Richard Willis's Blog

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Mystic Ed and his Faulty Crystal Balls!

October 28, 2013 Posted by | National | 1 Comment

New YouGov Poll – Labour’s Lead up to 6%

There is a new YouGov poll in today’s Sunday Times showing Labour’s lead increasing to 6%:

                   Conservative                33% (down 4%)

                   Labour                          39% (up 1%)

                                                     Lib Dem                          9% (down 1%)

                                                     UKIP                             12% (up 2%)

After a considerable narrowing of Labour’s poll lead post-Conference season, we are now seeing a slight increase in their lead. However, a 6% lead as we leave the mid-term period and enter the 18 month run up to the General Election is very small by historic standards. Coupled with the improvement in the economy this is leading some commentators to conclude that the Conservatives are now clear favourites to win the coming election.

The poll above is compared with the last YouGov poll I reported on 15 Oct.

October 27, 2013 Posted by | Polls | , | 7 Comments

Labour Suffers Councillor Resignations in Derby, Bristol and Cardiff

WILTED-ROSE-2All parties at local government level see a certain number of Councillors resigning or defecting but this seems to have affected Labour more than most in the last week or so.

In Derby Cllr Lisa Higginbottom, a former Mayor of the City has resigned from the Labour party and will continue as an Independent. The resignation does not change Labour’s control of the city council but in view of her former position as first citizen it will be a blow to the Labour group. Derby has suffered from accusations of voting fraud and Cllr Higginbottom took the undoubtedly difficult decision to vote with the Conservatives and against her former colleagues for next year’s local elections to be supervised by the independent Electoral Commission.

Over in Bristol former Lead Councillor for Education Cllr David Pickup has also resigned from the Labour party. He has announced that he will not contest next year’s local elections but has refused to elaborate further on the reasons behind his decision. Bristol is a hung council with Labour as the largest party.

Further west in Cardiff two Labour Councillors have decided to resign their seats on the city council forcing by-elections. Cllr Luke Holland is resigning to move to London after receiving criticism for his poor attendance record. Cllr Phil Hawkins is resigning for “personal reasons” after standing for the leadership of his Group and losing. Both were only elected to the council last May! Whilst the Cardiff pair have not, to my knowledge, resigned from the party, having two unnecessary by-elections will not be welcomed by the party machine.

October 22, 2013 Posted by | National | Leave a comment

New ComRes Poll – Conservatives Slash Labour’s Lead to 3%

There is a new ComRes online poll published tonight for tomorrow’s Independent which shows Labour’s lead being slashed by 5% to just 3%:

           Conservative            32% (up 4%)

                                        Labour                      35% (down 1%)

                                        Lib Dem                       9% (down 1%)

                                        UKIP                          16% (down 1%)

This poll is consistent with most other post-conference polls in showing a marked narrowing of Labour’s lead.

In further findings:

Of those who say they voted Liberal Democrat in 2010, 36% say that they would now vote for the Labour Party, while, 18% of 2010 Conservative voters say they would now vote for UKIP, compared with just 5% of 2010 Labour voters who say the same.

In a forced choice between Labour and the Conservatives, Labour leads as the party most trusted to …

Make your family better off: Labour lead 7 points

Get the cost of living down: Labour lead 9 points

Keep prices down generally: Labour lead 11 points

Protect people’s jobs: Labour lead 16 points

Keep gas and electricity prices down: Labour lead 20 points

The Conservatives lead as the party most trusted to …

Keep the economy growing: Conservative lead 14 points

Negotiate on Britain’s behalf with the rest of the EU: Conservative lead 15 points

Be tough on people abusing the benefits system: Conservative lead 39 points

Influence of leaders’ names on policy

Ed Miliband’s proposed price freeze becomes less popular when it has his name attached to it. The number agreeing with this proposal declines from 71% to 65% when his name is added to the proposal. However, it remains more popular than not with voters of every party.

Cameron’s proposals are also popular with the British public, but there appears to be little effect to their popularity when his name is added to them. Four in five British people (80%) agree with David Cameron that the Government should require gas and electricity companies to put all customers on the cheapest tariff. This is very similar to the proportion who support the proposal when it has no politician’s name attributed to it (79%).

Help to Buy is less popular, but still widely supported. Just less than half of the population agree that the Government should guarantee mortgages to make it easier for some people to buy a home (49% with Cameron’s name, 46% without). Roughly three in ten disagree with it (27% with Cameron’s name, 30% without).

Battle over the Cost of Living

If they were Prime Minister, who would you trust most to… /If they were in government, which party would you trust most to…

Make your family better off

Leader Party
David Cameron 26% Conservatives 25%
Ed Miliband 30% Labour 32%
Don’t know 44% Don’t know 43%
Lead Lab: 4 Lead Lab: 7

This is one of the areas where Ed Miliband appears to be the largest drag on the Opposition ticket (along with protecting people’s jobs).

Get the cost of living down

Leader Party
David Cameron 24% Conservatives 26%
Ed Miliband 34% Labour 35%
Don’t know 42% Don’t know 39%
Lead Lab: 10 Lead Lab: 9

Keep prices down generally

Leader Party
David Cameron 22 Conservatives 23
Ed Miliband 33 Labour 34
Don’t know 45 Don’t know 43
Lead Lab: 11 Lead Lab: 11

Protect people’s jobs

Leader Party
David Cameron 23 Conservatives 23
Ed Miliband 36 Labour 39
Don’t know 41 Don’t know 37
Lead Lab: 13 Lead Lab: 16

Keep gas and electricity prices down

Leader Party
David Cameron 17% Conservatives 17%
Ed Miliband 38% Labour 37%
Don’t know 44% Don’t know 46%
Lead Lab: 21 Lead Lab: 20

Keep the economy growing

Leader Party
David Cameron 38% Conservatives 40%
Ed Miliband 24% Labour 26%
Don’t know 39% Don’t know 34%
Lead Con: 14 Lead Con: 14


Energy price freeze

Agree Disagree Don’t know
As Ed Miliband has suggested, the Government should freeze gas and electricity prices while the market is reviewed 65% 16% 18%
The Government should freeze gas and electricity prices while the market is reviewed 71% 14% 15%

Cheapest energy tariff legislation

Agree Disagree Don’t know
As David Cameron has suggested, the Government should require gas and electricity companies to put all customers on the cheapest tariff 80% 8% 12%
The Government should require gas and electricity companies to put all customers on the cheapest tariff 79% 9% 12%

“Help To Buy”

Agree Disagree Don’t know
As David Cameron has suggested, the Government should guarantee mortgages to make it easier for some people to buy a home 49% 27% 24%
The Government should guarantee mortgages to make it easier for some people to buy a home 46% 30% 24%


Be tough on people abusing the benefits system

Leader Party
David Cameron 53 Conservatives 55
Ed Miliband 14 Labour 16
Don’t know 34 Don’t know 29
Lead Con: 39 Lead Con: 39

Negotiate on Britain’s behalf with the rest of the EU

Leader Party
David Cameron 38 Conservatives 39
Ed Miliband 22 Labour 24
Don’t know 40 Don’t know 37
Lead Con: 16 Lead Con: 15

Energy Taxes

It is worth paying an extra £2 in every £100 on gas and electricity bills to pay for greener energy

Agree 34% Disagree 45% Don’t know 20%

Of the three main parties, Lib Dem voters are most likely to agree (47%).

It is worth paying an extra £7 in every £100 on gas and electricity bills to help the poor and elderly with their bills

Agree 26% Disagree 46% Don’t know 28%

Free schools

Parents, teachers and charities should be encouraged to set up new state schools, even if there are already schools in the local area

Agree 27% Disagree 36% Don’t know 37%

Those who consider themselves Conservative are most likely (38%) to agree; while only a quarter of those who consider themselves Labour (25%) agree.

Gay equality

There is little that the Government can do to stop school children using the word “gay” as an insult

Agree 70% Disagree 15% Don’t know 15%

Men are more pessimistic (74% agree) than women (67%).

There will probably be an openly gay prime minister in the next 20 years Agree 28% Disagree 27% Don’t know 45%

Younger people aged 18-34 are more likely to agree, 33%, compared with 23% of those aged 65+. Women are more likely to agree, 32%, than men, 24%.

Methodology: ComRes interviewed 2,001 GB adults online 16 – 18 October 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

October 19, 2013 Posted by | Polls | 1 Comment

New Ipsos MORI Poll – Tories Draw Level With Labour

There is a new Ipsos MORI poll reported for the London Evening Standard showing the Conservatives drawing level with Labour:

      Conservative               35% (up 1%)

                                                        Labour                         35% (down 2%)

                                                        Lib Dem                         9% (down 1%)

                                                        UKIP                            10% (down 1%)

We are now well into the post-Conference season and after an initial narrowing the polls the latest MORI poll shows Labour’s lead completely having disappeared. YouGov’s poll today had Labour just 4% ahead and yesterday’s TRS-BRNB poll had Labour a mere 2% in front. MORI does sometimes jump around month on month but the individual changes in party ratings are small this month. All of the recent polls are pretty consistently showing Labour either barely ahead or level pegging with the Conservatives.

I think my earlier suggestion that at least one poll will show the Conservatives ahead before the end of the year is now looking even more likely!

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,004 aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 12-15 October 2013.

MORI Oct 13

October 17, 2013 Posted by | Polls | | Leave a comment

Reading’s New Bridge to Go Ahead

Ped Cycle Bridge 2Tonight at the Reading Borough Council Planning Committee meeting the decision was made to go ahead with the new pedestrian/cycle bridge over the Thames. The bridge is something which I am proud to have been instrumental in delivering. Back in 2010/11 when the Conservative-led coalition ran the Council we put together a bid to the Government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund to design a new bridge. The Labour administration continued where we left off with a second larger bid which won the money to build it. It is worth stating at this point that not a penny of Reading Council Tax revenue will be used to build the bridge.

The intention was always to deliver a high quality design which provided an attractive and safer route across the Thames. The chosen local is to the east of Fry’s Island and the west of Reading bridge. The design has gone through several iterations, ending up with a suspension bridge with a single support pole location to the north of the river in Christchurch Meadows. The route links two existing cycle paths and the long term plan is that the bridge will continue through the current Southern Electric site and link directly into the new Northern Concourse of Reading Station but for now the bridge has to take a right-angle turn to the left on the southern bank to feed onto the existing towpath cycle route. People will then pass through Norman Place, across the new crossing and into the Station, or turn onto Vastern Road.

I have received a lot of representations about the plans, and have met with many different people and groups who have a wide variety of views on the proposed design and location. The main concerns were about the proposed shared use surface and whether it is wide enough to cope with the likely usage of both pedestrians and cyclists. There were also concerns about the flow data used by the designers to come up with the plans.

For a long time I have advocated segregated cycle paths where possible but in this case it was neither possible nor recommended by the Department for Transport guidance nor the cycling charity Sustrans. Taking into account that the bridge links two existing shared-use paths I accepted that this was the right thing in this case. The issues around capacity and width were made to me by a number of people (and Reading Cycle Campaign reps). I raised these with the Head of Transport who assured me that not only was the final design width in excess of the DfT recommended minimum but that it had sufficient capacity to cope with likely future growth. The flow data issue was partly tackled by conducting an additional survey which did show higher numbers than the original figures used but not sufficient to justify a redesign. All of these points were comprehensively addressed in the update report which was provided to committee members before the start of the meeting.

There were a good number of members of the public present at the meeting, some of whom seemed to be anti the whole concept of a bridge and others who wanted technical changes. The anti case was not helped by some who suggested that the bridge would destroy the existing children’s play area or even the whole of Christchurch Meadows! Committee members were also not impressed by repeated shouting from some members  of the public in the rear of the chamber. Green Cllr Rob White had requested to speak but failed to show up at the meeting.

At the last Planning Committee meeting I stated that (like Cllr Page) I would withdraw from any vote on the matter as I had already publically stated my strong support for the bridge. I therefore listened to the applicant’s presentation, the opponents’ presentation, and the transport officer’s report before I followed Cllr Page’s comments with my own and then withdrew from the meeting. I understand that following my departure, Green Cllr Melanie Eastwood, who had seemed to be a confrontational mood, began repeatedly interrupting other committee members before shouting that the meeting was a sham and announcing her resignation from the committee. Since she has rarely ever turned up to the committee in the past I don’t think we will notice her absence in the future!

The Council has been operating under very tight criteria to deliver the bridge by March 2015 when the money has to be spent in order to comply with the DfT terms under which the money was  awarded. Unfortunately some of the antis give the impression that they would rather have no bridge if they cannot have exactly what they want. Inevitably there is some compromise between the needs of cyclists, pedestrians and other users but this will be a fantastic new addition to Reading’s transport infrastructure, providing a safe new way to cross the river avoiding the existing choke points of Reading and Caversham Bridges. It is an additional route and not a replacement for either of the two existing bridges. It is also a significant investment by central government in making Reading a more attractive and sustainable place to live.

I look forward to using the bridge in the summer of 2015.

Ped Cycle Bridge 1

October 16, 2013 Posted by | Local | Leave a comment

New YouGov Poll – Tories Cut Labour’s Lead to 1%

There is a new YouGov poll in today’s Sun newspaper showing the Conservatives cutting Labour’s already meagre poll lead to just 1%:

                   Conservative                37% (up 2%)

                   Labour                          38% (down 1%)

                                                     Lib Dem                        10% (up 1%)

                                                     UKIP                             10% (no change)

As the Party Conference season fades from the public’s memory so is Labour’s poll lead. 37% is the highest we have seen the Conservatives in YouGov’s daily polling series for a long time and equal to their share at the last General Election. We will have to see if it is maintained in other polls this week or if it is an outlier. However, for Labour and the Conservatives to be effectively neck and neck is very bad news for Ed Miliband and the Labour Party.

The poll above is compared with the last YouGov poll I reported on 8 Oct and confirms other recent polls with a smaller Labour lead and lower UKIP share.

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Polls | , | Leave a comment

New ICM Poll – Labour Lead Still Just 4% as Tories and Labour Enjoy Post Conference Increase

There is a new ICM poll in the Guardian tomorrow showing both the Conservatives and Labour up at the expense of UKIP and the Lib Dems, who are now firmly back into third place:

         Conservative              34% (up 2%)

                                                    Labour                        38% (up 2%)

                                                    Lib Dem                      12% (down 2%)

                                                    UKIP                              8% (down 1%)

The Party Conferences seem to have firmed up the support for the two major parties with 66% of Tory supporters now say they are certain to turn out to vote (+9 since last month), and 60% of Labour supporters (+3 since last month).

Readers are reminded that ICM is considered the “gold standard” amongst pollsters and I have therefore always given a lot more weight to their findings alongside YouGov.

ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1,004 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 11-13 October 2013. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

ICM_Poll_Oct 13

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Polls | , | 4 Comments

Reading East MP Promoted in Government Reshuffle

Rob Wilson MPOver the last 24 hours a process of reshuffling the middle ranks of the Government benches has been underway. The only Cabinet level change was the departure of Lib Dem Michael Moore as Scotland Secretary and his replacement by Alastair Carmichael. The rest of the changes involved mainly Parliamentary Under Secretaries (PUS)  and Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPS). David Cameron used this reshuffle to develop more of the 2005 and 2010 intakes with more women and ethnic minority Conservative MPs receiving new posts. There is considerable talent on the back-benches and with such a big intake in 2010 there are many ambitious MPs who fancy their chances as a Minister. The 2005 intake was much smaller but many have been frustrated that colleagues from 2010 have in some cases overtaken them.

Both Reading MPs have been rewarded with posts since the 2010 General Election. Reading West MP Alok Sharma was made a Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party and Reading East MP Rob Wilson (pictured) became a PPS to Jeremy Hunt when he was Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport and followed him to Health when he was reshuffled. PPSs are the most junior rung on the Government ladder but they are an essential step for most MPs for further promotion. Being PPS to a Cabinet Minister is a coveted role and the more senior the Cabinet member the more coveted the post. PPSs are the Parliamentary eyes and ears of the Minister they support and inevitably have ready access to the Minister and the Department. They are usually handpicked by the Minister with the appointment being cleared through No 10 and the Whips Office.

The news that Rob Wilson has moved from PPS to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to be PPS of the Chancellor George Osborne is great news both for Rob and Reading. I have heard it rumoured that Rob turned down another job offer of a senior post in the Whips Office to take the role in the Treasury. To be offered one Government post is a great boost but to be offered two and be able to choose is a serious compliment.

Rob said “I have had three great years at DCMS and then Health with Jeremy for which I thank him.  We’ve certainly weathered a few storms together and it was a real pleasure to work for him. I am looking forward to this new challenge, working closely with the Chancellor right at the heart of government.”

October 8, 2013 Posted by | Local | , | Leave a comment

New YouGov Poll – Post Conference Labour Lead is Just 4%

There is a new YouGov poll in today’s Sun newspaper showing Labour’s lead after all the party conference hubbub has died down is just 4%:

                   Conservative                35% (up 1%)

                   Labour                          39% (up 2%)

                                                     Lib Dem                          9% (no change)

                                                     UKIP                             10% (down 3%)

The polls jump around a lot during the party conference season and it was therefore not worth taking much notice of them until we were back to normal politics. The poll above is compared with the last YouGov poll I reported on 22 Aug and suggests a small boost for both the Conservatives and Labour at the expense of UKIP.


October 8, 2013 Posted by | Polls | , | 4 Comments

The Battle Lines are Drawn for the General Election

Cameron - Land of OpportunityNow we have finished the party conference season we can begin to reflect on how (if at all) the political landscape has shifted.

None of the parties enjoyed an ideal context for their conference. UKIP’s was completely overshadowed by the antics and subsequent resignation of Godfrey Bloom MEP. Since then at least two local Councillors have also resigned from the party.  The Lib Dems struggled to get any great coverage reflecting their recent diminished status. The only policy which registered with me was their pledge to give free school meals to all under 8 year olds, a policy oddly targeted at the better off!

Labour’s conference was over-shadowed by the Damien McBride revelations which shone a light onto the bitter infighting and poisonous atmosphere which pervaded the last Labour government of which Ed Balls and Ed Miliband were such key members. However, Ed Miliband’s speech with its pledge to force energy companies to freeze gas and electricity prices (for just 20 months), the proposal that private land could be seized by the state if it is not built on, and an increase in the planned level of Corporation Tax did cut through. Miliband seemed quite happy to move the Labour party to the left and to claim the mantle of “Socialism”, something which was carefully avoided during Tony Blair’s tenure as leader.

The Conservative conference had its own distraction with the debate over the Daily Mail’s decision to attack Ed Miliband’s Marxist father as “The Man Who Hated Britain“. After many on the left celebrating Margaret Thatcher’s death earlier this year plus Guardian attacks on David Cameron’s father, it was somewhat rich for Labour people to bleat about the Mail’s article, especially since Ed Miliband repeatedly cites his father as a source of his political credo. The Mail, rightly, also gave Miliband Jnr a right of reply in their pages.

Despite the debate over the Mail article the Conservative conference, under the slogan “For Hardworking People“, produced a lot of substance. I was very much impressed by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s speech when he explained how he has tightened up on the discipline in prisons but spoke eloquently about the importance of training and rehabilitation of offenders and proper supervision when they are released. If he is successful this will not only reduce the level of reoffending but also save the tax-payers a lot of money. Home Secretary Theresa May announced that in future foreign criminals will be deported and have to submit any appeal from their home country. After 11 years and millions of Pounds spent before successfully deporting Abu Qatada this will be welcomed by many. Ministers also made it clear that a Conservative majority government would be likely to repeal Labour’s Human Rights Act.

Chancellor George Osborne announced a further planned freeze on fuel duty. The freeze to date has already meant that petrol prices at the pump are 13p per litre less than Labour’s plans. That is a real benefit to hard-working families and businesses. A further freeze will be welcomed by all who use a motor vehicle to move around or who buy good brought in by road. Hints were also dropped of tax cuts when they are affordable and David Cameron reiterated in his speech that Conservatives are instinctively a tax-cutting party. This would be a lot easier to achieve if the party had not committed itself to a £1,000 transferable married couples tax allowance for couples who do not have a higher rate tax payer in the household. The net effect will be a princely £200 per year for those affected and I think that the money could have been better used. But the proposal seems popular in initial polling.

The conference began with a tribute to Baroness Thatcher and culminated with a rousing speech from Prime Minister David Cameron. Interesting the only new policy which was floated in Cameron’s speech was a suggestion that in future under-25’s may lose their automatic right to housing benefit and job-seekers’ allowance. The Prime Minister pointed out that young people should be given opportunities for education, training or employment and a future government may remove benefits from those who refuse to “earn or learn”. Now that Labour has at long last announced some policies Cameron was able to take his gloves off and aim some blows at the Labour Party’s current policy stances as well as its awful economic record.

So what does all this mean for British politics? We will have to see what the public makes of the last couple of weeks of a pre-run of some of the 2015 General Election themes but I do know from some reliable sources that staff in Conservative Campaign HQ are rubbing their hands in glee at Labour’s move to the left. Senior Conservative campaign staff believed that Labour would plot a careful centrist path to the next General Election and are delighted that Miliband seems to want to re-fight the 1983 or 1987 election campaigns. Any short-term boost in the polls for Labour, they believe, will be more than wiped out as the reality of the consequences of Labour’s anti-business policies are hammered home over the next 18 months. Whatever your view of the conferences and the policies announced, there can be no doubt that there is now clear blue water between the Conservative and Labour parties. Labour has only been electorally successful in modern times when it has inhabited the centre-ground and reassured the wider electorate that it can be trusted to manage the economy. With the economic recovery gathering pace, despite Labour’s claims that the government’s policies had “choked off the recovery”, we are set for a continuing stream of economic good news as we approach 2015.

I decided not to go to conference this year but will aim to attend next year. The activists I have spoken to who attended this year’s Conservative conference left with a spring in their step. Many are new young members attending their first conference and their campaigning efforts will be vital to constituency associations across the country. However, the key to a successful conference is not the reaction of the activists but the response from the public. Only time will tell but I am surprised and delighted that we appear to be refighting the battle of the 1980s when Labour focussed on appealing to a dwindling left-wing core while a successful Conservative party delivered economic growth and electoral success!

October 2, 2013 Posted by | National | , | Leave a comment