Richard Willis's Blog

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New ComRes Poll – Labour Loses its Lead

There is a new ComRes telephone poll published in tomorrow’s Independent which shows the Labour lead over the Conservatives now completely gone:

              Conservative             37% (up 3%)

                                        Labour                      37% (no change)

                                        Lib Dem                    12% (down 3%)

ComRes conducts both telephone and online polls and the comparison above is with the last telephone poll.

ComRes telephoned a random sample of 1001 adults across the United Kingdom on 27 -29 May 2011.

May 31, 2011 Posted by | Polls | 3 Comments

First Peer Jailed for Expenses Fraud

Lord Taylor

Today former Conservative peer Lord Taylor of Warwick was sent to prison for 12 months for fiddling more than £11,000 in expenses from the House of Lords. Taylor’s defence was that what he did was a widely accepted practice which was suggested to him by other peers to compensate for the lack of a salary for work in the Lords. However, this was not accepted by the Court and he has now repaid the amount in question.

Judge Mr Justice Saunders said of Taylor “The expenses scheme in the House of Lords was based on trust. Peers certified that their claims were accurate. They were not required to provide proof. It was considered that people who achieved a peerage could be relied on to be honest. Making false claims involved a breach of a high degree of trust. The expenses scandal has affected the standing not just of the House of Commons but also the House of Lords.”

Taylor is the only peer so far to face this sanction after a succession of former Labour MPs have been imprisoned:

   Derek Chaytor (Bury North) admitted to stealing £18,000 and was sentenced to 18 months

   Jim Devine (Livingston) admitted stealing £9,000 and was sentenced to 16 months

   Elliot Morley (Scunthorpe) admitted stealing over £30,000 and was sentenced to 16 months

   Eric Illsley (Barnsley Central) admitted stealing £14,500 and was sentenced to 12 months

May 31, 2011 Posted by | National | 4 Comments

Bank Holiday Fun

Mick Spreading has produced this fabulous spoof of the talks between Reading’s Green Party and Labour’s Tony Page:

May 30, 2011 Posted by | Local | 4 Comments

New Ipsos MORI Poll – Labour Take the Lead but Fail to Convince

There is a new Ipsos MORI/Reuters poll reported today showing Labour returning to the lead after last month the two parties were level on 40% each:

              Conservative              35% (down 5%)

                                                        Labour                       42% (up 2%)

                                                        Lib Dem                      10% (up 1%)

As I have observed before MORI tend to be more volatile than most other pollsters and the changes in this poll rather confirm my opinion.

Only one in three people (31%) agree that Labour is ready to form a government and even fewer believe Ed Miliband is ready to be Prime Minister (17%). Indeed, more than half of Labour supporters believe Miliband is not ready to be Prime Minister. In 1997, a month away from the General Election, over half of the public (55%) believed Labour was ready for government and a similar proportion (53%) believed Tony Blair was ready to be Prime Minister. A month before the 2010 General Election, half the public (51%) felt David Cameron was ready to be Prime Minister and 47% thought the Conservatives were ready to govern. This devastating finding for Labour has been picked up by Political where the author Mike Smithson has observed that Miliband is less popular than William Hague or IDS at this stage of their leadership!

David Cameron remains the most highly rated party leader (44% of the public are satisfied with his performance), but around the same number are dissatisfied (47%). However, just three in ten (29%) people are satisfied with Nick Clegg’s performance as Deputy Prime Minister – and twice as many (61%) are dissatisfied. For the first time, satisfaction with Nick Clegg is lower than with the government. Satisfaction with Ed Miliband has fallen this month; a third are satisfied with Miliband (35%) but 43% are dissatisfied.

Last month I also made the following comment:

“Since Labour is usually well ahead of the Conservatives in Scotland and Wales, it suggests that they may be in for a disappointing night at the English local elections next month.” How true that was!

Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,008 adults aged 18+ between 20 and 28 May.

May 26, 2011 Posted by | Polls | 3 Comments

A Mayor and Labour Administration With No Mandate

Tonight all of Reading’s Councillors gathered in the old Town Hall for the annual meeting of the Council at which the new Mayor, Council Leader and political adminstration of the Council is chosen. As I and others have pointed out it is usual that the Deputy Mayor, after a year of supporting the Mayor, is elevated to the Mayoralty. Cllr Jenny Rynn has served for the past year as Deputy Mayor and was looking forward to a year chairing the Council meetings and supporting local groups and charities as “first citizen”. Indeed the Greens on several occasions told both the Conservative and Lib Dem leadership that they would support Jenny for Mayor. I am told that they cited their sense of “fair play” after we backed Labour Deputy Mayor Cllr Gul Khan last year to take over during our year of control. Labour (and clearly their Green chums) have no such honour or scruples.

Tonight in a shameful episode Labour nominated Cllr Deborah Edwards to be Mayor and when the vote was tied 22:22 (with the lily livered Greens abstaining) Cllr Khan used his casting voted to stab Jenny in the back and install Cllr Edwards. She then used her casting vote to install Cllr Khan as Deputy Mayor for the next year. The same process happened to install Cllr Lovelock as Leader of the Council. What a stitch up between Labour cronies!

Cllr Edwards starts her Mayoral year in the knowledge that she only had the support of her own Group and that the majority of the Council did not vote for her. This was of course what the pusilanimous Greens wanted and deliberately decided to do. As part of their deal with Labour they knew that abstaining would allow them to pretend not to take sides while allowing Labour to take complete control of the Council and almost every chairmanship and vice-chairmanship of the Council’s committees.

However, the biggest disgrace was the conduct of Cllr Khan. Not content with stabbing his loyal deputy in the back, he then proceeded to stumble through his vote of thanks wthout once mentioning Jenny’s year of service to the town. There may have been a political argument for his treachery over the installation of the new Mayor but there was no excuse for not even mentioning Jenny in his speech. He has lost what respect he may have once enjoyed on the Conservative and Lib Dem benches. Former Mayor Cllr Fred Pugh intervened to propose a vote of thanks to Cllr Jenny Rynn for her year as Deputy Mayor and even the shame-faced Labour benches and the Greens backed the vote. However, the damage to Labour’s integrity was already done.

Labour will have a tough year. They made many promises in the local elections which they will not be able to keep without cuts elsewhere or further increases to borrowing. They have kept the same sized Cabinet which we had but they have no Councillor with the Finance portfolio. Neither is there a Cabinet Member with the Community or Voluntary Sector in their title. It just shows where Labour’s priorities lie.

No doubt we can expect RCRE’s funding to be restored, full-time Union officials to be reinstated, and the end of my policy to remove traffic lights where safe to do so. It will be interesting to see what Tony Page decides to do with the Shinfield Road traffic lights he was responsible for and how he deals with the imminent Transport Research Laboratory independent report.  We will see “bossy Labour” back in charge in the Civic Centre throwing Council Tax Payers’ money at their buddies in the Unions, RCRE and other favoured groups.

We Conservatives will be an active and vocal opposition, highlighting Labour’s waste and debt and offering a very real alternative at next year’s local elections. We have learned a lot after a year in power and now have a much better idea of the questions to ask and where to look for the backroom arrangements which have rewarded Labour’s client groups. We have also learned to get on well with our Lib Dem colleagues and while we have areas of difference I am confident that we will continue with a constructive relationship. It is the Greens who will find life tough as Labour stab them in the back now they have the power that they so craved. We will also not fail to remind people that the only reason that Labour are in power and hold the Mayor and Deputy Mayoral posts is because the Greens decided it should be so.

May 25, 2011 Posted by | Local | 14 Comments

UKIP MEP Defects to the Conservative Party

A UKIP MEP and former deputy leader of the party has today announced that he has decided to turn his back on the party and join the Conservatives in the European Parliament. David Campbell-Bannerman (left) who represents the East of England region stood for the UKIP leadership last year and came third. Campbell-Bannerman left the Conservative party in 2004 before David Cameron was elected leader and in his announcement today he heaped praise on Cameron. He said, “I have been pleased with the robust stance taken by David Cameron and Conservative MEPs over the EU Budget negotiations and I believe that it is Conservative MEPs who are working hard to defend Britain’s interests.”

This is a serious blow for UKIP after their leader Nigel Farage failed to make any impression on the local elections earlier this month and he was criticised by another MEP Martha Andreasen who called for him to stand down. UKIP have a poor track record of retaining their MEPs, with three having ceased to sit as UKIP MEPs in the last Parliament and I understand that insiders expect at least one more UKIP MEP to defect in the near future.

May 24, 2011 Posted by | National | 4 Comments

Greens to Install A Labour Mayor and Administration in Reading

Today it has become clear that the Greens are set on allowing Labour to run Reading as a minority administration. Both Greens and Labour have released copies of letters between them. More of that later.

Labour have been saying on blogs and to anyone who would listen that they “have a mandate” to run Reading. However, they do not have a majority on the Council with 22 seats (24 are needed for a majority). The Conservative/Lib Dem coalition also has 22 seats. In the local elections Labour received 17,778 votes or 39.9% of the total votes cast; the two parties of the Coalition received 20,942 votes or 47% of the vote. The Greens received 4,999 votes which is 11.2% of the votes cast. So of the two alternatives, it is the Coalition that has “the mandate” if one exists. Only if the Greens entered formal coalition with Labour would they have a majority of votes cast in the elections and a majority in the Council chamber.

Last year when the Coalition had a majority of seats in the Council we honored the fact that Labour’s Cllr Gul Khan was the Deputy Mayor and supported his elevation to the Mayoralty. This year the Deputy Mayor is Conservative Cllr Jenny Rynn and she had every right to expect that the other parties would honour the standing convention that after a year of loyal service the Deputy Mayor succeeds the Mayor. Indeed the Greens promised to us and the Lib Dems that fairness dictated that they would support Jenny’s candidacy at the Annual Meeting of the Council on Wednesday. Some of us always suspected that the Greens would then be true to their left-wing credentials and install a Labour administration.

The public exchange of demands and letters is revealing. It suggests that the Greens have been suckered by Labour into allowing them to take office but without the restraint of a formal coalition agreement. Labour’s letter is a list of “promises to investigate” and “when resources allow”. The Greens seem unaware that Labour are offering nothing in return for the power they will gain. Indeed many of the Green “demands” are already in set hand by the Coalition.

At the request of former Cllr Wazir Hussain 20mph limits are planned for Park ward roads and residents’ parking areas were already planned to be extended where residents agreed; a new East Reading Study Group, to tackle the problems of Cemetery Junction and the surrounding area, was to be set up after the local elections; and Kennetmouth and the listed Horseshoe bridge were to be protected. Labour’s letter offers nothing that was not already in their plans e.g. they have long planned a public transport link across Kennetmouth from Thames Valley Park to Reading Station but they are being disingenuous on the Third Thames Bridge. They rule out a “motorway link” which is in no-ones thoughts or plans and to my knowledge never has been. The land needed to build the third bridge is in Wokingham and South Oxfordshire and neither authority would ever agree to a “motorway link”. Labour’s deviousness on this attempt to deceive the Greens is highlighted by their Transport spokesman’s regular calls to me in public forums not to let the Third Bridge slip down the list of priorities.

The Greens have willingly been taken for mugs by Labour and in so doing have allowed the worst tribalism of Reading Labour Party to manifest itself once again in not allowing Cllr Jenny Rynn to succeed to the Mayoralty this year. Traditionally the Mayor chairs Council meetings and sits above party politics. However, this year’s Labour Mayor will be a very “political Mayor” (as was blogged by Cllr Rachel Eden before she was instructed to take down her blog post). That this should happen is Labour’s doing, aided and abetted by the two Green Councillors. This deal between Labour and the Greens will harm the Greens and only benefit Labour. When the next local elections come we will remind the people of Reading how it came to pass.

May 23, 2011 Posted by | Local | 9 Comments

Britain’s Got Talent – 2011 Auditions

In the last edition there was one contestant who stood out for me as head and shoulders better than the rest. Jai McDowell (24) belted out the anthem from “Chess” stunningly well and received a well deserved standing ovation:

May 21, 2011 Posted by | General Musings | 3 Comments

Another Labour Scumbag is Off to Jail!

Elliot Morley

Yesterday came the news that former Labour Minister Elliot Morley is to join a number of his former Labour MP colleagues in prison after being found guilty of stealing over £30,000 in expenses from the tax payers of this country. Having reached the heights of Ministerial office, Morley fraudulently claimed for a mortgage which did not exist for over three years. In the largest fraud case of its kind he was also found to have over-claimed on a genuine mortgage. The judge found that he had deliberately and fraudulently claimed and had lied to attempt to cover up his actions.

In an interesting twist in the case Morley claimed that Gordon Brown was partly to blame for his theft of public money. He claimed that he made a “powerful enemy” in Downing Street which led to depression and his fraudulent claims! He follows a growing line of Labour MPs convicted of expenses fraud. Eric Illsley (Barnsley Central) admitted stealing £14,500 and was sentenced to 12 months; Derek Chaytor (Bury North) admitted to stealing £18,000 and was sentenced to 18 months; Jim Devine (Livingston) admitted stealing £9,000 and was sentenced to 16 months. Let’s also not forget that Labour MP Phil Woolas (Oldham East & Saddleworth) was convicted by an election court of lying about his opponent in the 2010 election and was stripped of his Parliamentary seat.

Morley was sentenced to 16 months in prison and has belatedly been thrown out of the Labour party.

May 21, 2011 Posted by | National | 14 Comments

The New Reading Station Takes Shape

On Monday night I went to a presentation by Network Rail at the old Town Hall. It was great to learn that the completion date for the whole station project has been brought forward by a year. For Reading people and businesses this will mean a shorter period of disruption but also that huge benefits like the widened Cow Lane bridges will be completed several months early.

Network Rail had a fantastic presentation of the new station with its new platforms and it is now available on YouTube:

May 20, 2011 Posted by | Local | 7 Comments

Labour Councillor Defects to the Conservatives

Cllr Linda Kelly

A Labour Councillor on the London Borough of Hackney has crossed the floor to join the Conservatives. Cllr Linda Kelly is an experienced Councillor who has represented Leabridge ward for nine years but has decided to turn her back on her former colleagues.

The defection increases the Conservative Group from 4 to 5 Councillors, leaving labour still firmly in control with 49 Councillors and the Lib Dems with 3.

May 19, 2011 Posted by | National | 3 Comments

Olympic Torch to Come to Reading in 2012

The Olympic committee today announced the fantastic news that some of us have been bursting to tell for some time, that Reading has been selected as one of the towns and cities across the UK which will be on the Olympic torch route next year in the run up to the start of the 2012 Olympic Games. The torch will be paraded through Reading on 10 July next year.

I know that Cllr Andrew Cumpsty has been lobbying hard to get the torch to come to Reading and that we were one of the first authorities to get our bid in. This is another example of the Conservative/Lib Dem administration promoting Reading on the national stage and ensuring that Reading people feel part of the World’s biggest sporting event.

May 18, 2011 Posted by | Local | Leave a comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour 2% Ahead

There is a new YouGov poll published in tomorrow’s Sun newspaper showing Labour’s lead over the Conservatives at just 2% which is in accord with other recent polls showing Labour’s lead almost vanishing:

                Conservative 39% (up 2%)
                Labour 41% (up 2%)
                                                 Lib Dem 9% (down 1%)
   The Government’s approval rating is at -20% (33% approve and 53% disapprove).

Changes shown are compared to the last daily YouGov poll I reported on 5 May.

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

New ComRes Poll – Labour and Tories Neck and Neck

There is a new ComRes online poll published in today’s Independent on Sunday which shows the Conservatives up by 3% and within spitting distance of Labour:

              Conservative             38% (up 3%)

                                        Labour                      39% (no change)

                                        Lib Dem                    11% (up 1%)

Changes shown are compared to last month’s online poll rather than the previous telephone poll.

Conservatives will be delighted to be neck and neck with Labour in another national poll. 1% difference is well within the margin of error in any national opinion poll. Most Conservatives had expected to be well behind Labour at this stage of the Parliament and it is a testament to how badly Ed Miliband is perceived as leader that the party has so far been unable to open up a meaningful lead. 

ComRes interviewed 2,004 GB adults online on 11 and 12 May 2011.

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

Huhne Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Rumours are swirling around the blogosphere that there are going to be some pretty devastating revelations about Energy Secretary and senior Lib Dem Chris Huhne in tomorrows Sunday papers. It has already been evident that his ex-wife has it in for him and if the rumours are true she has a lot more to say. Normally I would not pay attention to such stories about a Minister’s private life but if he has broken the law or the Ministerial code of conduct then it is rightly a matter of public interest.

Huhne is not well regarded by many Conservatives and that opinion seems to be increasingly shared by many senior Lib Dems. He is not known as a team player and seems to have used his ministerial position to bolster his own position rather than that of the coalition as a whole, or even its Lib Dem element. There have been suggestions that he sees himself as a potential sucessor to Nick Clegg and that his view is that this should happen sooner rather than later.

To date suggestions that he got a friend to take some points on his driving licence for him have been damaging rather than terminal but it will be interesting to see what is in the Sunday papers. The timing is not perfect but a Huhne departure could open the way for a front bench return for David Laws.

May 14, 2011 Posted by | National | 3 Comments