:

There are signs that men are more opposed than women to the Liberal Democrats’ decision to join forces with the Tories.  ComRes found that only 15 per cent of men would vote Liberal Democrat in a general election today, compared to 21 per cent of women.  Tory support is also unevenly split between the sexes; 41 per cent of men and 34 per cent of women would now vote for David Cameron’s party.

ComRes telephoned a random sample of 1,000 GB adults on September 3-5, 2010.  Data were weighted demographically and by past vote.

September 6, 2010 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment