Richard Willis's Blog

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HMS Dragon Arrives in Portsmouth

The Royal Navy’s latest, new Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Dragon, has sailed into Portsmouth today. The 7,500 tonne vessel has today been formally accepted from shipbuilder BAE Systems and will now undergo a series of tests before being declared ready for operations. Armed with the world-leading Sea Viper missile defence system, she is able to defend against multiple attacks from even the most sophisticated aircraft and anti-ship missiles, simultaneously approaching from any direction and at supersonic speeds.

HMS Dragon, which is affiliated to the city of Cardiff, is one of the six new Type 45 warships being built for the Royal Navy. She was launched in November 2008 at Govan shipyard in Glasgow and has since been carrying out sea trials in Scottish waters.

Head of Destroyers, Commodore Stephen Braham, said: “Remarkable progress is being made to date on the Type 45 Programme. Combining an all-electric power and propulsion systems and a world-class weapons system, the capabilities of HMS Dragon, like those of her in-service sister ships HMS Daring, HMS Dauntless, and HMS Diamond, represent a step-change for air defence in the UK, and will ensure that the Royal Navy remains one of the most powerful maritime forces in the world.”

2011 has been a successful year for the Type 45 project with this latest achievement for Dragon coming less than two months after entry into service of HMS Diamond, the third ship in the class.

These are truly impressive warships and each one is a powerful addition to the Royal Navy. However, each ship can only be in one place at any one time and the reduction in the number of frigates and destroyers is a severe constraint on the ability of the UK to project power and to conduct patrols in dangerous waters. The original plans were for a class of 12 of these ships but this was progressively cut to just six under the last government.

August 31, 2011 Posted by | Defence | 3 Comments

New YouGov Poll – Tories Close Gap to Just 1%

There is a new YouGov poll published in tomorrow’s Sun newspaper showing Labour’s lead over the Conservatives being cut to a mere 1%:

                Conservative 39% (up 1%)
                Labour 40% (down 1%)
                                                 Lib Dem 10% (up 1%)
 The Government’s approval rating has improved to -26% (30% approve and 56% disapprove). 
Changes shown are compared to the last daily YouGov poll I reported earlier today from Sunday.

August 30, 2011 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

Beautiful Cornwall

I have just returned from a lovely relaxing weekend in Cornwall staying with some friends who run a guest house down there. I went to Cornwall for the first time just a few weeks ago and fell in love with its wild coasts and countryside. Being a Dorset boy, I am used to parts of the West Country but for some reason had never ventured as far as Cornwall before. The attractions of the south east are often over-rated and quite a few people I know have given up the rat-race to set up their own business with a more gentle pace of life.

While I was down there it was nice to have a look around some of the attractive small towns and visit some of the local sights. Yesterday I went to the stunning Lanhydrock House near Bodmin (right). It is essentially a Victorian reconstruction based on a Jacobean house which burned down in 1881 and was beautifully rebuilt and refurbished with many then “modern” features such as an extensive system of fire prevention measures and internal fire hoses. The house which had been the home of the Robartes family for several hundred years, passed to the National Trust in 1954. It is a fantastic time capsule of genteel living, with extensive kitchens and servants’ quarters, and some superb furnishings, pictures and antiques. It is well worth a visit.

Today Bude had a fund raising event for the RNLI which was attended by thousands and involved displays on the canal and kayaking sports events. Some hardy souls braved the Atlantic wind and cloudy conditions to demonstrate RNLI techniques for rescuing swimmers in distress. I was pleased to make a small donation to the cause.

I hope to go back down there again soon and further my exploration. If readers would like to suggest any places that they have visited and enjoyed I would be interested to hear.

August 29, 2011 Posted by | General Musings | Leave a comment

New Ipsos MORI Poll – Lib Dems Up 4%

There is a new Ipsos MORI/Reuters poll reported today showing all three major parties up at the expense of others but with the Conservatives gaining slightly on Labour:

            Conservative              34% (up 2%)

                                                        Labour                       40% (up 1%)

                                                        Lib Dem                      15% (up 4%)

Economic optimism continues to fall. Only a fifth (19%) believe the economic condition of the country will improve in the next 12 months, and half (52%) think it will get worse. Pessimism about the short-term future of the economy has been increasing month-on-month since May.

Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,002 adults aged 18+ between 20 and 22 August.

August 25, 2011 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

Another Socialist Dictator Bites the Dust

Colonel Gaddafi

It has been great to watch the rapid collapse of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. For many months the rebel forces seemed to make little progress as the fortunes of both sides ebbed and flowed. The rebels seemed secure in Benghazi and Gaddafi secure in Tripoli but things have changed rapidly in the last week. There have been suggestions that the allied air forces have better coordinated their actions with the rebels on the ground, who in turn have been aided by foreign military “advisors”.

Gaddafi took power in a military coup in 1969 and has outlasted almost all other heads of state, making him the longest serving Arab leader. After eliminating all opposition he proceeded to hand out the considerable riches of Libya to family members and supporters. He also aided and funded numerous overseas wars and terrorist groups, including the IRA. In 1970 he expelled all remaining Italians (the former Colonial power) from Libya and in 1971 declared the Arab Socialist Union as Libya’s sole political party until 1977 when the country’s formal name was changed to the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya . In the 1990’s Gaddafi began introducing Sharia Law into Libya with harsh punishments for any found to have committed theft, adultery or homosexual acts. In 1995 as a response to the PLO commencing peace talks with Israel, Gaddafi expelled over 30,000 Palestinians who had been living in the country.

Libya’s centrally planned economy is hugely dependent on oil revenues, which comprise over 50% of GDP. Libya has the 10th largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world and a relatively small population of around 6.5m people. This wealth has largely been squandered on grandiose projects and foreign conflicts. It is Libya’s great opportunity now if a democracy can be founded that the wealth can fund education and development for the mass of its people. Without being seen to interfere too much the West must provide whatever support the new Libyan government needs to maintain security and restart its economy after thev lengthy civil war. The UK will be well placed to help improve the efficiency of the petrochemical sector and to reconstruct its armed forces.

Many on the left criticised David Cameron when he provided the leadership which led to action by the international community in Libya. Even the USA under Obama has all too often sounded luke warm over action to protect civilians in Libya. I was interested to re-read what I wrote about this in March this year. I had one regular reader of this blog contact me to tell me how wrong I was and that Cameron’s “adventure” in Libya would all end in disaster. With the backing of the UN and with carefully bounded military engagement the UK and France avoided many of the problems encountered by Bush and Blair in Iraq. There has also be a serious attempt to assist the Libyan Transitional National Council with planning for a post-Gaddafi Libya.

David Cameron has every right to feel pleased and justified over his stance on Libya but I hope he takes a few moments to reflect that none of it would have been possible without the combat aircraft of the RAF, the warships of the Royal Navy and the Army special forces and advisors to the rebels. The Government should reconsider its cuts to the size and capacity of the Armed Forces as a matter of urgency. A relatively small amount of additional money would protect capabilities which will otherwise be lost to the UK.

August 23, 2011 Posted by | International | Leave a comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour Lead Cut to 4%

There is a new YouGov poll published in today’s Sunday Times newspaper showing Labour’s lead over the Conservatives being cut to 4%:

                Conservative 36% (no change)
                Labour 40% (down 2%)
                                                 Lib Dem 11% (up 1%)
 The Government’s approval rating has improved to -23% (31% approve and 54% disapprove). This poll is very much in accord with last night’s ComRes poll.
Changes shown are compared to the last daily YouGov poll I reported on 16 August.

August 21, 2011 Posted by | Polls | 2 Comments

New ComRes Poll – Tories Cut Labour’s Lead to Just 2%

There is a new ComRes online poll published in tomorow’s Independent on Sunday which shows the Conservatives and Lib Dems gaining and Labour’s lead almost gone:

              Conservative             38% (up 2%)

                                        Labour                      40% (no change)

                                        Lib Dem                    11% (up 1%)

David Cameron’s personal rating is hardly changed, with 34 per cent (up one point) saying he is “turning out to be a good prime minister”, while Ed Miliband has fallen back three points, with just 24 per cent agreeing that he is “turning out to be a good leader of the Labour Party”.

David Cameron is turning out to be a good prime minister

______________   Dec      Jan       Apr      May      June     July      August

Agree:                         38%      38%      37%      39%     37%      33%      34%

Disagree:                      41%      43%      46%    43%      44%     45%      48%

Don’t know:                  21%      19%      17%     18%     19%      22%      18%


Ed Miliband is turning out to be a good leader of the Labour Party

______________  Dec      Jan       Apr      May      June     July      August

Agree:                         17%      22%      24%      22%     18%      27%     24%

Disagree:                      32%      35%      38%    39%      45%     41%      44%

Don’t know:                  50%      43%      37%     39%     37%      32%      32%

 Nick Clegg is turning out to be a good leader of the Liberal Democrats

______________    Dec      Jan       Apr      May      June     July      August

Agree:                         26%      28%      24%      21%     20%      22%      22%

Disagree:                      49%      49%      55%    56%      57%     53%      55%

Don’t know:                  25%      23%      21%     24%     23%      25%      23%

The inquiry announced by the Government into the causes of the recent rioting and looting is a waste of time:

Agree: 39%

Disagree: 45%

Labour voters are more likely to agree than disagree, even though Miliband was the first leader to advocate it.

Bill Bratton, former police chief in New York and Los Angeles, is the best person to take over the running of London’s police:

Agree: 19%

Disagree: 44%

Don’t know: 37%

Conservative voters are the most likely to agree, but even then it’s a small minority (24%).

On the economy, the gloomy outlook for world growth does not seem to have eroded the Coalition’s advantage over the Opposition.

I trust David Cameron and George Osborne to make the right decisions about the economy:

Agree: 31%

Disagree: 48%

I trust Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to make the right decisions about the economy:

Agree: 18%

Disagree: 54%

Cameron and Osborne have a negative rating, -17 points, but Miliband and Balls’s rating is worse, -36 points. Not even half (48%) of Labour voters agree that they trust Miliband/Balls, with one in five (21%) Labour voters disagreeing.

I am confident that my pension arrangements will ensure I can afford to live comfortably when I retire:

Agree: 21%

Disagree: 57%

I have more money to spend on non-essential items now than I did last year:

Agree: 14%

Disagree: 80%

I have scaled back my holiday plans to save money:

Agree: 60%

Disagree: 34%

I am spending less on eating out and leisure activities now than I did last year:

Agree: 69%

Disagree: 27%

ComRes telephoned a random sample of 2028 GB adults on August 17-18  2011.  Data were weighted demographically and by past vote recall.

August 20, 2011 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

Canada Restores “Royal” to Air Force and Navy

The Canadian government under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced that the Canadian Air Force and Canadian Navy are to regain their designation of “Royal”.

The then Liberal government removed the “Royal” designation in 1968 when they merged the three armed services into the Canadian Forces. Successive Canadian Governments have gradually unpicked the 1968 decision, due to its impact on the morale of the forces and the strength which flowed from their previous distinct identities.

General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, said that the decision to restore the names of Canada’s former services “is aimed at restoring an important and recognisable part of Canada’s military heritage”.

“These were the services that fought and emerged victorious from the Second World War and Korea and contributed to the defence of Europe and North America from the early days of the Cold War. These were also the services that paved the way in terms of international peacekeeping missions.”

The decision has delighted veterans groups who have conducted a five year lobbying campaign. The Queen remains popular as Canada’s head of state, and the recent tour by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stoked further interest in the monarchy.

“I think Canadians in general are going to be quite pleased and quite happy to have a little piece of their history back,” said Robert Finch, chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada.

This is welcome news and brings Canada back into line with other Commonwealth nations of which HM The Queen is still Head of State, after 43 years. It is to be hoped that Canada will in time restore the previous rank structure of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

August 18, 2011 Posted by | Defence, International | Leave a comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour Lead Unchanged at 6%

There is a new YouGov poll published in tomorrow’s Sun newspaper showing Labour’s lead over the Conservatives constant at 6%:

                Conservative 36% (no change)
                Labour 42% (no change)
                                                 Lib Dem 10% (no change)
 The Government’s approval rating is at -28% (29% approve and 57% disapprove). Despite the riots, hacking scandal and Ed Miliband’s operation, Labour appears to be making no progress at all.
Changes shown are compared to the last daily YouGov poll I reported on 4 August.

August 16, 2011 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

Lessons Must be Learned from this Week’s Violence

Everyone I know has been shocked and disgusted by the recent violence in towns and cities across the UK. The violence that has been accompanied by looting and burning is fortunately a very rare event in this country. Perhaps that is why the police have so often seemed so ill equipped to deal with it. I work in west London and I have many friends who live in Ealing, Croydon, and other London boroughs which have been affected by the disgusting behaviour of a minority. They have been personally affected by recent events.

I was horrified to see scenes of police in full riot gear standing by while shops were smashed up and looted. The cries of members of the public who expected to see the Police arrive when they called and have had to cower in their properties with no Police protection should never be allowed to happen again. The Met Police have over 33,000 officers and over 4,000 Specials and yet they had no more than 6,000 on the streets of London on Tuesday night when the worst violence broke out. Individual officers did their best but the heirarchy failed in their duty to the public. For years now the Met Police top brass have been hide-bound by their desire to follow politically correct agendas and not annoy their Labour political masters. They have had their spirits broken by successive reports and attacks on their methods. At the same time incidents such as the bungled shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes showed elements out of control.

The Police need radical reform and elected Police commissioners are a good start. However, this is not the time to be slashing Police budgets. There are undoubtedly efficiencies to be had and bureaucracy to be swept away but as David Cameron said today “the first duty of any Government is to keep its people secure”. Cuts in Police and Defence budgets hamper that ability andsend out all the wrong messages.

In my opinion it is wrong to aportion some of the blame on social networking sites. Undoubtedly modern technology was used by some of the rioters but suggestions that this should be curtailed is wrong. The Police need to be sharper on monitoring such activity and it is noteworthy that after the riots Twitter, Facebook etc were all used to mobilise decent members of the community to aid the clear up operation. Every tool can be used for good or ill but it doesn’t make the tool itself evil or good.

It is vital now that lessons are learned and that as many as possible of the criminals responsible for the looting and rioting are brought to justice as swiftly as possible. Children under the age of criminal responsibility should have their parents held accountable, and those old enough should have to serve some community sentence to repair their community in addition to any prison sentence they may receive.

David Cameron has performed very well since his return from holiday. He has sounded tough but sensible, in sharp contrast to some on the left who have been keen to blame “cuts”, “deprivation” and “boredom”. He now needs to reconsider whether cutting the forces of law, order and security is a sensible thing for a Government to be doing. The Police hierarchy also need to examine closely the tactics they use and the number of officers actually on the streets tackling and deterring crime.

The horror of the last week is also an opportunity to take a hard look at our society and the lack of respect for figures of authority by too many young people. Teachers, parents and adults in general have too often felt that the state has undermined any attempts to impose discipline and teach respect for authority. We need fewer excuses and less justification for bad behaviour. Youngsters who riot, loot and burn need to know that they will be caught and that breaking the law has serious consequences.

Out of these disgusting scenes can come some good but it will take cool heads and courageous leaders at all levels. I am optimistic that the longer term consequences of this week’s riots can be positive if the opportunity is seized.

August 11, 2011 Posted by | National | 9 Comments

New YouGov Poll – Labour Lead at 6%

There is a new YouGov poll published in tomorrow’s Sun newspaper showing Labour’s lead over the Conservatives has been cut slightly to 6%:

                Conservative 36% (no change)
                Labour 42% (down 1%)
                                                 Lib Dem 10% (up 1%)
 The Government’s approval rating is at -26% (30% approve and 56% disapprove).
Changes shown are compared to the last daily YouGov poll I reported on 14 July.

August 4, 2011 Posted by | Polls | 2 Comments