Richard Willis's Blog

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New Ipsos MORI Poll – Labour Increase Lead to 4%

There is a new Ipsos MORI/Reuters poll reported today showing Labour’s lead over the Conservatives increasing to 4% partially reversing last month’s changes:

      Conservative              34% (down 1%)

                                                        Labour                        38% (up 1%)

                                                        Lib Dem                      11% (down 1%)

The poll found 55 percent of respondents think David Cameron’s coalition government has done a bad job of managing the economy while 36 percent feel it has done well.

Over three-quarters, 77 percent, said the government had done badly in keeping unemployment down and just 15 percent said it had done a good job. Britain’s unemployment rate rose to 8.1 percent in the three months to August, its highest level in 15 years.

Six in 10 respondents disapproved of the government’s performance on taxation and public expenditure while half, or 51 percent, said the government ha done poorly in protecting British interests in the global recession.

But while the government scored badly, just 20 percent think that a Labour government with current leader Miliband as prime minister and Balls as Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) would do a better job of managing the economy.

Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,002 adults aged 18+ between 22 and 24 September.

October 27, 2011 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment

New ICM Poll – Labour Ahead by 4%

There is a new ICM poll in the Guardian showing Labour stretching their lead over the Conservatives to 4%:

       Conservative              35% (down 2%)

                                                  Labour                        39% (up 1%)

                                                  Lib Dem                      13% (down 1%)

This poll is now broadly in line with YouGov following revisions to their methodology

ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1,003 adults aged 18 and above by telephone on 21-23 October 2011.

October 25, 2011 Posted by | Polls | 9 Comments

World Population Reaches 7 Billion

The human world population is estimated to have reached a new record total of 7 billion. For many people this is bad news and indicates a growing threat to the natural environment and resources. However, despite increasing by another billion since 1998, it is not all bad news. It took 13 years to add another billion, whereas the previous billion took just 11 years. It indicates that at last the rate of increase is slowing and the projection suggests that the next billion will take 14 years to add.

Reuters have a very good graphic which can be found here and which I have reproduced below:

October 24, 2011 Posted by | General Musings, International | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour Just 2% Ahead

There is a new YouGov poll published in today’s Sunday Times newspaper showing Labour’s just 2% ahead of the Conservatives. This follows a major revision in YouGov methodology :

                Conservative 36% (down 3%)

                Labour 38% (down 4%)
                                                     Lib Dem 10% (up 1%)
For some time YouGov have been out of synch with other major pollsters, showing Labour with a higher rating, due to an over-weighting of Mirror readers. The methodology changes are designed to correct this.
Changes shown are compared to the last Sunday YouGov poll.

October 23, 2011 Posted by | Polls | Leave a comment


Liam Fox MP

The media whirlwind which has surrounded Liam Fox over the last week has now claimed its victim. Yesterday he bowed to the inevitable and resigned as Defence Secretary. Many questions still remain to be answered but I still seen nothing to suggest that Fox had his snout in the trough or that he benefitted in anyway personally from his actions. However, there seems little doubt that his best man Adam Werrity was able to live very comfortably from the proceeds of his friendship with the former Defence Secretary. Some donors to Mr Werrity’s charity have now expressed concern that their donation was not intended to fund Mr Werrity’s personal lifestyle.

Liam Fox has been a respected Defence Secretary and many in the Party and the Armed Forces will mourn his resignation. Despite the poor hand that he was dealt by the mess that Labour left and the Treasury determination for cutbacks, he brought a sense of stability and genuine interest in the difficulties faced by servicemen and women. He fought tenaciously for the best budget deal from the Treasury and ensured that Defence had one of the smallest cuts in last year’s spending review. He has restored credibility to the MOD after years of Labour chaos a

Fox is seen by many as a standard bearer of the right. He stood unsuccessfully for the party leadership and he has many friends on the backbenches. His replacement has been announced as former Transport Secretary Philip Hammond. Hammond has no known experience of Defence but is respected in the party as an assured speaker and master of his brief. MOD officials might be concerned that he has been seen as very much a Treasury man and a candidate to replace George Osborne if for any reason he moved on from the post of Chancellor. The Treasury is no friend of the MOD or Defence spending! Hammond will have to oversee the implementation of SDSR and other restructuring started under Fox but he will have to earn respect from senior military staff if he is to become an effective Secretary of State.

Justine Greening MP

The new Transport Secretary Justine Greening is a rising star in the party. She is a confident TV performer and not seen as closely associated with either wing of the party. She will be replaced as Economic Secretary to the Treasury by by-election winner Chloe Smith MP. The promotion of two young women MPs is an important symbol of David Cameron’s determination to ensure that women are better represented in his Government team. Greening becomes the fifth woman in the Coalition Cabinet.

Whilst it is unfortunate that Fox has been forced to resign, it should draw a line under the effect of the Werrity affair and it has allowed David Cameron to promote two women in his frontbench team. It may also allow the new Transport Secretary to take a fresh look at the High Speed Rail proposals of HS2 with the angst that they have caused in many Conservative heartland constituencies in the South East and West London. Greening represents Putney in West London and will be conscious of the vigorous opposition to HS2 by many Conservative led west London Boroughs. However, she was also vocal in her opposition to a third runway at Heathrow, the need for which HS2 was meant to address.

Cameron has come out of the situation relatively unscathed. He has lost a Defence Secretary but he was seen to stand by him and that will have been noted by Fox’s friends on the backbenches. Presentationally the Cabinet is now a little better balanced and Greening will no doubt be prominent on the TV screens. Having been a fellow west London candidate with her in 2005 I am delighted to see her promoted and I look forward to meeting with her to argue for further investment for Reading Transport issues.

October 15, 2011 Posted by | National | 5 Comments

Fifth Astute Class Submarine Main Construction Phase Starts

Defence Minister, Gerald Howarth, officially marked the start of the main construction phase of the Royal Navy’s fifth Astute Class submarine today.

The traditional keel-laying ceremony took place at BAE Systems Submarine Solutions’ shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, and is a significant step towards the delivery of the recently named Anson nuclear powered attack submarine to the Royal Navy. 

The keel is a large beam around which the hull is built and is the first part of the 7,400 tonne vessel to be constructed. 

Gerald Howarth, Minister for International Security Strategy said: “The keel-laying for the fifth of seven immensely powerful Astute class boats marks another milestone in our programme to equip the Royal Navy with the most advanced nuclear submarines. It demonstrates this government’s ongoing commitment to investing in the equipment that will form the basis of the Future Force 2020. This exciting project is helping to maintain the skills required to build such boats in the UK and sustaining thousands of jobs.” 

The MOD is committed to delivering a planned class of seven Astute submarines with Ambush, Artful, Audacious and now Anson under construction following the First of Class, HMS Astute.

The Astute Class are the most potent and sophisticated attack submarines ever ordered for the Royal Navy. They have improved capability for worldwide operations, much greater firepower, better communications and crew accommodation than in-service submarines.

Bernard Gray, the MOD’s Chief of Defence Materiel, said: “This latest progress on the Astute programme is fantastic news not only for the MOD and the Royal Navy but also the submarine-building industry in this country. The close collaboration between the MOD and BAE Systems Submarine Solutions continues to achieve great results and deliver to the Royal Navy the most modern and effective equipment available.” 

The ceremony took place at the Devonshire Dock Hall in Barrow before hundreds of BAE Systems employees and guests including pupils from local schools. The BAE Systems shipyard in Barrow remains the UK’s centre of excellence for submarine design and building. Around 5,000 people are employed at the yard with as many people again employed through the supply chain.

October 13, 2011 Posted by | Defence | 1 Comment

New Secondary School Secured for Reading

Rob Wilson MP

Yesterday there was great news for young people in Reading. After years of underprovision of school places under Labour’s rule the Secretary of State for Education’s announced in the House of Commons that a new school will be opened in East Reading. The school will be a new University Technical College catering for 14-19 year olds and will be on Crescent Road.

The news from Michael Gove MP follows a painstaking year-plus of planning, involving putting together a top quality group of stakeholders, a lengthy and detailed programme of meetings and other activities led by Reading East MP Rob Wilson to provide a new facility offering top quality educational access for young people.

The stakeholders brought together by Rob include Reading University, Oxford and Cherwell College, Reading College and Reading School, Microsoft, Network Rail, BT, Peter Brett Associates, Research in Motion (Blackberry) and Cisco.

Rob said: “This is fantastic news for east Reading as the new school will provide excellent education for young people. Times are tough financially but I am pleased that the team I put together has been met with success and that we are investing in Reading’s most valuable asset – our young people.

I would like to thank all those who have been involved and given me their support in making this happen.”

Rob Wilson was congratulated by the Education Secretary in the House of Commons during the statement, as follows: –

Mr Rob Wilson (Reading East) (Con): I warmly welcome my Right Hon. Friend’s statement. I am delighted that the new school that I championed in Reading East is moving towards a 2012 opening. Will he confirm that UTCs are an essential addition to choice in our schools and join me in acknowledging the huge contribution that Lord Baker of Dorking has made to this successful programme?

Michael Gove: I am delighted to underline my debt to both Lord Baker of Dorking and my Hon. Friend, who was one of the early advocates of free schools and the pupil premium.  I am absolutely delighted that this ministerial team is able to take forward proposals that he championed when we were in opposition.

This is a real achievement led by Rob Wilson MP and delivered by a Conservative Secretary of State for Education. Labour locally have been dragged along behind offering only grudging support for this much needed new school. Once again local Conservatives are leading the agenda on things which matter to local residents.

October 11, 2011 Posted by | Local | 2 Comments

Joe McElderry – “Classic”

I have been thoroughly enjoying the second album released by X-Factor winner Joe McElderry. The album “Classical” is a radical departure from his previous pop releases and follows on from his fantastic performance on “Popstar to Opera Star”.

It contains classical favorites such as “Nessun Dorma” and my personal favorite “Va Pensiero”. There are also well known songs you can sign along to such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from the film “The Wizard of Oz”.

Interestingly there is an adapted version of Nessun Dorma in English and the theme from the film Titanic “My Heart Will Go On” sung in Italian!

The tracks on the album are:

Canto Della Terra

She Was Beautiful (Featuring Milos)

Over the Rainbow

I Dreamed a Dream

Time to Say Goodbye

Il Mio Cuore Va (My Heart Will Go On)

Hear My Prayer (adapted from Nessun Dorma)


Dance With My Father

Va Pensiero

To Where You Are

Bonus – Nessun Dorma (Original)

It is a fantatsic album, combining some of the best of classical music favorites with more than a hint of a modern style and backing. I think it will be popular across the generations and gain Joe a whole new following.

My recommendation? Buy It!

October 10, 2011 Posted by | General Musings | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour 4% Ahead

There is a new YouGov poll published in today’s Sunday Times newspaper showing Labour’s just 1% ahead of the Conservatives :

                Conservative 38% (up 1%)
               Labour 42% (up 1%)
                                                 Lib Dem 9% (down 1%)
The government’s approval rating is -27% (29% approve and 56% disapprove).
Changes shown are compared to the last daily YouGov poll.

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Polls | 5 Comments

80 is Right and Overdue

The Government has announced its intention to increase the motorway speed limit from the existing 70mph to 80mph but not until 2013. In my view this is long overdue. The current limit was set in 1965 when cars were far less capable and braking systems were nowhere near as efficient as they are today. The current limit is widely ignored and motoring experience suggests that the police will not trouble anyone on a motorway travelling at under 80mph now.

This increase in the motorway limit is rightly coupled with a growing trend to 20mph limits in residential streets. This was something which I sought to encourage when I was Transport Lead Councillor in Reading. I left ambitious plans for 20mph in all residential streets which are off existing 20mph roads, where the residents wanted it. We were also planning to make many residential side roads in east Reading 20mph, something which the residents had campaigned for over several years. For some reason (other than in east Reading) Labour seems to be less enthusiastic in pursuing this.

The increase in the legal motorway speed limit will be welcomed by most road users, although I note that the Guardian already has some articles and letters in opposition. In other European countries higher limits are not uncommon. Most of Germany’s motorway network has no upper speed limit; France already has an 80mph limit (except in poor weather); Italy has an 80mph limit (with some exceptions); while many other countries such as Spain,  have 75mph (120kmh) limits.

The government believes that increasing the national speed limit to 80mph would have “significant economic benefits”. Those that do not agree with the increase can always travel at a lower speed, as long as they stick to the inside lane and don’t hog the middle lane, as too many do now. It would also be sensible for the Government to consider introducing a minimum speed for when the road is clear.

October 2, 2011 Posted by | National | 2 Comments