Richard Willis's Blog

First for local news and first for comment

David Cameron’s New Year Message

December 31, 2012 Posted by | National | Leave a comment

My Blog in 2012 – A Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 30, 2012 Posted by | General Musings | Leave a comment

Peppard Conservative Councillors Support Tree Planting

Brooklyn Drive-1 Dec 12Peppard Conservatives have been out supporting tree planting in Peppard ward. Local residents worked in partnership with Reading Borough Council over many weeks to purchase and plant more than 30 new trees in Brooklyn Drive, Courtney Drive and Burnham Rise in Emmer Green at the end of November and early December. Under the Council’s Tree Strategy, which was brought to Council in June 2010 by Cllr Willis, the Council funded the tree root barriers and planting expertise, and local residents paid for the trees and agreed to undertake the ongoing task of watering.

Ward Councillors Jane Stanford-Beale and Richard Willis joined local residents to help with the digging of the holes to plant the trees and install the supports which will protect the young trees from being broken or blown over.

Cllr Jane Stanford-Beale said, “This is a fantastic example of local residents working with the Council to make limited resources stretch further. Local people have come together to ensure that their streets remain beautiful tree-lined roads for decades to come and I was delighted to turn out to help them plant the trees.”

Cllr Richard Willis said, “I am continuing to lobby the Council to protect the tree planting budget for another year. Trees make our environment look better and help to absorb carbon in the atmosphere. I am delighted that local people in partnership with the Council have managed to plant so many new trees in Peppard ward and I was keen to attend to help and show my support for this initiative.”

There are plans for more planting in the area, with one signature tree to be funded by the Emmer Green Residents’ Association.

December 28, 2012 Posted by | Local | 3 Comments

New(ish) ICM Poll – 51% Could Vote to Leave the EU

While I was away for Christmas there was a new ICM poll in the Guardian yesterday showing Labour’s lead holding at 8%:

         Conservative              32% (no change)

                                                    Labour                        40% (no change)

                                                    Lib Dem                      13% (no change)

                                                    UKIP                              7% (no change)

The poll finds a marked swing of sentiment against the EU over the last 12 months which is also reflected in UKIP’s higher level of support. 36% say they would definitely vote to pull Britain out, against just 22% who definitely want to stay in. That compares with 18% who say they would probably want to stay in, and 15% who indicate that they would probably want to get out.

Europe_ICM1_2712

I remind readers that ICM is the “Gold Standard” of opinion pollsters amongst polling aficionados.

ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1,002 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 19-23 December 2012. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

December 27, 2012 Posted by | Polls | | 4 Comments

Have a Fantastic Christmas!

christmasTo all my readers can I wish you a fantastic Christmas and a restful few days off work.

I will be travelling to see my parents and wider family in Cumbria for a couple of days and later visiting family and friends in Bournemouth. For me this is one of the great thinks about Christmas that families come together to create a magical time for children of all ages!

This year presents were bought and wrapped in good time but I have been less efficient with the Christmas cards. So some friends overseas will be getting their cards in the new year. Oh well! My Christmas tree was up and decorated at the start of December and I have no intention of taking it down until the end of the festive season. Fortunately I have three weeks off work over Christmas and New Year following a summer in which Jubilee and Olympics meant that I couldn’t take any meaningful leave. So I have plenty of time to do all those domestic jobs that I have been meaning to do for ages. I may even have time to do some more family tree research, which I have been doing on and off for about 20 years.

Whatever your plans this Christmas I hope that you have a great time and enjoy spending time with those who mean most to you. Please also spare a thought and a few pounds for those less fortunate than us.

December 23, 2012 Posted by | General Musings | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour’s Lead Back to 8%

There is a new YouGov poll in today’s Sun newspaper showing Labour’s lead dropping from 12% to 8%. UKIP is back in fourth place albeit up slightly on the last poll I reported:

                   Conservative               33% (no change)

                   Labour                         41% (down 4%)

                                                     Lib Dem                       11% (up 2%)

                                                     UKIP                             10% (up 2%)

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 16 December.

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

Berkshire Recycling Rates for 2011/12

For the last couple of years I have published the DEFRA statistics on local authority recycling rates and I have looked them up once again this year.

DEFRA issued its data tables for 2011/12 in November and yet again Reading languishes near the bottom of the local table for Berkshire:

West Berkshire – 46.2% (10/11 – 42%)

Windsor & Maid – 43.2% (10/11 – 39%)

Wokingham – 42.6% (10/11 – 41%)

Bracknell Forest – 42.5% (10/11 – 40%)

Reading – 36.8% (10/11 – 35%)

Slough – 30.7% (10/11 – 31%)

Over the last year Reading saw a small improvement in its performance but most others in Berkshire made greater strides. The only authority to do worse was Slough! So Reading was again second from the bottom in 2011/12. Compare that with our immediate neighbour to the north:

South Oxfordshire – 67.9% (10/11 – 65%)

Not only did South Oxfordshire manage an excellent rate of recycling again over the last year but they further improved on what was already an amazing performance. Reading clearly still has a very long way to go to match the performance of the best of the other (Conservative controlled) Berkshire authorities and even further to catch up with (Conservative controlled) South Oxfordshire.

December 19, 2012 Posted by | Local | | 3 Comments

Much of British Antarctic Territory Named in Honour of the Queen

Brit Ant Terr FlagToday Her Majesty the Queen visited the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to meet staff and have a tour of the building. Having worked in the FCO previously I can vouch that it is a building which has many beautiful rooms with grand Victorian decoration. Part of the building was the old India Office and this is particularly stunningly decorated.

However the culmination of today’s visit was the announcement by Foreign Secretary William Hague that a huge part of the British Antarctic Territory has been named for the first time, in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Around a third of the territory is now to be known as “Queen Elizabeth Land”. Most of Antarctica is named by the powers who own the various sections.

Antartica is governed by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty which came into force in 1961. Under its terms all signatories agree:

  • to demilitarize Antarctica, to establish it as a zone free of nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste, and to ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only;
  • to promote international scientific cooperation in Antarctica;
  • to set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty

The United Kingdom is one of the original signatories to the Treaty which covers all of British Antarctic Territory and the overlapping Argentinian and Chilean territorial claims. The UK robustly maintains British claims to the vast area of the continent, issuing postage stamps and ensuring a permanent British presence through scientific research stations in the area supported from the Falkland Islands.

BAT Queen Eliz Land

December 18, 2012 Posted by | International, National | 1 Comment

New Populus Poll – UKIP Gain but Still in Fourth Place

There is a new Populus poll in tomorrow’s Times which shows UKIP up significantly but still in fourth place behind the Lib Dems:

      Conservative              29% (down 6%)

      Labour                        40% (no change)

                                                           Lib Dem                       11% (up 2%)

                                                           UKIP                             10% (up 6%)

This is not surprising in mid-term when the usual recipients of protest votes (the LDs) are in Government and continuing to suffer from theh difficult decisions that come from being in government at a time of austerity. I’m not a betting man but I am confident that UKIP will not score anything like their current rating when the next General Election comes.

There is also another ComRes poll out tonight with similar findings: Cons 31 (-4), Lab 41 (-1), LD 10 (-), UKIP 9 (+3).

December 17, 2012 Posted by | Polls | | 3 Comments

The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey

The HobbitI am a massive fan of the works of JRR Tolkien. A long time before the Peter Jackson films were released I had read the Lord of the Rings from cover to cover several times. When it was announced that the films were to be made in three parts I was delighted and I now own the extended versions on DVD. However, it was not until a few years ago that I read The Hobbit and the Silmarillion.

The Hobbit is written in a very different style from the Lord of the Rings and I wondered if it would ever be made into a film but am pleased that it has and that it has been done by Peter Jackson, who did such a great job with the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy. The Hobbit is set in the period 60 years before the Lord of the Rings when a younger Bilbo Baggins finds the ring of power and encounters Golum/Smeagol.

However, the film begins with Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen), Bilbo (Ian Holm) and Frodo (Elijah Wood) in the Shire with the older Bilbo starting to write the account of his adventures. The film then jumps back to the day when Gandalf arranges for a group of dwarves to meet at the younger Bilbo’s (Martin Freeman) house to begin their epic adventure. On their journey the dwarves (plus Bilbo) encounter orcs, trolls, elves and wizards.

It was good to see such great actors reprising their roles from the original LOTR films. There are the sweeping landscapes of New Zealand, from rocky plains to snow capped mountains, all of which our band of adventurers have to cross. There are also the beautifully created CGI images of cities above and below ground. One of the best moments for me was the company’s visit to Rivendell where they meet Lord Elrond, Lady Galadriel and Saruman (who is not yet turned to the dark side). The CGI vistas of waterfalls and elvish architecture are stunning.

The 3D effects were less noticeable than I had expected. I am not sure if Vue Cinema, Reading were showing it in 24 frames per second or 48. Perhaps I am just becoming more used to 3D but there were some great opportunities for superb 3D effects, such as the flying eagles and the battles in the orc kingdom which did not seem to have a great impact.

I was not completely persuaded by the constant ability of the dwarves to navigate huge armies of orcs and trolls virtually unscathed. Their escape from the clutches of the orcs in their underground kingdom stretched even my credulity beyond its flexible limits. The orcs are so inept and the heroes so continually lucky in their falls and fights that it had more of the feel of a video game than a Tolkien narrative. I will have to re-read The Hobbit but I do not remember much of the content of the film being in the book. There are some very modern sections of dialogue and joking which felt out of place to me. The musical numbers also felt a little out of place on occasion. However, none of this detracted from a superb film which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Overall this is a ‘must see’ for any Tolkien fan or anyone who just enjoyed the LOTR films. The story hung together well throughout and the almost three hours passed all too soon for me. With two more instalments to come it will add up to a marathon session when all the extended DVDs are available to watch at home!

The film is rated as a 12A.

December 17, 2012 Posted by | General Musings | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – UKIP on Just 8%

There is a new YouGov poll in today’s Sunday Times newspaper showing Labour’s increasing to 12%. More significantly UKIP is down in fourth place on just 8%, the lowest in a YouGov poll for a month:

                   Conservative               33% (no change)

                   Labour                         45% (up 3%)

                                                     Lib Dem                          9% (down 1%)

                                                     UKIP                                8% (down 1%)

In the poll detail voters back David Cameron’s stance on Equal Marriage by 55% to 36%. Conservatives are split 45% in favour with 45% against. Anthony Wells has more analysis here.

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 9 December.

December 16, 2012 Posted by | Polls | | 2 Comments

New ComRes Poll – UKIP Jumps to 14%

There is a new ComRes online poll published in tomorrow’s Independent on Sunday which shows the Labour lead trimmed to 11%. However, the big story is the jump in UKIP’s share:

           Conservative            28% (down 3%)

                                        Labour                      39% (down 4%)

                                        Lib Dem                      9% (down 1%)

                                        UKIP                          14% (up 6%)

In further findings:

Leadership ratings

David Cameron is turning out to be a good Prime Minister

Agree 27% (-2 since October) Disagree 52% (+2) Net agree -25

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

Agree 24% (-5) Disagree 43% (+3) Net agree -19

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

Agree 14% (-4) Disagree 62% (+6) Net agree -48

The economy

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

Agree 25% (-1 since October) Disagree 55% (+4) Net agree -30

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

Agree 21% (-3) Disagree 52% (+3) Net agree -31

Most respondents were gloomy about their economic prospects: 57% expecting “my family to be worse off over the coming year”. But one measure in the Autumn Statement was well received. We asked if people agreed or disagreed with the following:

The Chancellor, George Osborne, is right to cut most state benefits by 1% a year for the next three years, in real terms (taking inflation into account)

Agree 42% Disagree 36% Don’t know 22%

Other polls with differently worded questions have produced sharply different findings on this subject. YouGov found that 52% thought benefits should rise by less than inflation or not at all. Ipsos MORI found that 59% said benefits should rise with inflation.

We also asked if people agreed or disagreed with the following statements about the economy:

The Government should increase spending on public services Agree 47% Disagree 25% Don’t know 28%

The Government should cut public spending to reduce the deficit Agree 32% Disagree 40% Don’t know 28%

These statements suggest that public support for balancing the budget is weakening, with nearly half of respondents wanting public spending to be raised. Although 16% of respondents in the survey agreed with both “the Government should increase spending on public services” and “the Government should cut public spending to reduce the deficit”.

However, more people blame the euro crisis for our economic difficulties than the Government’s policy of deep cuts in public spending:

The recovery is taking longer than expected mainly because the Government is cutting spending too deeply

Agree 45% Disagree 28% Don’t know 27%

The recovery is taking longer than expected mainly because of the problems in the eurozone

Agree 55% Disagree 19% Don’t know 26%

I expect my family to be worse off over the coming year

Agree 57% Disagree 23% Don’t know 20%

I plan to spend less on Christmas this year than last year

Agree 54% (-7 since November 2011) Disagree 34% (+8)

I expect the economy will start showing signs of improvement soon

Agree 25% (-5 since October) Disagree 52% (+4)

Gay marriage

David Cameron is showing leadership by pressing ahead with a law to allow gay marriage even though some people in his own party oppose it

Agree 34% Disagree 44% Don’t know 22%

Among current Conservative voters, 46% agree but 31% disagree. Among 2010 Conservative voters, only 36% agree while 46% disagree. The most notable opposition is among UKIP voters – 19% think David Cameron is showing leadership on this issue but 74% disagree.

Methodology: ComRes interviewed 2,002 GB adults online 12 – 14 December 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.

December 15, 2012 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour 9% Ahead

There is a new YouGov poll in today’s Sunday Times newspaper showing Labour’s lead at 9% after a period of leads which varied from 10-14%:

                   Conservative               33% (down 2%)

                   Labour                         42% (up 3%)

                                                     Lib Dem                        10% (no change)

                                                     UKIP                                9% (up 1%)

I have not posted any polls for while as I was away at the end of November and been rather busy since, but it would seem that UKIP’s boost enjoyed after the PCC elections is fading and once again the Lib Dems are nudging ahead of them.

Interestingly in the detail of the poll’s findings David Cameron and George Osborne are trusted to run the economy by 37% compared to just 26% who trust Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.

When asked about the government’s plans to reform the laws of succession to allow women to have equal rights to inherit the British Crown 87% support the move and only 6% disapprove.

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 13 November.

December 9, 2012 Posted by | Polls | | 1 Comment

New East Reading Secondary School Plans Take Shape

school signAs promised earlier in the year, Reading East MP Rob Wilson has been working on plans for a new Secondary School for East Reading. As you would expect, a lot of background work has to be undertaken before proposals can be revealed, and this has led to some rather petty sniping from the Reading Labour Party.

Rob has now sent out a notice to local residents who could benefit from the school to invite them to a meeting next week:

Tuesday 11 December at 7pm, Rob Wilson MP Invites Local Parents to a Meeting on Plans for New Secondary School in East Reading 
   
Do you have a child in Year 5 or below? Are you concerned about the secondary school options in East Reading for your child?

If so come and join other parents and other east Reading residents at a meeting to discuss an opportunity to create a new school in East Reading that meets needs. All members of the community are welcome, but it will be specifically for parents who will be interested in sending their children to the new school.

The meeting will be hosted by Rob Wilson MP and will be a discussion of plans and progress for a new local  school. It will take place at Reading College on the King’s Road, RG1 4HJ, starting at 7pm and ending at 8:30pm.

Rob is also working with people elsewhere in Reading to support plans for new schools, more details of which will be revealed in due course.

December 8, 2012 Posted by | Local | | 4 Comments

BREAKING NEWS: Rob Wilson Reselected for Reading East

Rob Wilson MPI have just returned from a meeting of Reading East Conservative Association Executive Council where Rob Wilson was selected to stand as the Conservative candidate at the 2015 General Election.

Rob has a long history in Reading, having attended Reading University and then made the town his home. He was elected to Reading Borough Council in 2003 for Caversham ward, having fought the ward in several previous years, and beaten Labour to make the first Conservative gain for many years.

Rob won the Reading seat in 2005  by fewer than 500 votes following the deselection by Reading Labour Party of sitting MP Jane Griffiths who had won the seat from the Conservatives in 1997, and retained it in 2001. In the 2010 General Election Rob won re-election with a majority of over 7,600 pushing Labour into third place behind the Lib Dems.

Rob has a track record for being a very active local MP with deep roots in the local community. He has young children who attend local schools and he and lives in the constituency he serves. Labour will have an uphill struggle to dislodge him in the foreseaable future.

December 6, 2012 Posted by | Local | 2 Comments