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New ComRes Poll – Lib Dems and UKIP Rise

There is a new ComRes telephone poll published in tomorrow’s Independent which shows both Conservatives and Labour down, and UKIP and Lib Dems up, compared to last month:

             Conservative            28% (down 3%)

                                          Labour                      38% (down 5%)

                                          Lib Dem                    12% (up 4%)

                                          UKIP                         14% (up 5%)

In further findings:

The post-Budget survey suggests that Labour has made little progress in winning the economic argument in the past year. Some 29 per cent of people trust David Cameron and George Osborne to make the right decisions about the economy, while 58 per cent do not – a net rating of minus 29 points. Meanwhile, only 22 per cent trust Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to make the right economic decisions, while 62 per cent do not – a net rating of minus 40 points, no better than the party’s score in previous ComRes polls in January and October last year.

The public is still more likely to blame today’s economic problems on the previous Labour Government than the Coalition.  Asked whether the Coalition is more to blame, 54 per cent disagree and 32 per cent agree.  Three out of 10 (31 per cent) of Labour supporters disagree that the Coalition is more to blame.

However, the Government’s attempt to pin responsibility on Labour may be proving less successful as time passes.  In January last year, 26 per cent agreed that the Coalition is more to blame and 62 per cent disagreed.

Asked whether Mr Osborne is turning out to be a good Chancellor, 51 per cent of people disagree  and only 24 per cent agree. One in four Conservative voters (26 per cent) and seven in 10 Ukip supporters (71 per cent) do not regard him as a good Chancellor.

Methodology: ComRes interviewed 1,003 GB adults by telephone 22 – 24 March 2013. 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

March 25, 2013 Posted by | Polls | 3 Comments

Basic Economics for the Left

beer economicsThis has been doing the rounds on Facebook but I thought it worth reposting for the benefit of those tempted to vote Labour!

Suppose that once a week, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to £100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this..

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.

The fifth would pay £1.
The sixth would pay £3.
The seventh would pay £7.
The eighth would pay £12.
The ninth would pay £18
And the tenth man (the richest) would pay £59.

So, that’s what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every week and seemed quite happy with the arrangement until, one day, the owner caused them a little problem.

“Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your weekly beer by £20.” Drinks for the ten men would now cost just £80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free but what about the other six men? The paying customers? How could they divide the £20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share? They realized that £20 divided by six is £3.33 but if they subtracted that from everybody’s share then not only would the first four men still be drinking for free but the fifth and sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.

So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fairer to reduce each man’s bill by a higher percentage. They decided to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.

And so,………..

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (a 100% saving).

The sixth man now paid £2 instead of £3 (a 33% saving).

The seventh man now paid £5 instead of £7 (a 28% saving).

The eighth man now paid £9 instead of £12 (a 25% saving).

The ninth man now paid £14 instead of £18 (a 22% saving).

And the tenth man now paid £49 instead of £59 (a 16% saving).

Each of the last six was better off than before with the first four continuing to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings,

“I only got £1 out of the £20 saving,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, “but he got £10” “Yes, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man.

“I only saved £1 too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me”

“That’s true” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get £10 back, when I only got £2? The wealthy get all the breaks”

“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor” The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next week the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important – they didn’t have enough money between all of them to pay for even half of the bill.

And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy and they just might not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

For those who understand, no explanation is needed.

For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible

March 24, 2013 Posted by | General Musings | 5 Comments

Mandelson Attacks Balls’ and Miliband’s Focus on the Past

BallsThe inadequacies of Labour’s economic policy have surfaced with a scathing attack from former Blair loyalist Peter Mandelson on the posturing of Labour Leader Ed Miliband and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls (left).

Last night in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Lord Mandelson launched a scathing attack on Ed Balls’ borrowing plan accusing him of ‘predictable party political stuff’ for not supporting the Government’s plans to cut the deficit. The unprecedented attack came just a day after Ed Balls and Ed Miliband’s weak and content free response to the Budget which at one and the same time criticised the government for cutting too much and borrowing too little.

Lord Mandelson said: “The whole argument about whether we’re cutting too far and too fast, it’s in the past. It is rather predictable party political stuff from over the dispatch box, and it is a bit tiring to the public… We need to focus on how to redevelop our economy rather than fight about the past and fight about what’s too far and what’s far enough. The Labour party has got to offer more than that”.  He also attacked the record of Gordon Brown’s time in Government saying: “I can’t quite remember which member of the government it was who claimed to have abolished boom and bust. Well, we abolished boom!” (Of course it was Gordon Brown himself who made this claim!)

As Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has failed to develop a credible economic alternative to the government’s plan to cut the deficit through a mix of spending cuts and selected tax increase. Labour’s strategy appears to be to criticise every cut without explaining how they would fund essential deficit reduction. It is this basic dishonesty which Mandelson has highlighted.

Even under pressure Ed Balls has been reluctant to admit that his approach would lead to a bigger deficit and therefore more borrowing. In February Balls was asked 7 times by John Humphreys on Radio 4 whether Labour would borrow more than the Government’s plans. On the 7th time, he admitted he would be borrowing more: ‘JH: It shouldn’t be hard should it for you to be able to say “there is no growth, the only way to do that is to expand the economy and therefore…EB: Yes. JH: …we, I, Ed Balls, if I were Chancellor, would borrow more”? EB: That is what I would do right now’ (Ed Balls, BBC Radio 4, Today, 23 February 2013).

According to the independent Institure for Fiscal Studies (IFS) borrowing would be £200 billion higher under Labour. The IFS estimated what borrowing would look like under the plans inherited by the Government from Labour (the Darling Plan) given more recent economic forecasts. These show that ‘in the absence of the additional fiscal tightening announced since the general election’ by 2016-17 borrowing would be £52 billion per year higher, and that the cumulative impact of higher borrowing would increase debt by £201 billion (IFS, Green Budget 2012, 1 February 2012, Table 3.1, p. 57).

Nationally and locally Labour continues to try to con the electorate that there is some easy way of cleaning up the mess they made of the economy. Looking at the motions before the Reading Council meeting next week they have learned nothing and are still seeking to rely on scares, lies and deceit. As usual Conservatives have to take the painful decisions to clear up after Labour has wrecked the economy! They should take a leaf out of Lord Mandelson’s book and come clean with the electorate.

March 22, 2013 Posted by | National | 2 Comments

Royal Navy’s Newest Destroyer Joins the Fleet

HMS DefenderHMS Defender, a Type 45 Destroyer, has taken a step closer to deploying on operations with the Royal Navy today as the warship has formally joined the UK’s fleet. The 8,000-tonne ship has been commissioned at a ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Base, which will be home to all six of the Royal Navy’s Type 45 class ships. The event marks HMS Defender’s transition into front-line service which means she can now prepare for her first overseas deployment.

HMS Defender is the fifth Type 45 to be commissioned into the Royal Navy. The ships, which were built by BAE Systems in Portsmouth and in Scotland, are the most capable destroyers the UK has ever had. Made using 2,800 tonnes of steel, the Type 45s are longer than 16 double decker buses and weigh more than the Blackpool Tower. With fuel tanks half the size of an Olympic swimming pool, the ships are capable of supplying enough electricity to power a town of 80,000 people.

HMS Defender’s Commanding Officer Phillip Nash said: “The commissioning of HMS Defender marks the point at which building and testing the ship finishes and frontline service in the fleet begins. For the 190 men and women that make up my ship’s company, commissioning represents the culmination of months and years of hard work of training, trials and practice focussed on ensuring that HMS Defender is ready to undertake operations around the world.”

HMS Defender crestThe commissioning of HMS Defender is one of three significant events this week for the Type 45 class. On Tuesday, HMS Dragon, which is the fourth in class, sailed from Portsmouth Naval Base for her maiden, seven-month deployment to the Middle East. On Friday, the sixth and final Type 45, HMS Duncan, is due to arrive in Portsmouth for the first time to begin her sea trials. HMS Daring, Dauntless and Diamond have already completed operational tours to the Mediterranean, the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean.

The Type 45s feature the Sea Viper air defence missile system, which can tackle multiple targets at once and accelerate to twice the speed of Concorde in under ten seconds. The destroyers will be able to deploy with the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is due to be completed next year and will also be based in Portsmouth.

• A Type 45 can carry up to 700 people in support of civilian evacuation.

• 40 tonnes of paint covering 100,000 square meters of steel has been applied.

• She has her own hospital facilities complete with operating table.

• Her electrical cable could circle the M25 three times.

These are superb ships and a great addition to the Royal Navy but from an original class of 12 defence cuts have meant that just six are to be delivered. Even the most fantastic ship can only be in one place at one time!

March 21, 2013 Posted by | Defence | Leave a comment

A Budget to Boost Confidence and Growth

Budget 2013I was not expecting much from today’s budget. The Chancellor did not have much room for manoeuvre with the economy failing to meet growth forecasts and therefore tax revenues coming in below expectations. Last year’s budget was derided by the commentariat as an “omnishambles” and did much to undermine George Osborne and the government’s economic reputation. As a result the Labour party has opened up a consistent lead of around 10%.

The government has also not exactly exuded competence in recent months. Too many open goals have been left to the opposition and the government has failed to convey a consistent message to the electorate. However, unlike last year, the budget contents were not widely trailed or leaked, and other than an unfortunate mistake by the Evening Standard, the surprises were kept under wraps.

The confirmation that projected growth has been cut to 0.6% for the current year was no surprise. With the continuing troubles in most of the UK’s export markets it would be amazing if we were immune to the difficulties in the Euro-zone. As it is we are better placed than many and I expect that later this year the 2013/14 growth figure will be revised upwards just as the “double-dip” recession is revised away.

The Chancellor was helped by under-spending in some departments and saving £3.5bn on EU contributions thanks to the agreement negotiated by David Cameron. Against the tough economic background George Osborne delivered some good changes with cuts in Corporation Tax and National Insurance, abandoning Labour’s planned increases in fuel duty and beer duty, and helping guarantee loans to help homebuyers. All of these make good economic and political sense. The first two help businesses and the last two help consumers. The freezing of fuel duty helps everyone!

Budget 2013 MailI do not see the sense in cutting beer duty by 1p. I think that this may come back to bite the government and there is no sense in cutting duty when every penny of existing tax revenue should be used to reduce the deficit. I also do not agree with the planned new tax credit for childcare. This will cost £750m which could have been used to cut the deficit. The Chancellor should take a leaf out of Nigel Lawson’s book and use every budget to simplify the over-complicated tax system and reverse many of Gordon Brown’s ridiculous measures. A good vision for the government would be to abolish as many loopholes, credits and exemptions as possible and move towards low flat rates of tax wherever possible. This would save a fortune, raise more revenue, make the UK more attractive to outside investors, and minimise tax avoidance.

On the spending side I cannot comprehend why the government persists with the ridiculous policy of pumping billions more into overseas aid in order to meet the arbitrary target of 0.7% of GDP. Too much aid is wasted and it is indefensible to be sending money abroad while cutting defence, police and other domestic budgets. Protecting the health and education budgets makes sense provided that both are subject to far more rigorous scrutiny.

Overall though, I am impressed with what George Osborne managed to do today. Most of the measures will be effective AND popular. No mean feat! It was noticeable that Ed Miliband had nothing constructive to say in response. He was left looking like a petulant, whining 6th former who had come unprepared to a balloon debate. The tweets of some of his supporters (such as the Labour Reading West candidate) illustrated how far Labour still has to go to regain any credibility on the economy. They seem to think that attacking everything, calling for more spending more quickly, and ignoring their own responsibility for the fact that “there is no money”, constitutes an economic policy. Silly slogans like “Mums not millionaires” are vacuous and based on profound ignorance and untruths.

Today George Osborne set out a plan to boost business and restore confidence and I commend him for it! It will be interesting to see how it plays in the country and whether there is any impact on the polls. The omens are promising.

March 20, 2013 Posted by | National | 1 Comment

Reports of the Death of the Free Press Are Greatly Exaggerated!

press-releases-webOver the last 24 hours or so the three main parties at Westminster reached agreement on a way to respond to the Leveson Report and introduce a new system of ensuring that the national print media does not abuse its massive power.

The context of course was the abject failure of the previous system of self-regulation which did little to support individuals who had been wronged by the papers and the appalling revelations of widespread criminality by members of newsrooms of some national newspapers. Before anyone cries that it was just a rogue reporter or two at the “News of the World” they should pause to consider the recent arrests of Mirror reporters, the past hounding of Lord Ashcroft by The Times, the abuse of innocent Christopher Jefferies and the fabrication of “Nazi” allegations against Max Moseley. I also have personal experience of disgraceful conduct by the Daily Telegraph towards a friend of mine some years ago. Whilst some people, like Lord Ashcroft and Max Moseley, may have the resources to defend themselves and pursue costly legal action, the vast majority of the public does not. To take any civil case to court is tough and beyond the scope of most ordinary citizens. That is why it is important to have an effective and independent body which can ensure fair play and redress.

All too often elements of the print media have been content to smear and abuse innocent people, or to fabricate stories which they cannot otherwise justify. The resources behind most national newspapers are immense and they have counted on the fact that taking a defamation or libel case to court is expensive and time consuming and that therefore they will most likely get away with it. The Press Complaints Commission has been a largely toothless tiger and when apologies have occasionally been grudgingly printed they have been buried on page 26 in a two inch square story, when the original story was high profile and in a very visible location in the paper.

Of course there are stories which the newspapers have broken and which have been very much in the public interest. The Parliamentary expenses scandal is an obvious recent case. However, even then facts were often confused and misrepresented. For example most people remember “duck islands” and “moats” and yet both of these were claims which were never paid out because they were rejected by the Parliamentary expenses authorities at a time when the rules were opaque and often misunderstood. What should be remembered are the cases where MPs deliberately deceived the authorities, fabricated invoices, and lied. However, duck houses and moats were a useful motif for the press of an “out of touch” elite regardless of the facts.

The essence of a completely free press is an institution which is prepared to investigate stories, is not afraid to criticise those in authority, and is free from censorship and government interference in what it prints. These broad elements exist now and will exist under the proposed new regime. The difference is that when the press gets it wrong or deliberately misrepresents the truth individuals will have a much better chance to have things put right by the new independent regulator. This might also help to ensure that newsrooms stick to facts and do not allow corrupt and criminal behaviour to become a normal way of doing business.

The idea of a new system of regulation established by Royal Charter (as used to establish the BBC) is something which David Cameron proposed from the start. It was initially derided by Labour who wanted a statutory basis to a tough new system of regulation. This was fiercely opposed by the press who feared a structure which would seriously restrict their freedom to print stories inconvenient to politicians.

David Cameron stuck to his guns and eventually both Labour and the Lib Dems accepted the concept of a Royal Charter without “statutory underpinning”. The only concession was a non-specific clause preventing a simple majority in Parliament from tampering with the terms of Royal Charters. In future, changes to Royal Charters will require a two-thirds majority in both Houses. This was a sensible compromise in the circumstances and allows a new system of self-regulation to be established with all party consent.
The new body, when it is created, will have the power to impose major fines (capped at £1m) on newspapers which unfairly malign individuals and insist that they print an apology of equal prominence to the original offending article. It is not surprising that having had things their own way for so long, some newspapers are protesting! No one will censor what the papers print; they are free to investigate and print stories provided that they are justified in fact and in the public interest. Only if they revert to fabrications, smears, and other criminal behaviours will they incur punishment. Those papers which do not wish to sign up to the new system will be free to opt out but they will face possible unlimited exemplary damages if they are found to be in breach of the law.

The reaction to the political agreement from some quarters has been nothing short of hysterical. Some newspapers have thrown their toys in all directions, claiming the end of three hundred years of press freedom, while some people on Twitter have been claiming that this is the start of press censorship and the death of the free press; none of which are remotely true! In fact press and media freedom have long been qualified.

There is a system by which the Government can categorise some information as sensitive to national security (DA Notices) and by agreement newspapers will not print it. There are also the various Official Secrets Acts which can be used to prevent publication, with stringent penalties for their breach. There are Labour’s Terrorism Acts of 2000 and 2006 which make it an offence to publish any information which could “glorify terrorism”. During the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland Ministers regularly intervened to prevent publication or broadcast of documentaries or stories unhelpful to the Government and national security. During WW1 and WW2 the Ministry of Information censored news and information that could be deemed to be helpful to the enemy.

To suggest that this agreement is somehow “crossing a Rubicon”, “the end of our free press”, or Government “censorship” is laughable nonsense, unworthy of people who claim to be democrats. The truth is that a system which can properly hold the national print press to account will enhance the freedom of most citizens to enjoy life, knowing that if they are defamed, libelled or lied about they have a course of redress and compensation which will be accessible to them and have real potency. Perhaps also newspaper reporters and editors will refrain from hacking, smearing, and fabricating stories for fear that they will face very real and very expensive consequences.

It is a good day for the ordinary citizen!

March 19, 2013 Posted by | National | 5 Comments

New ComRes Poll – UKIP Jump to 17%

There is a new ComRes online poll published in tomorrow’s Independent on Sunday which shows UKIP up again to 17%, almost double the Lib Dem rating and their highest rating with ComRes:

           Conservative            28% (down 3%)

                                        Labour                      37% (up 1%)

                                        Lib Dem                      9% (up 1%)

                                        UKIP                         17% (up 3%)

In further findings:

The Budget

With the Budget coming up next week, the level of trust in David Cameron and George Osborne on the economy has hit a record low:

I trust David Cameron and George Osborne to make the right decisions about the economy Agree 23% (-6 since last year) Disagree 56% (+7)

But Cameron and Osborne still remain just ahead of the Opposition:

I trust Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to make the right decisions about the economy Agree 20% (+5 since last year) Disagree 55% (-4)

A majority agree that austerity is failing:

The Chancellor George Osborne’s current economic plan is not working Agree 56% Disagree 19%

One in four (26%) Conservative voters agree as do 67% of UKIP voters.

The Chancellor George Osborne’s current economic plan is right for the country in the long term Agree: 24% Disagree: 48%

More Lib Dem voters disagree (39%) than agree (28%).

And more oppose a rise in beer duty than support it:

The Chancellor George Osborne should not increase tax on beer in the Budget next week Agree: 42% Disagree: 36%

Conservative leadership

After a week of speculation about Tory plots against David Cameron’s leadership, the balance of public opinion is against a change of leadership, although there are many don’t knows:

The Conservative Party would have a better chance of winning the next election if it replaced David Cameron as leader

Agree 28% Disagree 38% Don’t know 34%

While 15% current Conservative voters agree, almost half (48%) of UKIP voters agree (24% disagree). This suggests that a change of leader would attract some of the support lost to UKIP although doubtless current Conservative voters’ support could be put in jeopardy by doing so.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, would make a good prime minister

Agree 33% Disagree 42% Don’t know 25%

More Londoners disagree (43%) than agree (36%).

More UKIP voters agree (45%) than disagree (35%) suggesting some support could be won back from UKIP with Boris Johnson as Conservative leader.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, would make a good prime minister

Agree 19% Disagree 45% Don’t know 36%

Women (18%) are no more likely to agree than men (19%).

Assets and liabilities

ComRes also sought to assess whether leaders were assets or liabilities to their parties by asking whether people had a favourable or unfavourable view of each of the four leading parties and their leaders:


David Cameron 26%

Conservative Party 23%

Ed Miliband 19%

Labour Party 28%

Nick Clegg 13%

Liberal Democrats 16%

Nigel Farage 24%

UKIP 30%

Methodology: ComRes interviewed 2,015 GB adults online 13 – 14 March 2013. 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

March 16, 2013 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

Britain in the Global Race

March 13, 2013 Posted by | National | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour Lead Cut to 8%

There is a new YouGov poll in today’s Sun newspaper showing Labour’s lead being cut to 8%:

                   Conservative               32% (up 1%)

                   Labour                         40% (down 1%)

                                                     Lib Dem                       11% (down 1%)

                                                     UKIP                             11% (down 1%)

With the over 60’s, who are most likely to vote, UKIP is on 19%.

The Conservatives have overtaken Labour once again on who is best to deal with the economy and David Cameron has seen a slight increase in his ratings whilst Ed Miliband’s have slipped slightly.

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 10 March.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Polls | | 1 Comment

The Falkland Islands Vote to Remain British

falklands-flagLast night the people of the Falkland Islands held their first referendum on whether or not to remain an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. In a completely free and fair ballot there was a huge 92% turnout of the 1,650 eligible voters. 1,513 voted to remain British, with only 3 voting no. That is 99.8% in favour and just 0.02% voting against.

Now the bullying Argentine President should back off and stop demanding that the islanders hand themselves over to their larger neighbour. In 1982 Argentina turned its threats into military action when it invaded the islands and Britain sent a huge task force to recover the islands with loss of life on both sides. Prime Minister David Cameron has pledge to support the islanders in their wish to remain British and this vote will give the UK a clear mandate in World forums.

Falklands MapApart from the brief Argentinian occupation in 1982 the islands have been in British hands since 1833 and the majority of their residents are of British descent, with a small number of South American and other origin. There is a significant British military presence on the islands to deter further Argentine military adventure and I was thrilled to spend six months based on the islands in 1994.

Around the size of Wales, they have a fantastic wildlife presence with vast colonies of penguins and seals, and some rare birds. The islands are rich fishing grounds and earn a significant income from fishing licences in addition to the more traditional sheep farming revenue. There are bright prospects for oil finds around the islands and initial tests have proved positive but problematic. It is interesting that Argentina’s rhetoric has only ramped up in recent years since oil exploration began.

I am thrilled that the Falkland Islanders have voted so overwhelmingly to remain British and I hope that one day I will be able to get back there again.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | International, National | | 3 Comments

New Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Reading Nominees Leaked by Labour

cllr marian livingstonToday the news has been leaked by Reading’s ruling Labour group that their nominee for Mayor in the next Municipal year is to be Minster ward Councillor Marian Livingston (left). Marian was elected in May 2010 and is up for re-election in 2014 at the end of her Mayoral year. Minster ward has for some years been marginal between Labour and the Conservatives. Marian is a personable individual who is liked across the political divide. However, it is difficult to judge how she will conduct herself in office. As a former teacher I am sure that she will find Chairing the Council meetings brings back some memories!

Cllr Tony JonesLabour’s nominee for Deputy Mayor is Cllr Tony Jones (right) of Redlands ward. Tony was previously Mayor in 2001-02 when he represented Battle ward. Holding the post of Deputy Mayor in 2013/14 would normally mean that he would succeed as Mayor in the 2014/15 Municipal year. Jones is seen as something of a maverick in the Labour Group and is not afraid to speak out and annoy colleagues. He is fond of describing himself as a real “Socialist”, in contrast with some of his colleagues. I was told a few months ago that his nomination was likely as a way of neutering some of his more “political” maneouvres within the Labour Group. Tony was an effective Mayor last time around, which was my first year on Reading Borough Council, and I am sure he will ensure that the Mayoralty is high profile in his year. It will be interesting to see who is eventually put forward as his deputy!

Labour’s nominees will come to the Council’s annual meeting in May. As the Labour group has a majority on the Council, their nominees are now as good as elected!

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Local | Leave a comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour is 10% Ahead

There is a new YouGov poll in today’s Sunday Times newspaper showing an essentially unchanged position:

                   Conservative               31% (no change)

                   Labour                         41% (up 1%)

                                                     Lib Dem                       12% (no change)

                                                     UKIP                             12% (no change)

On who would  make the best Prime Minister David Cameron is at -24, Ed Miliband -32, and Nick Clegg -53.

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 5 March.

March 10, 2013 Posted by | Polls | | 1 Comment

Conservatives Speak Up for Overcrowded Families on Reading’s Housing Register

Council HousesConservatives spoke up for the 1,264 families on Reading’s Housing waiting list suffering from overcrowding at last Tuesday’s Council meeting (which I was unable to attend due to a work trip overseas). The so-called “Bedroom Tax” is designed to ensure that the social housing stock is best used to relieve over-crowding and free up larger Council houses for families who desperately need the accommodation.

However, at Full Council Labour used their majority to vote through a motion to write to government asking for the under occupancy reform to be suspended because they said it isn’t fair on the 1,008 households in Reading’s social housing with a spare bedroom.

After the meeting Conservative Housing spokesman Cllr Isobel Ballsdon said “There are 9,636 families and individuals on Reading’s Housing waiting list, many having been on it for a number of years.  The overwhelming majority of residents I’ve spoken to support making better use of the town’s limited supply of social housing to help tackle the backlog.  Despite this Labour wants to stop the Government’s reform which will get more families into housing right for their needs.”

Cllr Ballsdon met with Mrs Chidsey who together with her husband decided to downsize last year from their 2 bed Council bungalow to a one bedroom maisonette.  Mrs Chidsey said, “We didn’t need all that space.  We moved so a disabled person with a carer or a family could benefit.  Our utility bills are cheaper now and we are happy we made the right decision.  Our daughter lives next door to a man who has a 3 bedroom council house all to himself.  What a waste when there are families out there squashed into tiny flats or temporary housing.”

Cllr Ballsdon continued, “At the Council meeting I proposed some exceptional cases which officers should prioritise for using the town’s share of the £155 million Government pot for Discretionary Housing Payments.  These are households needing a spare bedroom because of medical or disability needs, residents registered to foster but temporarily without a foster child; residents with a grown up child living with them who is away on active duty with the Armed Forces.  Labour ignored our reasoned argument and our proposal to work cross-party for the good of residents.  It was very disappointing.”

Cllr Tim Harris, Conservative Group Leader said, “Labour’s motion did nothing to help a single household on the Housing waiting list.  Instead all they are doing is scaring vulnerable residents.  It is totally unacceptable behaviour; especially given they don’t know all the facts nor have any idea how to deal with the problem of people in over-crowded housing.  It shows them caring more about political point scoring than the needs of residents.”

I made my views clear on the matter in 2010 here.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Local | 5 Comments

New YouGov Poll – UKIP Rise to 12% as Labour’s Lead is Cut

There is a new YouGov poll in today’s Sun newspaper showing an increase in UKIP’s support seemingly at Labour’s expense following the Eastleigh by-election:

                   Conservative               31% (down 1%)

                   Labour                         40% (down 3%)

                                                     Lib Dem                       12% (no change)

                                                     UKIP                             12% (up 3%)

YouGov’s Peter Kellner has conducted an analysis of UKIP supporters who he finds to be older and poorer than Conservative supporters but also less right wing! Overwhelmingly UKIP supporters would prefer a Conservative Government led by David Cameron than a Labour one led by Ed Miliband.

Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 17 February.

March 5, 2013 Posted by | Polls | | 2 Comments

Lib Dems Hold On to Eastleigh

Polling StationI have not posted for a few days due to being away and also spending some of my free time at Eastleigh campaigning in the by-election campaign. This was always going to be an interesting by-election whatever the result. As the campaign developed it became clear that what was already a close contest between the Conservatives and Lib Dems would be hard fought and uncertain until the end.

The background to the by-election was not exactly good for the Lib Dems, having the sitting MP resign after admitting lying over a speeding conviction, and an unfolding national scandal over allegations of former Lib Dem Chief Exec Lord Rennard. However, the Lib Dems have historically been very good at fighting by-elections and they hold every single Council seat in the constituency, giving them an organisational and activist base which was unrivalled by any other party.

On our side this was the best organised by election campaign I have been involved with. Some I have been to have been frankly shambolic and I have left the campaign centre with despair. That was not the same this time. The team running the show always had plenty for the hundreds of visiting activists to do and good quality literature for us to deliver. Maria Hutchings was a down to earth local candidate who had fought the seat in 2010. Despite some alleged “gaffes” I found good recognition and support for her on the doorstep. I do think however that she should have been at the two hustings meetings, thus avoiding the media storm around “missing Maria”.

I refrained from posting on the campaign because I found it impossible to come to any firm conclusion as to the likely outcome. Of course I hoped for a win and was encouraged by the straws in the wind. The areas where I was helping out were well covered with posters for Conservative candidate Maria Hutching, with very few for the Lib Dems. Interestingly there were more for UKIP than the Lib Dems!

However, it beacme obvious that the constituency was behaving in different ways in different parts. Colleagues helping out in Eastleigh town centre reported strong Lib Dem, Labour and UKIP support, with signs of late switching from Lib Dem to UKIP. In the areas I was knocking up there was pretty solid support for Maria with just a few former Conservatives saying they had voted UKIP.

The eventual narrow Lib Dem win on a 58% turnout was in line with the betting and polling findings and holds lessons for all the parties:

Liberal Democrats – they held onto the seat that they had held for almost 20 years since the 1994 by election but with a greatly reduced vote share and actual number of votes, despite the higher than normal turnout for a by-election. It would be churlish to deny the fact that a win by one vote is a win but to see their vote fall by 14.5% will be a cause of concern in party HQ. The narrowness of their lead over both UKIP and the Conservatives means that the seat remains a top Conservative target for the 2015 General Election, when UKIP’s vote share will almost certainly fall back very significantly.

UKIP – they did much better than I and most commentators expected. They seem to have had a late surge to achieve a very respectable second place with around 28% of the vote and their best result in a Parliamentary by-election to date. With the Lib Dems now in government UKIP appears to have become the repository of mid-term protest votes; the old role of the Lib Dems. Lord Ashcroft’s polling of electors who had already cast their votes suggests that UKIP took votes pretty evenly from the Conservatives and Lib Dems, as well as from previous non-voters.

Conservatives – a disappointing but not disastrous result. The difference between the Conservatives and Lib Dems was about the same as at the 2010 General Election with the difference being the surge in UKIP support to push the Conservatives narrowly into third place. About half of the 2010 support appears to have either shifted across to UKIP or stayed at home. This is hardly unusual in a mid-term by election but will be disappointing to the huge army of party volunteers who descended on the constituency to help. The 14% fall in vote share was about the same as experienced by our Coalition partners.

Labour – despite claims of being a “One Nation” party and picking a minor celebrity candidate, Labour performed no better than in their disastrous 2010 General Election campaign. Their vote share was up just 0.2% despite being the main party of opposition at Westminster. Whilst no-one expected Labour to win the seat, they might have expected to increase their vote share to demonstrate that they are a national party with appeal in all parts of the UK.

Overall this was an exciting by-election. Rarely is the final result unclear for so long and decided so close to the wire. The Lib Dems and UKIP can justifiably celebrate but it was a solid result for the Conservatives as well. Labour will no doubt argue that this was not their natural territory and they held their vote share. Peter Kellner has a very measured analysis of the by-election here which readers may find interesting.

Does this tell us much about 2015? I don’t think so.

Lib Dem (Thornton) – 13,342  (32.1%)   -14.5%

UKIP (James) – 11,571  (27.8%)   +24.2%

Cons (Hutchings) – 10,559  (25.4%)   -14%

Lab (O’Farrell) – 4,088  (9.8%)   +0.2%

Others – 2,056

Turnout – 58.2%

LD Majority – 1,771

March 1, 2013 Posted by | National | 2 Comments