The Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Red Arrows will be saluting Her Majesty The Queen on the celebration of her Diamond Jubilee at 1530 on Tuesday 5 June. The formation will be flying down the Mall as the Royal Family watch from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
The Flypast will include the Dakota flanked by two King Air aircraft, a Lancaster, Spitfires and a Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, ahead of the Red Arrows who will make their entrance seconds later.
Officer in Command of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Squadron Leader Ian Smith said: “The Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are honoured to be leading the Flypast for Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. As a Service the RAF is enormously proud of its heritage, and the opportunity to fly over Buckingham Palace for Her Majesty with the nation’s aviation heritage is something that will remain with us for the rest of our lives”.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (originally named simply the Historic Aircraft Flight) was founded in 1957 to commemorate the personnel of the Royal Air Force who served their country in conflict particularly during World War Two.
Since their formation in July 1957, BBMF have completed thousands of displays and tens of thousands of fly-pasts; proud to represent the nation’s aviation heritage. They are a large Flight within the Royal Air Force and are extremely proud of not only their history, but their continued engagement in operations abroad. The Royal Air Force continues to police the skies above our country, much like the fighters of the Flight did some 70 years ago. BBMF are a “museum without walls” and a “living and breathing tribute” to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Records show that for many years after its formation the Flight conducted relatively low-key operations; typically making 50-60 appearances per season, a situation that continued into the mid-1960s. By the early 1990s this had trebled and demand for participation by the Flight’s aircraft was continuing to grow. In 1996 individual aircraft appearances exceeded 500 and by 2003 tasking for over 700 individual aircraft appearances during each year’s display season had become the norm. The demand for appearances by the Flight’s aircraft shows no sign of decline and indeed seems to increase every year. The Flight’s aircraft now appear in front of an estimated total audience of 7 million people annually and have a fleet of 12 airworthy aircraft.
King Airs are the multi-engine training aircraft of the Royal Air Force, flown by 45 (Reserve) Squadron which is part of Number 3 Flying Training School based at RAF Cranwell. Once pilots have successfully completed multi-engine pilot training on 45 (R) Squadron they are awarded their coveted pilot’s wings, and then undertake conversion to their frontline multi-engine aircraft type at an Operational Conversion Unit.
The Beech King Air B200 is a twin-engine fixed wing aircraft, which first entered RAF service in 2004. It is used as an advanced, multi-engine pilot trainer by No 45(R) Squadron, which is part of No 3 Flying Training School based at RAF Cranwell, in Lincolnshire. The King Air course is split into basic and advanced phases. In the basic phase, students learn essential multi-engine techniques such as general handling, asymmetric flying, emergency handling and radio-aids navigation, and consolidate the multi-crew skills acquired on previous courses. In the advanced phase, the emphasis shifts towards developing captaincy, crew resource management, and managing the King Air’s advanced avionics systems. Students learn advanced skills such as formation flying, low-level flying and airways navigation, and are expected to plan and manage missions involving several aircraft.
Leading the nine Red Arrows following the Memorial Flight and closing the ceremonies will be Squadron Leader Jim Turner in Red 1. He said: “We are all extremely proud to be part of this auspicious event and to be a part of aircraft from the Royal Air Force at this tri-service celebration. We would like to offer our congratulations to Her Majesty on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee”.
The Hawk T1 has been used by the Red Arrows since 1979, replacing the Folland Gnat. The Hawk’s Rolls Royce Adour engine produces 5,200lbs of thrust and can power the aircraft to a top speed of Mach 1.2. The aircraft has a maximum altitude of 48,000 ft and fuel capacity gives a range of 1,000 nm, making most of the world accessible apart from New Zealand. The aircraft are essentially the same as those flown by Advanced Flying Training students at Royal Air Force Valley, with the exception of smoke generation modifications and a slightly updated engine which gives a faster response time. The smoke generation system pumps diesel mixed with appropriately colored dye into the jet exhaust to produce the colorful vapour trails that the Red Arrows are famous for. These trails are used mainly for flight safety reasons so the pilots can judge wind speed and direction whilst performing their displays. However, the effects of the trails also look good, enhancing the show for the audience on the ground.
Each aircraft can carry enough diesel and dye to create five minutes of white smoke, one minute of red and one minute of blue during the display. All nine Red Arrows display pilots are fast jet pilots from frontline Royal Air Force squadrons and once they have finished their three-year tour with the Team they will return to their Royal Air Force duties.
Tonight the full Council met to discuss the proposal to move out of the existing crumbling Civic Offices and to chose between the Plaza West building (in Bridge Street, next to the Oracle) or the RG2 (former Yell) building. Both buildings have merits but it was very clear that Labour had already made up their minds, having announced their position a week ago to the press. Cllr Lovelock tried to make out tonight that it was intended to be a cross-party briefing to the press but she failed to explain why it became a forum to announce the Labour Group’s decision on which property to back.With a total cost to the Council Tax payers of about £60m, this is a very important decision at a time of stretched budgets and shrinking grants from Central Government. Conservatives had expected to continue the cross-party approach of the Civic Board and we were expecting a good debate on the respective merits of the two buildings but instead Labour turned the Council meeting into a charade by making it clear that they would use their majority to achieve their pre-announced decision.
Conservatives therefore moved an amendment to Labour’s motion tonight:
“Insert after “This Council” the following text:
1. Deplores Labour’s public statement of a decision in favour of Plaza West in advance of tonight’s Council debate and
2. Calls for the Labour Group to apologise to the people of Reading for their arrogance and the traducing of the cross-party democratic process which had existed through the Civic Board
3. Notes the comments of a Labour Cabinet member that “when in power you can do what you like”
Renumber the succeeding paragraphs to follow on from above.”
Typically, and rather proving our point, Labour closed down debate on our amendment which was then defeated.
Conservative Leader Cllr Tim Harris said, “It is not lost on us that Labour’s first decision on resuming majority control of the Council was to pre-empt a decision of the Full Council which involves borrowing millions of pounds which the Reading Council Tax Payers will have to repay. The Civic Board was established to ensure cross-party involvement in the process to identify new Council Offices, culminating in a decision between the final two.”
Deputy Leader Cllr Jeanette Skeats said, “Had the Conservatives not objected to Labour’s previous plan for a new building in Hosier Street the Council would have been committed to borrow around £120m over the next 60 years. We have worked with the Labour Group over the last few years to find more cost effective options and to narrow them down to a final two options. Tonight we were to discuss these and come to decision but it seems that the decision has already been made!”
In the end Labour, with Lib Dem, Green and Independent support, voted to spend around £60m to purchase, fit out, and then move into the Plaza West building. Only the Conservatives did not support the motion. We support the need to move out of the present Civic building but we cannnot support Labour’s pre-empting of the proper discussion and decision making process. We therefore abstained.
Conservative 34% (up 2%)
Labour 42% (up 1%)
Lib Dem 11% (no change)
UKIP 4% (down 3%)
Most of the major pollsters are now showing a narrowing of the Labour lead which is consistently back into single figures.
There is a large “gender gap”: 40 per cent of male voters will vote Conservative, 39 per cent Labour and 8 per cent Lib Dem. But only 29 per cent of women voters will vote Conservative, while 45 per cent will vote Labour, and 14 per cent Lib Dem.
Methodology: ComRes interviewed 1,001 GB adults by telephone on 25 and 28 May 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at ComRes.
Conservative 34% (up 2%)
Labour 42% (down 2%)
Lib Dem 8% (up 1%)
UKIP 7% (down 1%)
All major pollsters seem to be pointing at a reducing Labour lead and this is the first time in a while that YouGov have not shown Labour with a double digit lead.
Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 21 May.
There is a new ICM poll in the Guardian tomorrow showing the Conservatives reversing most of their post-Budget slump, with a jump of 3%:
Conservative 36% (up 3%)
Labour 41% (no change)
Lib Dem 11% (down 4%)
Labour’s five-point lead is their second biggest with Guardian/ICM since the general election, beaten only by the eight-point advantage they opened up last month. But the Conservatives’ continuing edge in the economic blame game has enabled a limited political recovery. Asked to choose between four possible culprits for the new recession, 29% of voters continue to blame debts racked up by the last Labour government, as compared to just 17% who point the finger at the coalition’s cuts. Meanwhile, 24% identify chill winds from the eurozone as the principal problem and 21% cite the banks’ reluctance to lend.
Mistrust of Labour also emerges when people are asked to put their overall political preference to one side, and consider which team they most trust to run the economy properly. Some 44% prefer Cameron and chancellor George Osborne, as against 35% who would rather Ed Miliband and his shadow chancellor Ed Balls were in charge of the finances. While substantial, this nine-point Tory lead on the economy has been diminishing steadily. The gap was 21 points in December, 18 in January, 17 in March and 13 in April before closing by another four points over the last month.
The news for the Liberal Democrats is unremittingly bleak. Up until now ICM’s methodology has suggested a less precipitous collapse in Lib Dem support than has been seen in other surveys since the coalition was formed. But third party’s standing now shrivelled to its lowest level in 15 years, since the time when Tony Blair’s all-conquering new government briefly attracted support of 60%. The last time the Lib Dems did so badly in a more ordinary political environment was over 20 years ago, during the party’s miserable early days at the very start of the 1990s.
ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1002 adults aged 18+ on 18-20th May 2012. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.
There is a new YouGov poll for tomorrow’s Sun newspaper which shows Labour’s lead increasing to 12% with the Lib Dems dropping behind UKIP once again:
Conservative 32% (down 2%)
Labour 44% (no change)
Lib Dem 7% (no change)
UKIP 8% (up 1%)
Conservatives are maintaining a commanding lead over Labour in the South of England but have fallen badly behind in the important Midlands and Wales, as well as London.
Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 10 May.
Conservative 32% (down 2%)
Labour 41% (up 2%)
Lib Dem 11% (up 1%)
UKIP 7% (down 2%)
This is the lowest Labour lead in any recent poll but reflects the move to Labour in recent months. The Lib Dems are firmly back ahead of UKIP in this poll.
David Cameron is turning out to be a good Prime Minister
Agree 26% (-3)
Disagree 54% (+4)
Net agree -28 (-7)
(Change since last Independent on Sunday/S Mirror/ComRes poll, 22 April.)
Support has slipped among Conservative voters, from 75% agreeing last month to 67% now.
Ed Miliband is turning out to be a good leader of the Labour Party
Agree 26% (+8)
Disagree 45% (-4)
Net agree -19 (+12 )
Nick Clegg is turning out to be a good leader of the Liberal Democrats
Agree 20% (-2)
Disagree 56% (+4)
Net agree -36 (-6)
Trust on the economy
I trust David Cameron and George Osborne to make the right decisions about the economy
Agree 26% (+1)
Disagree 55% (+1)
Net agree -29 (0)
I trust Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to make the right decisions about the economy
Agree 22% (+3)
Disagree 51% (-1)
Net agree -29 (+4)
“Out of touch”?
This Government is out of touch with ordinary voters
Agree 67% (-5)
Disagree 22% (+5)
Net agree +45 (-10 )
Leaving the European Union would be bad for the British economy in terms of lost jobs and trade
Of Conservative voters, 37% agree, compared with 43% of Labour voters and 56% of Liberal Democrat voters.
If a referendum were held on Britain’s membership of the EU, I would vote for Britain to leave the EU
Half (51%) of Conservative voters agree, compared with 42% of Labour voters and 39% of Lib Dem voters. Compare the 54-34% split in recent British Election Study (disapprove-approve of EU membership). Excluding don’t knows, this suggests a 61-39% vote to end Britain’s membership of the EU.
Methodology: ComRes interviewed 2,038 GB adults online on 16 and 17 May 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at ComRes.
It has become a repeated cry over the last 30+ years to bemoan the decline of UK manufacturing and all parties have at various times announced plans to “get the UK making things again”. Whilst it is true that manufacturing has undergone a steady decline as a share of UK GDP it is not the case that we don’t make anything any more. Manufacting has continued to grow but at a slower rate than the rest of the economy. The UK has world beating industries in pharmaceuticals, electronics, aerospace, and defence, and now it seems in car manufacturing.
Over the last few months a succession of car makers have announced new investment in their UK plants. Jaguar, Nissan in Sunderland, and now GM Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port, have annnounced hundreds of millions of Pounds of investment and expansion which will keep the UK at the forefront of making the latest models. Even more encouraging was the news that Ellesmere Port was chosen over a German plant because of the productivity and flexibility of the UK workforce.
Car manufacturing rose by 9.3% in April and 11.8% in the year to date. The latest investments will raise that further. With the investment comes jobs, both existing jobs guaranteed and new jobs created. It also in most cases boosts suppliers, some of whom will create new jobs as their order books expand. It was significant that this month for the first time since the 1970’s saw more UK made cars exported than foreign made imported, thus helping our balance of trade.
But it is not only the UK car industry which is seeing investment and expansion. Another industry which seemed in remorseless decline has recieved a shot in the arm. The UK steel industry is seeing new investment and new orders, leading to new jobs. Hundreds of millions of Pounds are being pumped into plants in Yorkshire and South Wales in areas which have seen industrial decline and high unemployment. Plants which have been closed are in some cases being reopened and former employees taken back.
This country may have just tipped into recession once again (although initial provision figures may be revised) but the manufacturing sector has being doing relatively well. Trades Unions have been tamed and the UK workforce is more flexible and productive. The government needs to combine sensible investment in infrastructure with cuts in red tape and business taxes to ensure that the economy revives and succeeds.
There is a new Ipsos MORI poll reported today for the Evening Standard showing the Labour lead jumping to 10% after last month’s poll had the lead at just 3%:
Conservative 33% (down 2%)
Labour 43% (up 5%)
Lib Dem 9% (down 3%)
David Cameron’s negative net approval rating of -28 (satisfied minus dissatisfied) is down eight points since April, while Nick Clegg’s net rating of -39 is also down by the same amount. Both are their worst ratings ever. Meanwhile two-thirds (67%) are unhappy with the way the government is running the country, the worst the Coalition has seen and similar to the ratings at the end of the Labour government in 2010. Ed Miliband’s ratings are little changed, on -16.
The majority agree that being in a coalition has taken a toll on the two parties: 58% think it has been bad for the Conservative party and 62% that it has been bad for the Liberal Democrats (while nearly half think it has been good for Labour). Among Conservative voters, 38% think being in coalition has been good for their party – but 48% think it has been good for the Liberal Democrats.
At the same time, just under half of Britons, 44%, think the Liberal Democrats do not have enough influence in the Coalition government, while 35% think they have about the right amount. Just 14% think they have too much influence, although this rises to 23% of Conservative voters (compared to just 7% and 3% among Labour and Liberal Democrats respectively).
On the number one issue facing the country, the economy, the Conservatives and Labour are neck and neck as the best party, with 31% favouring the Conservatives and 30% Labour. This one-point Conservative lead compares to their ten-point lead in September last year, although Labour haven’t held a lead on this issue since 2007.
Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,006 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 12-14 May 2012. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.
The MoD’s budget deficit has been wiped out for the first time in a generation, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has announced. Through a series of tough but necessary decisions combined with radical reforms of the MoD’s financial processes, the £38 billion blackhole in the defence budget that the Government inherited in 2010 has now been eliminated.
It means that for the first time, the MoD’s core equipment programme is fully funded and affordable. A fully costed programme provides the Armed Forces with the stability and assurance they need for the future. The MoD can now confidently invest in new equipment, knowing its delivery is guaranteed because the programme is accurately costed and affordable.
The core committed equipment programme amounts to just under £152 bn over ten years, against a totalled planned spend of almost £160 bn. That £152 bn includes, for the first time, a centrally held contingency of over £4 bn. The programme also includes an additional £8 bn of funding over the next ten years which is unallocated. This means that the budget will have guaranteed headroom to respond to emerging equipment requirements.
The Service Chiefs have confirmed that this fully committed core equipment programme and the extra headroom will enable the MoD to deliver the capabilities required for Future Force 2020, as set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) of 2010.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “The Government is determined to get to grips with a legacy of poor project management, weak decision making and financial indiscipline within the MoD. We have made a symbolic break with the failed practices of the past and the vast black-hole that blighted Defence spending has gone.
“For the first time in decades, we have delivered a credible and sustainable budget and we can now confidently pledge to deliver to our Armed Forces almost £160 billion worth of equipment over the next decade that we know we can afford. This allows us to begin to put the uncertainty of the last few years behind us and build for the future on a solid foundation as we move forward with Defence Transformation.”
Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, said: “Taking tough decisions and dealing with unaffordable projects has given us clarity to plan. We are now on a firm foundation and building the Armed Forces of the future. We are now well-placed to adapt and respond to threats around the world and to deliver the capabilities we need for the nation’s defence. Going forward, the Armed Forces Committee, which I chair, will prioritise future commitments and bringing into service the equipment we are now getting.”
The announcement means the MoD can now guarantee the delivery of projects for the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force including:
- 14 new Chinooks, Apache life-extension & Puma upgrade;
- a programme of new armoured fighting vehicles worth around £4.5 bn over ten years, and a £1 bn upgrade of the Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle;
- the building of the two Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers; the remainder of the Type 45 destroyers and the new Type 26 frigates; the Astute class and Successor nuclear submarines;
- investment in new Wildcat helicopters, the Merlin upgrade programme and the assessment phase for Merlin marinisation;
- introduction into service of the Voyager Air-to-Air refueller & troop transporter, the A400M air transporter and the Air Seeker surveillance aircraft;
- an additional C17 aircraft;
- continued investment in Typhoon and JSF;
- £7 bn invested in complex weapons – the smart missiles and torpedos that give our Navy, Army and Air Force their fighting edge.
Balancing the programme means the MoD can now confirm the following projects will also be part of the core equipment programme:
- a £4 bn plus investment in Intelligence, Surveillance, Communications and Reconnaissance assets across the CIPHER, SOLOMON, CROWSNEST, DCNS, and FALCON projects;
- the outright purchase of 3 Offshore Patrol Vessels which are currently leased;
- capability enhancements to the Typhoon;
- a range of simulators, basing, and support equipment for the new helicopters and aircraft we are introducing.
The scrutiny and financial controls that have been put in place will allow the MoD to ensure projects deliver against time and cost. As they do so, it will be able to release the funds which have put in place to add any uncommitted capabilities to the Committed Core Equipment Programme. Reaching a balanced budget represents an important milestone in the transformation of Defence which builds upon the recommendations of Lord Levene’s review of the department.
In further news, the MoD is to sustain its commitment to the nuclear deterrent by continuing to invest £1 billion a year on facilities at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE). The AWE is central to the development and maintenance of the UK’s nuclear capability, Trident. Scientists at the Berkshire site are involved from the initial concept and design of the warheads, through manufacture and support to their decommissioning and disposal.
The MoD has now reached an agreement with AWE Management Limited (AWEML) – the joint venture contracted to manage and operate the site in 2000 – for a further priced period of work under its existing 25-year contract. This agreement, which will see the MoD invest £1 billion a year over the next five years, provides important further investment in skills and facilities at the company’s site in Aldermaston and Burghfield, Berkshire, where more than 4,500 staff are based.
Around 40 per cent of this money will be invested in essential capital projects, including production and research facilities. The remainder will be spent on operating and maintaining the AWE. Defence Equipment and Support Minister, Peter Luff, said: “The Atomic Weapons Establishment is a centre of scientific and technological excellence, with some of the most advanced research, design and production facilities in the world. This investment announced today will help maintain 4,500 jobs and a key capability, which is essential for our national security.”
The investment will enable AWE to perform its vital work in support of the UK’s nuclear deterrent until March 2018, when another priced period of work will be agreed.
Regular readers may recall that I was blown away by two acts in the initial auditions of this year’s Britain’s Got Talent. I blogged about them here. This year has undoubtedly been the best ever for the range and quality of the talent on offer. Nu Skool and the Loveable Rogues were fantastic as were The Mend and Ryan O’Shaughnessy but I still felt that either Only Boys Aloud or Jonathan and Charlotte should win.
The winner in the end was Ashleigh and her adorable dog Pudsey and I wish them all the best. My two preferred acts came in second and third; not bad as I picked them from the very start!
I have received the latest stats for Councillors’ case-work submitted through the Council’s “Front Office” system up to the end of April 2012. This is the end of the current Municipal year and so I have included the full year figures as well.
The main figures for the four months Jan-April 2012 are below, with the May 2011-April 2012 figures following in brackets:
Cllr Sandra Vickers (Tilehurst) – 38 (75)
Cllr Isobel Ballsdon (Thames) – 35 (80)
Cllr Richard Willis (Peppard) – 28 (59)
Cllr Tom Stanway (Caversham) – 27 (42)
Cllr Azam Janjua (Church) – 24 (56)
Cllr Dave Luckett (Caversham) – 17 (35)
Cllr Tim Harris (Church) – 15 (34)
Cllr Emma Warman (Kentwood) – 10 (27)
Cllr Jenny Rynn (Kentwood) – 9 (33)
Cllr James Anderson (Kentwood) – 5 (11)
Cllr Fred Pugh (Mapledurham) – 5 (10)
Cllr Andrew Cumpsty (Caversham) – 4 (34)
Cllr Jeanette Skeats (Thames) – 3 (4)
Cllr David Stevens (Thames) – 2 (2)
Cllr Daisy Benson (Redlands) – 31 (105)
Cllr Ricky Duveen (Tilehurst) – 24 (57)
Cllr Peter Beard (Tilehurst) – 8 (21)
Cllr Warren Swaine (Katesgrove) – 6 (14)
Cllr Rebecca Rye (Katesgrove) – 5 (35)
Cllr Glenn Goodall (Redlands) – 2 (37)
Cllr Tony Page (Abbey) – 82 (176)
Cllr Matt Rodda (Katesgrove) – 59 (107)
Cllr Jo Lovelock (Norcot) – 45 (132)
Cllr Mike Orton (Whitley) – 35 (74)
Cllr Sarah Hacker (Battle) – 33 (74)
Cllr Rachel Eden (Whitley) – 28 (95)
Cllr Pete Ruhemann (Southcote) – 28 (63)
Cllr Kelly Edwards (Whitley) – 27 (7)
Cllr John Ennis (Southcote) – 26 (72)
Cllr Paul Woodward (Church) – 22 (58)
Cllr Chris Maskell (Battle) – 14 (29)
Cllr Marion Livingstone (Minster) – 12 (18)
Cllr Bet Tickner (Abbey) – 11 (40)
Cllr Gul Khan (Battle) – 10 (38)
Cllr Paul Gittings (Minster) – 10 (32)
Cllr Deborah Edwards (Southcote) – 7 (27)
Cllr John Hartley (Park) – 5 (54)
Cllr Mohammed Ayub (Abbey) – 5 (15)
Cllr Peter Jones (Norcot) – 2 (11)
Cllr Graeme Hoskin (Norcot) – 1 (11)
Cllr Deborah Watson (Minster) – 0 (13)
Cllr Rob White (Park) – 112 (434)
Cllr Melanie Eastwood (Park) – 20 (47)
Cllr Jamie Chowdhary (Peppard) – 24 (75)
Cllr Mark Ralph (Peppard) – 21 (64)
Once again each party has a spread of activity levels based on this one measure with Labour’s Cllr Watson picking up the booby prize. However, as I have stated before this is just one measure of Councillor activity and it should be borne in mind that some wards generate less casework than others and there are more ways of serving our constituents than just entering (sometimes trivial) cases onto the Front Office system.
Conservative 34% (down 1%)
Labour 44% (up 2%)
Lib Dem 7% (down 1%)
UKIP 7% (no change)
Labour seem to be benefitting mainly from the Lib Dem collapse. Conservatives are down but the key driver of Labour’s lead at present is the uniting of non-Conservative support behind Labour. For years we heard of the death of the two-party system but at present the two-party system appears to be reasserting itself.
Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 30 April.
On Thursday and into the early hours of Friday morning Reading’s politicians gathered at the Rivermead leisure centre to watch the ballot boxes come in from the polling stations and be counted. After weeks of door knocking and delivering leaflets with our respective messages on them we were all keen to see what the public made of our campaigns.
After six weeks of chaos at the heart of the national government and the consequent slide in our opinion poll ratings I was expecting a difficult night. On arrival I chatted to two former Labour Councillors and caught up with others who I see at the annual election count. It was good to see that the atmosphere between the parties was generally good humoured. I spent much of the time watching the Church ward count and chatting to both my colleague Azam Janjua and the Labour ward Councillor. I understand that there was one incident when a Labour activist was unpleasant to a Lib Dem but that seemed to be the exception last night.
The highlight of the night for me was the result in Peppard ward. Jane Stanford-Beale is a first class candidate who has put in a huge amount of hard work, speaking to residents and delivering election literature. She will make an excellent local Councillor and she thoroughly deserved to win. She put up with the appalling negative campaign fought by the embittered Independent candidate without complaining and without responding publicly. Despite some of the worst lies and unfounded allegations I have ever seen in any election literature, her team did not descend to that level when occasionally questioned on the doorstep. We focussed on promoting Jane and left the mud-slinging to the Independent campaign. I will write more in due course but for now let me just say that there was no truth whatsoever in the many allegations of “vendettas”, “conspiracies” or “cabals”. What we saw was a ranting and embittered man who rather than focussing on the needs and ambitions of the people he sought to represent, instead focussed on his own sense of grievance and distorted view of those who had supported him and helped elect him previously. The margin of over 300 votes, despite a low turnout and difficult national picture was a credit to Jane and all of the hard-working team who supported her.
I campaigned mainly in Peppard, Caversham and Church wards and it was clear that many people were voting (or not voting) based on national issues. The main issues which came up were pensions and the Budget. It would be fair to say that rarely has a national Government done so much to handicap its own candidates in an important set of local elections!
In Reading as a whole the picture was of very low turnouts as Conservative and Lib Dem voters stayed at home. Labour gained seats but can claim little credit as their vote dropped in most wards as well, even where they won. The most significant statistical thing to note was that the Greens overtook the Lib Dems to become the third party in the town. Both parties elected a single Councillor but the Greens scored 3,757 votes compared to the Lib Dems’ 3,403 votes. In many wards the LDs were in last place on fewer than 100 votes: in Whitley they came sixth with just 57 votes behind the Common Sense Party, Independent and Green candidates!
I was very sad to lose good colleagues and friends in Azam Janjua, Emma Warman and Dave Luckett but we gain some very effective new blood in Jane Stanford-Beale and Ed Hopper. I look forward to working with them to hold the now majority Labour administration to account.
The summary across the Borough was:
Abbey: Labour hold – Lab 1,140, Cons 354, G 230, LD 135, CSP 87 (T/O 20.2%)
Battle: Labour hold – Lab 1,015, Cons 522, G 158, LD 106 (T/O 24.7%)
Caversham: Labour gain from Conservative – Lab 1,258, Cons 880, G 265, LD 168 (T/O 34.9%)
Church: Labour gain from Conservative – Lab 1,029, Cons 700, G 134, LD 94, CSP 79 (T/O 25.4%)
Katesgrove: Labour gain from Lib Dem – Lab 890, LD 257, Cons 237, G 157, Ind 42 (T/O 22.2%)
Kentwood: Labour gain from Conservative – Lab 1,052, Cons 796, G 144, CSP 126, LD 121 (T/O 30%)
Mapledurham: Conservative hold – Cons 695, Lab 136, LD 111, G 103 (T/O 41.4%)
Minster: Labour hold – Lab 1,351, Cons 600, LD 164, G 162 (T/O 29.4%)
Norcot: Labour hold – Lab 1,378, Cons 400, G 117, LD 96 (T/O 26.7%)
Park: Green gain from Labour – G 1,246, Lab 1,094, Cons 279, LD 54 (T/O 35.1%)
Peppard: Conservative regain from Independent – Cons 1,090, Ind 789, Lab 434, LD 294, G 210 (T/O 37.4%)
Redlands: Labour gain from Lib Dem – Lab 1,032, LD 425, Cons 273, G 251 (T/O 26%)
Southcote: Labour hold – Lab 1,364, Cons 478, LD 142, G 112 (T/O 32.3%)
Thames: Conservative hold – Cons 1,266, Lab 625, Ind 322, G 311, LD 282 (T/O 38.1%)
Tilehurst: Lib Dem hold – LD 897, Cons 604, Lab 510, UKIP 220, G 89 (T/O 32.1%)
Whitley: Labour hold – Lab 1,144, Cons 318, CSP 99, Ind 82, G 68, LD 57 (T/O 21.6%)
The Council composition is now – Labour 26, Conservative 12, Lib Dem 4, Green 3, Independent 1
Here in Reading only a vote for the Conservative candidate is a vote for a strong voice on the Council, standing up for best value for money, a Council Tax freeze, an end to funding of Trades Unions and other cronies from Council Tax, and getting Reading moving. Labour have fought a dirty campaign with “dog-whistle” racist tactics against a Conservative candidate. The Greens have propped up the minority Labour administration, the Lib Dems are a declining force and the Independents are a ragtag bunch of oddities and people with a grudge. It was the Conservatives who launched the clean campaign pledge.
In London Boris offers the hope of a cut in Council Tax over the next four years and no return to the politics of envy and spend, spend, spend.. With the Police investigating widespread postal vote fraud allegations in Tower Hamlets it is important that every valid voter casts their ballot for Boris and honest campaigning.
Around the country Conservative Councils have track records of openness, cutting out waste and getting things done for their communities. David Cameron has issued the following message:
“My message to people up and down the country is clear: don’t let Labour do to your council what they did to the country.
“It’s Conservatives in local government who offer real value for money, cutting the waste so we keep council taxes low at the same time as delivering the best possible services.
“And in Westminster Conservatives are taking the difficult, long-term decisions in the national interest to sort out the mess left by the last Labour Government.
“In the face of opposition from Labour we’re bringing responsibility to the public finances, keeping mortgage rates low for families and reforming welfare to bring an end to the something for nothing culture.
“We’re backing aspiration, rewarding work by raising the personal allowance for 24 million taxpayers in Britain and taking 2 million of the lowest earners out of tax altogether.
“That is why I urge everyone across the country to vote Conservative today.”
On the London mayoral race, he said:
“In London, voters face a critical and simple choice – between the future and the past.
“Boris is the only candidate who represents London’s future. There’s no doubt about it, he delivers for Londoners and fights the city’s corner – believe me, I know.
“Now more than ever, London needs a Mayor who has the energy and focus to deliver jobs and growth. Boris has a plan to invest in transport infrastructure, housing and local high streets – not cut it. Boris also has a plan to create 200,000 jobs and cut council tax by 10%. But this plan is at risk if people don’t come out and vote to make it happen.
“The election really could go either way. If you stay at home you risk returning Ken to power. We simply cannot afford a return to the high taxes, waste, division, broken promises and hypocrisy of the past he represents.
“So if you don’t want that to happen, if you want London to move forwards with a man who unites and delivers then you need to come out today between 7am and 10pm and vote for Boris Johnson.”
So please do go out and Vote Conservative today.