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New YouGov Poll – Labour Just 5% Ahead at the Start of their Conference

There is a new YouGov poll for today’s Sunday Times newspaper which shows Labour’s down again to 5%, the lowest in a YouGov poll for some time:

                   Conservative               35% (no change)

                   Labour                         40% (down 1%)

                                                     Lib Dem                        10% (up 1%)

                                                     UKIP                               7% (no change)

As I will keep reminding readers, Party Conference season is a time when polls can show unusual fluctuations and I would not take any poll too seriously until all the major parties have completed their conferences. However, this is a poor poll for Labour at the start of their conference!

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 21 Sep.

September 30, 2012 Posted by | Polls | | 1 Comment

New ComRes Poll – Labour’s Lead Falls Again to 4%

There is a new ComRes online poll published in tomorrow’s Independent on Sunday which shows the Labour lead cut to 4%, the lowest it has since April this year:

           Conservative            35% (up 2%)

                                        Labour                      39% (down 3%)

                                        Lib Dem                    10% (no change)

                                        UKIP                            8%

In further findings:

Support for British withdrawal from Afghanistan has hit a record high; three-quarters of the public support the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge taking legal action against the French magazine that published topless pictures of Kate; but one in five people say they have seen the pictures, and three in five agree that a privacy law is unenforceable because of the internet.

Asked about Nick Clegg’s qualities, 3% say they think he is “good in a crisis” and 8% describe him as “patriotic”.

Afghanistan

I would support a phased withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan, the aim being the end of combat operations within a year or so:

Nov 2009 April 2010 Sept 2012
Agree 71% 77% 78%
Disagree 22% 15% 10%
Don’t know 7% 8% 13%

·         Older people are more likely than younger people to support a phased withdrawal: 69% of those aged 18 to 34 agree, compared with 84% of those aged 65+.

All British forces should be withdrawn from Afghanistan as quickly as possible:

July 2009 August 2009 Sept 2012
Agree 64% 60% 66%
Disagree 33% 33% 15%
Don’t know 3% 8% 19%

·         60% of Conservative voters and 61% of Lib Dem voters agree compared with 68% of Labour voters.

The Duchess of Cambridge’s privacy

William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are right to take legal action against the French photographer and magazine that published topless pictures of the Duchess recently:

Agree – 75%

Disagree – 14%

Don’t know – 11%

78% of women agree compared with 72% of men.

·         Older people aged 65 and over are the most likely age group to agree (81%). This compares with 68% of those aged 18 to 24.

I have seen the topless pictures of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, that were recently published in a French magazine:

Agree – 19%

Disagree – 75%

Don’t know – 6%

·         25% of men say they have seen them, compared with 13% of women.

·         34% of those aged 18 to 24 have seen them – the highest of any age group.

The internet makes it impractical to enforce current privacy laws:

Agree – 62%

Disagree – 17%

Don’t know – 21%

Economy

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

Aug 2011 March 2012 April 2012 July 2012 Sept 2012
Agree 31% 29% 25% 24% 25%
Disagree 48% 49% 54% 55% 54%
Don’t know 21% 22% 21% 21% 22%
Net Agree -17 -20 -29 -31 -29

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

Aug 2011 March 2012 April 2012 July 2012 Sept 2012
Agree 18% 15% 19% 20% 20%
Disagree 54% 59% 52% 52% 52%
Don’t know 28% 26% 30% 28% 28%
Net Agree -36 -44 -33 -32 -32

Liberal Democrats

Vince Cable would make a better leader of the Liberal Democrat Party than Nick Clegg:

Agree – 27%

Disagree – 25%

Don’t know – 48%

·         Nearly half say they don’t know.

·         Importantly for the party’s outreach to Labour voters, 38% of them agree that Vince Cable would make a better leader of the Liberal Democrat Party than Nick Clegg.

·         24% of Liberal Democrat voters agree, while 36% disagree.

·         25% of Conservative voters agree, while 36% disagree.

Here is a list of things both favourable and unfavourable that have been said about various politicians. Please select those that you think apply to Nick Clegg:

Nick Clegg – Sept 2012 David Cameron – Feb 2012
Inexperienced 48% 20%
Out of touch with ordinary people 42% 49%
Tends to talk down to people 20% 32%
Essentially a Conservative politician 17% N/A
Narrow-minded 16% 21%
Too inflexible 14% 22%
More honest than most politicians 14% 21%
Puts loyalty to friends ahead of doing the right thing 14% 23%
Down-to-earth 12% 15%
Has strong moral principles 11% 30%
Is more interested in foreign affairs than in running the country 10% 19%
Patriotic 8% 27%
Is good on the detail of policy 5% 12%
Good in a crisis 3% 18%
None of these 16% 10%

Methodology: ComRes interviewed 2,042 GB adults online 20 – 22 September 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults and by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comres.co.uk.

September 22, 2012 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour Lead Cut to 6%

There is a new YouGov poll for today’s Sun newspaper which shows Labour’s lead cut to 6%, the lowest it has been this week:

                   Conservative               35% (up 1%)

                   Labour                         41% (down 2%)

                                                     Lib Dem                         9% (up 1%)

                                                     UKIP                               7% (down 1%)

As I will keep reminding readers Party Conference season is a time when polls can show unusual fluctuations and I would not take any poll too seriously until all the major parties have completed their conferences.

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 19 Sep.

September 21, 2012 Posted by | Polls | | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour Lead at 9%

There is a new YouGov poll for today’s Sun newspaper which shows Labour’s lead at 9%, up from the last one I reported but less than other recent polls:

                   Conservative               34% (down 1%)

                   Labour                         43% (up 2%)

                                                     Lib Dem                         8% (down1%)

                                                     UKIP                               8% (up 1%)

There have been some significant variations amongst the different pollsters recently with Populus showing a 15% Labour lead while the same poll showed that the public wanted David Cameron to remain Prime Minister by a ratio of 2:1 over David Miliband!

Party Conference season is a time when polls can show unusual fluctuations and I would not take ANY poll too seriously until all the major parties have completed their conferences.

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 2 Sep.

September 19, 2012 Posted by | Polls | | Leave a comment

Battle of Britain Day – The Debt we Owe to the Poles

Today is recognised as Battle of Britain day; the day when, in the autumn of 1940 Britain’s Royal Air Force was stretched to its limit. Churchill was visiting the Number 11 Group bunker that day and described seeing “all the lights glowing red” on the tote boards. That meant that ALL the Squadrons of 11 Group were engaged in action over the skies of southern England trying to stop the German bombers and their fighter escorts getting through.

However, today I want to reflect on the contribution of another nation in particular. I get very annoyed when the Government and the Ministry of Defence put out press releases referring to the UK and Commonwealth air crews in World War Two. Yes of course they were the majority and were critically important to our success in Fighter and Bomber Commands, but there were significant numbers of non-Commonwealth airmen in the Royal Air Force. By far the largest contingent were the Poles although they were accompanied by Czechs, Belgians, French, Americans and others.

The Poles were experienced pilots who, whilst masssively outnumbered, put up a firm resistance against the Luftwaffe in their outdated (and also training) aircraft. The story of hopeless Polish land forces charging Panzers with cavalry was a myth perpetrated in the early stages of WW2 but in the air there was some truth in the story. What really did for Poland though was the subsequent Soviet invasion from the east while they were battling to fight against the advancing Germans. Many Polish pilots escaped through Romania and reached France to join the fight against the Germans. How many people remember that, unlike France, Poland never surrendered? When the Polish pilots reached France they wanted to get into action against the Luftwaffe but were frustrated by the complacent attitude and sometimes downright hostility they experienced. Very few managed to see any real action before France was invaded and surrendered, leaving the Poles to find ways to reach the UK to carry on the fight.

Those Poles who were captured by the Soviet invaders suffered greatly. Many were deported to Siberia, from where some managed to escape on foot via Iran. One veteran told me he and his brother got a boat from Iran to Argentina and then to Liverpool in order to carry on the fight for their homeland! When they arrived in the UK many found similar suspicion to that experienced in France, although the RAF was much better prepared than the French air force and more willing to get them flying. However, the RAF hierarchy insisted on British officers being in charge and the Poles had to learn English and RAF ways of doing things. They were issued with RAF uniforms but were allowed to keep their own identity with Polish cap badges and shoulder flashes.

Most of the Polish fighter pilots were sent to RAF Northolt in west London where they were formed into new Hurricane squadrons. However, they were not put into action immediately, instead flying endless training sorties, albeit with live ammunition. On 30 August 1940 while up on a training sortie a young Pole called Ludwik Paszkiewicz spotted a German Me11o. Ignoring orders he broke off from his squadron and shot the Me110 down. The next day his squadron, 303 (Polish) Squadron was declared operational. Later renamed 303 (Kosciuszko) Squadron it went on to be the top scoring RAF squadron in the Battle of Britain.

The bravery of the Poles frequently bordered on recklessness. They had lost their country, many had lost their families, and in their own words, many were out for vengeance. Whereas the British pilots zeroed their cannons to 400 yards, the Poles usually zeroed theirs to just 100 yards. In the air and at high speeds that is extremely close! By contrast the British tended to be gentleman fliers who had enjoyed leisurely weekends at flying clubs before the war. That does not detract from their bravery or success but it did lead to tensions between the Brits and the Poles at times. The Station Commander of RAF Northolt throughout the Battle of Britain was Group Captain Stanley Vincent, he was sceptical about the claims of the Poles to have shot down so many German aircraft, so one day he took his own Hurricane and followed them up on a raid. He saw that when they encountered the German fighters much of what they had been taught went out the window and they were knocking them out of the sky left right and centre. In his biography Vincent notes that in his diary he wrote “By God they ARE doing it!”. He became a firm advocate for the Polish pilots (as did other RAF officers who worked with them) and in due course they were allowed to have Polish flight and later squadron commanders.

The Polish fighter squadrons were a key part of the defence of London and England. Much of their time was spent initially at RAF Northolt and they later fought their way across France and into Germany with allied forces. At the end of the war the British government planned a massive victory parade through London but in order to avoid upsetting Stalin and the Soviets, the Poles were denied permission to march by the Labour Government of Clement Attlee. The RAF protested and the government relented but then on the day of the parade the Government changed its mind again and the Poles were prevented from taking part. This betrayal still rankles with many Polish veterans.

After the war many Polish airmen settled in the UK and married British women rather than return to their homeland which was now occupied by Soviet troops and forced into adopting Communism. I am privileged to count some of them as my friends.

Today the relationship with the Polish Air Force and the veteran community is strong. There is an annual commemoration at the Polish War Memorial (off the A40 in west London) every year, which I help to organise. For the last two years we have invited Polish Air Force Officer cadets from their academy at Deblin to attend the ceremony and this has been much appreciated by the UK-based veterans. We also have a permanent exhibition of the WW2 Polish Air Force at RAF Northolt which can be viewed by appointment.

It is my opinion that without the Poles (and other nations) in the Battle of Britain, we would have lost.

So on this historic day remember “The Few” who fought so valiantly and succcessfully but do not forget that without the Poles and other nations they would have been much fewer!

September 15, 2012 Posted by | Defence, National | 6 Comments

BREAKING NEWS – Cabinet Reshuffle

Health – Jeremy Hunt (replacing Andrew Lansley)

Northern Ireland – Teresa Villiers (replacing Owen Paterson)

Justice – Chris Grayling (replacing Ken Clarke)

Leader of the House – Andrew Lansley (replacing Sir George Young)

Transport – Patrick McLoughlin (replacing Justine Greening)

Culture and Sport – Maria Miller (replacing Jeremy Hunt)

International Development – Justine Greening (replacing Andrew Mitchell)

Party Chairman – Grant Shapps (replacing Syeda Warsi)

September 4, 2012 Posted by | National | 2 Comments

New ComRes Poll – Labour’s Lead Slashed to 7%

There is a new ComRes telephone poll published in tomorrow’s Independent which shows the Labour lead slashed from 11% last month to 7% now:

           Conservative            35% (up 2%)

                                        Labour                      42% (down 2%)

                                        Lib Dem                    12% (up 2%)

                                        UKIP                            TBC

In further findings:

The Liberal Democrats would significantly improve their prospects at the next general election if Vince Cable replaced Nick Clegg as leader, according to a ComRes survey for The Independent. When people were asked who they would vote for if Mr Clegg remained the Lib Dems’ leader, the party would achieve a 14 per cent share of the vote. Asked how they would vote if  the Business Secretary Mr Cable were party leader, the Lib Dems would achieve an 18 per cent share of the vote. On current constituency boundaries, that would see the Lib Dems, who currently have 57 MPs, win 39 seats at the next election under Mr Cable and 23 under Mr Clegg.

The poll indicates that Ed Miliband may be a slight drag on his party. When he is named in the question as the party leader, Labour’s rating falls from 42 per cent to 39 per cent. This does not bode well for Labour when a General Election comes and the focus is on the party leaders!

Methodology: ComRes interviewed 1,002 GB adults by telephone 31 August – 2 September 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults and by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comres.co.uk.

September 3, 2012 Posted by | Polls | 4 Comments

Cabinet Reshuffle is Underway

Tonight acccording to all informed sources David Cameron is finalising the details of a wide-ranging Government reshuffle. Unlike the last Labour Governments (which had almost annual reshuffles), David Cameron has avoided a major reshuffle until now, preferring to allow Ministers to get to know and master their briefs. As a result the key figures in the Coalition administration have become household names, unlike most of their Labour Shadows.

Now that Cameron is embarked on a reshuffle commentators are keen to stress the many audiences he should aim to please. Some think that pleasing the back-benches is key, others that appealing to the Conservative core voters is important, and still others that impressing the media counts. In my view all of these are poor reasons for any movement of personnel. The Prime Minister’s two main aims, I venture to suggest, should be to get people into key posts who will be effective Ministers with a clear view of what they want to achieve AND be able to communicate their vision to a sceptical public. Too many Ministers at present either seem to be going through the motions or are unable to articulate in simple terms what they and the Government are there to achieve. That is emphatically NOT the case for William Hague (at Foreign Affairs), Michael Gove (at Education), Iain Duncan-Smith (at Work and Pensions), and Eric Pickles (at Communities and Local Government). They should therefore remain in post. Others such as Philip Hammond (Defence), Justine Greening (Transport) are relatively new in post and undergoing important work in their departments. I would therefore not move them either.

That still leaves a number of key posts. George Osborne has bombed in the last 6 months. His credibility as Chancellor was greatly undermined by the disastrous presentation of the last Budget and the subsequent series of U-turns. However, moving him at this stage could have wider consequences for the Government’s economic credibility and who would replace him? There is no appetite for a change of economic direction at the top of Government and therefore Osborne will remain in post.

Andrew Lansley (Health) had a battering during the passage of the NHS Reform Bill. However, he understands his health brief like no other on either side of the Commons. Jeremy Hunt (Culture, Media and Sport) had a torrid time over his contacts with the Murdochs and is probably expendable. Caroline Spelman (Environment) botched the Forestry Bill, was forced into a U-turn and has hardly been seen since. Of the remainder, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland Secretaries are little known outside their own nations. The same is true of Andrew Mitchell (International Development), Chief Whip (Patrick McLoughlin), Leader of the Commons (Sir George Young), Leader of the Lords (Lord Strathclyde) and Attorney General (Dominic Grieve). That just leaves Home Secretary Theresa May, Ken Clarke at Justice, Vince Cable (Business, Universities and Skills), Party (Co) Chairman Baroness Warsi, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, and of course Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. If the Coalition is to survive Clegg cannot be moved, whatever anyone’s private opinion of him and Danny Alexander works well as part of the Treasury team and will stay in post.

Before discussing the likely changes I suggest that Cameron should make a few structural changes. Responsibility for Universities should be moved from Vince Cable’s Business Department to Michael Gove’s Education Department. It would make sense to have all levels of education together under one Secretary of State and the University sector is in need of Gove’s reforming and liberalising zeal. Caroline Spelman’s Enviroment Department should be combined with the Climate Change element of Ed Davey’s Department with Davey remaining in charge. Energy should then be included with Cable’s Business Department and the new brief given to the pro-business Lib Dem, David Laws. To keep the balance Michael Moore would have to be replaced as Scottish Secretary by a Conservative.

It seems that Andrew Mitchell is to be moved to be the new Conservative Chief Whip freeing up International Development which could be given to Vince Cable. Patrick McLoughlin (former miner and Midlands MP) is just the sort of no-nonsense man who could make an effective Conservative Party Chairman but only if he is given a proper remit and is not job-sharing with a “co-Chairman”. Ken Clarke should be moved sideways to become Leader of the Commons and be replaced by Chris Grayling at Justice (although he is not a lawyer). Maria Miller would be a good replacement for Andrew Lansley at Health, and Grant Shapps could replace Hunt at Culture, Media and Sport.

I would appoint Monmouth MP David Davies as the new Welsh Secretary to replace Cheryl Gillan. Davies is a Welsh speaker who also serves in the Welsh Assembly. He is well regarded as a campaigner and hard worker, and would do a lot for the image of Conservatives in Wales were he to be appointed.

Theresa May will stay in post and Baroness Warsi could replace Lord Strathclyde as Leader of the Lords.

There are a large number of good people in the 2005 and 2010 entries who should be brought into junior and middle ranking Ministerial posts to prepare them for the next major reshuffle in a few years time. This will be good for the Conservative party as a good number of these are women and minority ethnic members. They should be given remits to get out in the country and on the airwaves to sell the party and its policies to the nation.

David Cameron has a big opportunity to get round pegs into round holes with this reshuffle but it is a big risk for him and for the Coalition. If he gets it right the Government will become more effective at taking the fight to Labour and the Government’s message to the country. It will be fun to see how wide of the mark I am tomorrow!

September 3, 2012 Posted by | National | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour Lead Cut to Just 6%

There is a new YouGov poll for today’s Sunday Times newspaper which shows Labour’s lead slashed to just 6%:

                   Conservative               35% (up 1%)

                   Labour                         41% (down 1%)

                                                     Lib Dem                         9% (up 1%)

                                                     UKIP                               7% (down%)

This is the smallest Labour lead shown in a YouGov poll for some time but it is in line with the “gold standard” ICM poll last weekend. YouGov have been showing Labour leads in the 8-11% range for some time and it will be interesting to see whether this is an outlier or a start of a series of shrunken Labour leads.

With a Cabinet reshuffle imminent and the Party Conferences about to start a shift in the political landscape is a possibility over the next few weeks. After the worst six months for the Coalition government Ed Miliband and Labour would have hoped to have been consolidating or growing their lead not seeing it shrink. Labour need to rethink their current tactics of opposing everything but standing for nothing.

The Lib Dems also will not be happy with their vote share, marooned on 7-9%. They face the loss of the majority of their existing MPs if they cannot improve their share during the run up to the General Election. Despite the hype around their closeness to the Lib Dems in vote share UKIP have no prospect of gaining any MPs unless they are able to concentrate some support in one or two constituencies.

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 11 Aug.

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Polls | | 3 Comments