Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year - And Thanks!

Thanks to the brilliant team of supporters who have delivered nearly 10,000 calendars from the Labour Party in Minster and Redlands wards in Reading between Christmas and New Year's Eve!

Best wishes from Liz Terry and me - we all know what we have to do between now and 3 May 2012, so take the rest of the evening off.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

National Trust Cuts Solar Power Plans

While the Coalition government is preparing it's appeal to the law courts which ruled their cuts to solar panel "feed in tariffs" illegal, the National Trust has decided that only two of its 14 planned solar projects would now go ahead.

Solar panels on country mansions were part of the trust’s plans to halve its energy use over the next 10 years and save money at the same time.

Under the “feed-in tariff” scheme, the Government offers to pay for any surplus energy fed into the grid from solar panels. However, despite teh recent set-back in the courts, the government is still planning to reduce the payment to owners of panels to 20p per kwh of electricity, rather than 42p, making it a much poorer investment for households and businesses.

Their claims to be the "greenest government ever" now seem a remote and sadly hollow claim - remember that next time Lib Dem Environment Minister Chris Huhne starts to lecture us.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

RBH: Return Of The Chief

Royal Berks Hospital: Deserves Better Leadership
Word reaches me that Ed Donald, CEO at the Royal Berks Hospital, was due to return to work today.

If this is true, then those responsible for the botched attempt to remove him earlier this month should now look at themselves and consider their own positions.

We are proud of the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading - shame on those for tarnishing it's name.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Election Would Finish Us, Nick Clegg Tells Lib Dems

Clegg knows he and the Lib Dems are finished - they have no where to go
Here's an interesting confession from Cleggy - and explains why the Lib Dems are so desperate to hang on to power, regardless what Cameron does.

The Liberal Democrats would cease to exist as a party if they brought down the Coalition over Europe and triggered an early election, Nick Clegg warned his MPs last night.

The Deputy Prime Minister told a private meeting of more than 100 MPs and peers that he would not play “Russian roulette” with the Conservatives over David Cameron’s rejection of a new European treaty.

He said: “I don’t want to be the last leader of the Liberal Democrats by provoking a general election today.”

Mr Clegg’s public attacks on Mr Cameron over Europe have raised questions about the future of the Coalition but the Deputy Prime Minister told his party he intends to remain in power with the Conservatives until the election due in 2015.

Earlier, Mr Clegg had seemed to backtrack from his former position by ordering his MPs to back a Commons motion “commending” Mr Cameron for rejecting the treaty. Mr Clegg has denounced Mr Cameron’s refusal to endorse a treaty aimed at creating a fiscal union between eurozone countries, suggesting the decision could harm British interests.

But Liberal Democrat MPs were told to vote in favour of a Commons motion describing the Prime Minister’s veto as “a vital means of defending the national interests of the UK”.

Lib Dems were also ordered to back a motion for “a rebalancing of the relationship with our European neighbours”, echoing the calls of eurosceptic Tories.

It was tabled by the Ulster Unionists and backed by the Conservatives, while Labour were opposed. To avoid the spectacle of Coalition MPs voting both ways — and a government defeat — Lib Dem MPs were whipped to vote in favour, too.

The decision exposed Mr Clegg to allegations that he has had three positions on the treaty in five days. Having initially given Mr Cameron lukewarm support on Friday, a Lib Dem backlash forced him to criticise the Prime Minister on Sunday.

So there we have it - the Tories can do what they like until 2015 and their Lib Dem poodles will just suck it up!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Lib Dems: Yellow To The Core

Lib Dems in action today.

1. Nick Clegg hides away from Parliament as Cameron makes his statement on using the veto in Europe.

2. Glenn Goodall runs away from the voters in Redlands in the face of near certain defeat come next May (as I long predicted).

Lib Dems: "a particular brand of cowardice and lack of confidence in your own beliefs".


Friday, 9 December 2011

RBH: Doctors "Spitting Blood" At Move To Sack CEO

Consultatnts & GPs Fury
Word reaches me that there is something of an internecine power battle unfolding within the Royal Berks Hospital.

Following the clumsy attempt to sack CEO Ed Donald (who contrary to some reports has not been sacked and has refused to resign) has caused considerable uneasiness about the future of the Trust Chair and Non-Executive Directors.
The botched move has caused "fury" amongst senior medical staff, some of whom are said to be "spitting blood" (never a pretty sight in a hospital), having moved a vote of no confidence in Trust Chair Colin Maclean at a packed meeting earlier this week and demanded the return of their CEO.

The Non-Exec Directors, who include RCRE's Rajinder Sophal, should also be aware that the local PCT and new South Reading Commissioning Group of GPs are also said to be up in arms, with threats of removing £5million worth of patient contracts if Donald is not allowed to return to his role.

Some Governors are now said to be calling for the removal of all the NEDs - let's hope they have the back-bone to see it through.

Nurse, scalpel please!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Government Delay Private Sector Pensions: "Devastating" For Younger Workers

The Government's decision to delay the new national pension scheme (Nest) will have devastating consequences for young workers.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the Government's decision to delay the new national pension scheme (Nest) will have devastating consequences for young workers.

While most attention focused on this week's disclosure that everyone born after 1960 will have to work one year longer before receiving their state pension, an apparently technical statement sneaked out on the eve of the Autumn Statement will hit millions of young and poor people much harder.

They are the groups most likely not to have any company or occupational retirement scheme if they work in the private sector. The poor are most likely to be excluded because of their lowly place in corporate hierarchies and, in any case, many struggle to make ends meet at the end of the month – let alone a working lifetime.

Young people often lack company pensions because they have more immediate concerns – such as paying off student debts – or they work for small or start-up companies that regard retirement planning for junior employees as none of their business.

More than seven million workers without any retirement savings were told three years ago that they would gain a legal right to have one from 2014 onwards. Better still, employers would have to contribute at least 3pc of payroll toward the new National Employment Savings Trust (Nest).

Now the Government has decided to delay implementation by one year. That may not sound like much but the power of compound interest means the cash effect will be substantial.

For example, as the graph illustrates, a 22 year-old earning £15,000 a year who delays starting a Nest pension by just one year will cut his pension fund value at the new retirement age of 67 by £26,000. A 22 year-old earning £25,000 a year who delays starting a Nest pension by a year will cut his fund value at 67 by £43,000.

That's a high price to pay for this young worker having an extra £600 before tax in his or her salary because they won't have to make the employee's 4pc contribution until one year later. The explanation is that they will also miss the benefit of the employer's 3pc contribution – £450 in this case – and 1pc tax relief or £150. Most importantly, these modest sums will then be denied the powerful effect of compounding over long periods of time.

That raises the more positive point that younger people are best placed to make the most of this week's bad news because they have time on their side. The same cannot be said for older workers without pensions who will have to wait another year before starting to build up the Nest egg.

Julian Webb of Fidelity Investments predicted that 50 year-olds on national average earnings could receive 10pc less pension because of this week's about-turn by the Government. He said: "Delaying saving for retirement is rarely a sensible decision and will result in lower incomes for some of the poorest people in society.

"The eventual result is that people end up needing more support from the state in retirement, which will further undermine the perceived benefits of these savings. In effect, the Government is foregoing future benefit savings to reduce employer and employee costs in the near term. This looks like borrowing by the back door."

Nobody needs to tell Michelle Mitchell, a director of the charity Age UK, about the reality of poverty for people who rely on state benefits. She said: "This is an extremely disappointing decision about Nest and one that will affect millions. It is appalling that many employees will miss out on at least a year's worth of contributions and a decent retirement."

Friday, 2 December 2011

Lib Dems: Come Home To Labour

Just as thousands of disaffected Lib Dem voters are turning to Labour up and down the land - including here in Reading - news reaches me of a possible high profile switch amongst their steadily decreasing band of councillors.

Secret, tentative, informal and completely unofficial talks have apparently taken place with at least one Lib Dem councillor (a former Labour Party member in their past) who seems to be increasingly fed-up with the role their national leadership is playing in propping up the right-wing toxic Tory Government.

The cuts to Working Tax Credits, Child Benefits and OAP Winter Fuel Allowances may just be the last straws to force a change. On the other hand, our friend may feel obliged to wait until after next May's impending disaster at the polls before jumping ship.

Take it from me, there will always be a place in the Labour Party for people who are prepared to work hard in their community and stand up for decent hard working people and those less well off.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

New Tory Leader Harris - Runs From Church

Runner Harris
The merry-go-round that is Reading Conservative group continues to spin.

News reaches me that Cllr Tim Harris has been lined up as the "compromise candidate" between the warring factions responsible for deselecting Jamie Chowdhary and nudging Andrew Cumpsty out of office, as the next Tory group leader on Reading council .

Notable for promoting all-party support in the Council for a LGBT Centre in Reading, he is one of the few Tories to have actually done anything recently.

More remarkable, however, is the suggestion that Harris could flee his Church ward seat, where he is not due for re-election until 2014 - but where Labour won last time and look set to pick up another seat in May 2012 - and seek election next year in the safer haven of Peppard, or even Thames ward if Isobel Ballsdon seeks to follow on from the retiring Fred Pugh in the one seat ward of Mapledurham.

Of course, this could all just be Tory spin!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lib Dem Desperate Rebranding

Lib Dems Want To Claim Credit For Abolishing Slavery
The Liberal Democrats are so desperate to shake off their growing image as "Yellow Tories" they are planning to rebrand their party it has emerged .

Advisors have suggested for more "short-term themes, straplines and sound bites" to boost the party's popularity amid demands to take more credit for historic reforms such as the abolition of slavery.

The project comes as Nick Clegg's party is slumping in the opinion polls. A YouGov survey today puts it on just 11 per cent - way behind Labour on 43 per cent and the Conservatives on 34 per cent.

As I noted last year, party chiefs have been concerned for some time that the Lib Dem identity was being lost because of the coalition with the Conservatives - more often seen as these days as simply being Yellow Conservatives.

MPs should also, they were told, claim more credit for "liberal" achievements of the past such as the abolition of slavery - even though the leading abolitionist, William Wilberforce, was an independent MP.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Thank You Baroness Morris

Estelle Morris - supporting Redlands Labour
I am greatly indebted to Baroness Morris of Yardley - better known as Estelle Morris - for being the guest speaker at the latest Redlands Labour Party fund-raising event.

Not only did she bring in a sell-out crowd - always good news for a fund-raiser! - she offered some interesting insights into the current divisive education policies of the coalition government, as well as laying out some challenges for us in the Labour Party.

Estelle also praised the ward for the outstanding election result at the last council elections where we resoundingly beat the Lib Dems and wished us well for next May.

By my reckoning, that's most of the leaflets paid for!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Cumpsty To Stand Down In 2012

Andrew or Dave - Who Quits First?
When Councillor Andrew Cumpsty announced last month that he was giving up the Leadership of the Tory Group I predicted that he would also leave the council when next up for election in 2014.

My reasons for thinking this would happen were based on a number of factors: he'd fulfilled an ambition to lead the council (albeit for just one year}; my impression of his growing unhappiness with all the turmoil in the East Reading Conservative Association; and that the Tory hold on Caversham is rapidly loosening.

However, word now reaches me that in fact Andrew wants to quit the council at the next election, two years ahead of time. (I've even been given the name of his replacement candidate)

This would cause a huge dilemma for the Tories.

Dave Luckett's seat is up next May, but with Labour's Richard Davies already running a very effective campaign in Caversham, Dave has been wobbling. If both he and Andrew were to step down at the same time, they would certainly open the door for Labour to pick up at least one of the seats - if not both. Pressure is therefore mounting on the luckless Luckett to stay on.

Andrew is a nice bloke and deserved more support than he's been given.

Expect immediate denials - followed by the real announcements next April!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Don’t Let The Cuts Turn Back Time On Women’s Equality

From the monochrome silhouettes of Mad Men to the scandals and seductions of Downton Abbey, vintage style offers some nostalgic escapism at this time of austerity. Yet beneath the veneer of glamour and gentility, the bygone decades harbored a raft of gendered double-standards and institutional sexism. Unfortunately for Britain’s women, the world of yesteryear is rearing its head again as evidence emerges that coalition cuts are literally turning back time on women’s equality.

The coalition strategy for reducing the deficit is hitting women disproportionately hard. Hardly surprising considering that the cabinet is dominated more by millionaires than by female voices.

Women face a unique ‘triple jeopardy’: cuts to their jobs, since two-thirds of public sector workers are women; cuts to state services and benefits that women rely on more than men – such as childcare assistance and support for victims of sexual and domestic violence; and, as reduced state services and benefits increase levels of unpaid labour and decrease financial autonomy, women face being pushed back into dependent roles as ‘homemakers’.

Women’s unemployment is at a record high. Soaring childcare costs and cuts to childcare support are forcing over half of working mothers to ‘stop work or significantly reduce their working hours’; 124 Sure Start children’s centres have closed down, with many more set to follow unless urgent action is taken; organisations that provide specialist services for women, such as for victims of sexual and domestic violence or for lone parents, are being hit hard by local authority funding cuts with some having to close their doors for good; legal aid support is becoming a rare privilege. And these are just some of the impacts.

Welcome to the past. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. Or your child benefit. Or your working tax credits. Or your equality.

The Fawcett Society, along with a coalition of charities, unions and academics, recently unveiled a manifesto of policies to lessen the disproportionate impact of the cuts on women. We are asking for proposals in this ‘Life Raft for Women’s Equality’ report, which cover work, pensions, families and violence prevention, to be implemented before or at the next budget in March 2012. These would include a U-turn on cuts to childcare support, safeguarded funding for specialist violence against women support services, and ring-fencing money for Sure Start centres. These requests are tangible, workable solutions, and vital for safeguarding hard-fought women’s rights and opportunities.

There has been much rhetoric from the coalition about connecting with women voters. No wonder women are turning their backs on Cameron and Clegg in their droves!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Running Out Of Others To Blame
What do the following have in common?

Angela Merkel, cold weather, Ed Balls, Silvio Berlusconi, the wedding of William Windsor and Kate Middleton, British civil servants, Brussels bureaucrats, people concerned about global warming, employment tribunals, trade unions, banks, bank holidays, Liberal Democrats, energy prices, Gordon Brown and the world?

The answer is that they have all been deployed as excuses by members of the government for why the economy is so dire. The proliferation of alibis offered by ministers, and their inability to stick to the same one, is a symptom of increasing desperation about the unravelling of their economic strategy.

Read how as the chancellor is running out of alibis, the blame game over who is responsible for our dire economic state now sees the government turning on itself.

His opponents have been saying for some time that the problem with the chancellor is that he had a deficit strategy but not a growth strategy, and the absence of the latter would be the undoing of the former. He could shrug that off so long as it was only being said by Ed Balls and Ed Miliband. The most alarming sound for George Osborne in the past few days has been members of his own party starting to say the same thing. He must know that, when every other alibi fails, they will all blame him.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Anger At Winter Fuel Allowance Cut

I have been contacted by angry pensioners on Hexham Road who this week have been told at the Post Office that this year's winter fuel allowance has been cut.

After a year of rapidly rising prices - with gas and electricity increasing by between 15% and 20% this year - it is alarming to think the coalition government has decided to cut winter fuel by £50 for the over 60s and £100 for the over 80s compared to last year.

To say that our pensioners are baffled would be an understatement: most are angry that the government has decided to take support for fuel bills back top 2007 levels at a time when costs have never been higher.

When we did a house to house survey on the estate a month ago, many residents felt insulted that the Energy Secretary Lib Dem Chris Huhne blamed people for not shopping around for the best deal. Many older householders simply to do have access or know how to use the internet. Others pay more because they don't use direct debits. They also use more fuel in the day time, so forcing even higher bills.

It is unbelievably mean for the government to cut support for pensioners at a time when many are worrying about how to make ends meet. The coalition will not be forgiven by them for this.


George Osborne, in the speech introducing the Government's 2010 spending review was very careful to say that “winter fuel payments will remain exactly as budgeted for by the previous government”. If it is the case that the rates of 2010/11 were intended as a temporary, one year increase by the previous government, then this is, of course, true. And if we look back at the description of the 2010/11 rates then we do see that they are described as “a higher rate”, suggesting that these rates were indeed temporarily increased.

However, if we look further back in time we see that both in 2009/10 and in 2008/09 the rates of £250 and £400 applied. In both cases, £50 and £100 of these amounts respectively are described as “an additional amount”, and it is stressed that these additional amounts apply for one year only. We have to look back to 2007/08 before we find rates at the level they are planned to return to in 2011/12, of £200 and £300.

It may well be the case, as the DWP claims, that no additional amount for 2011/12 was budgeted for by the previous government. It is also the case, however, that these additional amounts have been consistently reintroduced over the last three years.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Willis Gagging Order Lifted!

Oh no, not Reading again!
The influence of this blog just keeps on growing ... glad to hear Richard is safe and well and been given permission to speak, sir.

Can't wait to read his commentary on Cumpsty's departure, the downing of Chowdhary and Ralph, the investigation by the Central Office ... so much to tell.

Ha, ha.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Willis Gagged? Lib Dems Should Target Peppard

Willis: No News
I'm sure others will have noticed that Richard Willis's blog hasn't been up-dated since 27 October, and in fact the last local item on the self-styled "first for local news and first for comment" was published more than a month ago on 11 October (announcing the new school for 14-19 years in east Reading - which I have launched a petition against).

I know that in the past Richard has taken a holiday around this time of the year, but even then he has posted about his travels. However I was most surprised that this radio silence was maintained through-out the Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday period. Richard is to be respected for his commitment to the armed services, so I did find this a bit strange. He must have had a reason.

Given Richard's absence at the Council meeting where Andrew Cumpsty announced his resignation as Tory leader, I am beginning to wonder if he has been gagged by the Conservative Association high command outside the council in Reading. Remember when Warren Swaine was investigated by the Lib Dems, he was effectively told to "shut up" - has the same thing happened to Richard?

Voters don't like divided parties, but Reading Tories seem hell bent on mirroring their national party, with a new You Gov report (11 Nov) showing 64% of people now see the Conservative party as divided, compared to just 18% who see them as united. This is the most divided the Conservative party has been seen since YouGov started asking the question, down from a peak in 2008 when 56% saw the party as united.

If the Lib Dems have any political sense (and, of course, that's a BIG "if") they must realise that they could win back Peppard - a relatively safe seat for them in the recent past.

The council elections next May could be quite turblent, with a lot of swopping of seats, so here's part of a betting accumulator I'm going down to Ladbrokes with:
  • Labour gain Redlands from Lib Dems (Goodall to stand down), Caversham (Luckett to stand down) and Church from the Tories;
  • Tories gain Tilehurst from Lib Dems (Beard to stand down);
  • Lib Dems gain Peppard from Tories.
It's already getting mean out there - and will only get tougher!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Wounded Soldiers Face Sack Under Army Redundancy Plans

After Armistice Day and before Remembrance Sunday, this story in today's Daily Telegraph of disabled soldiers facing the sack just about takes the biscuit.

Nothing else to say about this contemptible coalition's policies.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Armistice Day In Reading

At the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month, we shall remember them.

Except in Reading, except for an honourable few, we have been ignoring them.

Until today in 2011.

Well done to Brian Lewendon, from Tilehurst's Royal British Legion, and my old friend Councillor Chris Maskell for pushing the council and others to give this hour and this day the respect it deserves.

I was proud to be among the 300 or so Reading people who gathered at the Forbury War Memorial today.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A New Secondary School For East Reading: Sign The Petition

I have long held the view that we need a new secondary school in east Reading.

Currently many parents in east Reading have no choice other than to find a place for their children to undertake their secondary education in schools in neighbouring Wokingham.

It is hard not to be disappointed with the news that the Government has given the go ahead for a new secondary school in east Reading will only take pupils from 14 upwards - and not from the age of 11 as parents hoped.

It should be stressed that any new education provision is a plus, and such schools will go a long way to equipping less academic youngsters with the technical skills to become assets on the increasingly tough job market.

But at an already confusing time in a young person's life it will be highly disconcerting to be moving schools after two years and just before GCSE courses begin, and schools face having their year nine stripped of pupils heading for a UCT.

So please consider signing the petition here and pass it on. Contact me if you want paper copies.

Here's the wording in full:

"We, the undersigned, call upon Michael Gove as Secretary of State for Education and the Department for Education to reconsider the decision to only fund a new technology based secondary school in east Reading.

We call upon Michael Gove and the DfE to invest in an 11 to 19 years comprehensive school which will offer a high quality, wide ranging curriculum to all young people in east Reading."

NHS: Stealth Privatisation Nobody Voted For

Royal Berks Hospital: Rebuilt by Labour
Labour transformed the NHS.

Over 13 years in government more doctors and nurses were employed, waiting times were reduced, treatment was improved for millions of people and hospitals were rebuilt, including the Royal Berkshire Hospital here in Reading.

Now the Tories and Lib Dems are making a mess of the NHS. With Labour's guarantees scrapped, there is already a big difference:
  • Routine operations are being delayed and cancelled
  • Waiting times for treatment, guaranteed at less than 18 weeks by Labour, are now getting steadily longer
  • Nurses at the Royal Berkshire Hospital are having their pay cut by £600 a year
And Conservative ministers backed by the Lib Dems are desperate to press on with changes to the NHS that are opposed by most doctors, nurses and health organisations.

Remember when David Cameron promised "no top down reorganisation of the health service" - yet his government has now embarked on the biggest top down reorganisation since the NHS was established.
We've always known that we couldn't trust the NHS with the Tories, but now we've seen the Lib Dems eagerly support these changes too.

Their changes mean "privatisation by stealth" for much of the NHS. Private health companies will be able to poach the profitable services they want to run, leaving hospitals like the RBH struggling to run the bits which money can't be made, like intensive care units, A&E services, emergency cover, geriatric medicine and care for the terminally ill.

These changes will cost around £2Billion to implement at a time when operations are being cancelled and nurses' pay being cut.

In the face of public opposition the Conservatives have made cosmetic changes, but the main thrust - to bring a market of privatised services - is still at the heart of their plans. In the end, the Lob Dems voted to back the Tories.

I have no doubt that local people overwhelmingly oppose the Coalition's proposals to break up the NHS. Nobody voted for this. Nobody got the chance to - because if the Conservatives or Lib Dems had the guts to put this in their election manifestos Mr Cameron wouldn't be Prime Minister today.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Lib Dems Support In Free Fall

Closer examination of last week's You Gov data reveals some startling information for the Lib Dems.

Of those who voted Lib Dem at the 2010 General Election, it now seems that only 33% would still vote for Nick Clegg's Lib Dems.

A whopping 41% of those former Lib Dem supporters would now vote Labour, 11% would vote Tory and 15% would vote for other parties including UKIP and the Greens.

These are current voting intentions, so any belief by the Lib Dems that we'd forget about their U-turn on tution fees or forgive their support for propping up the Tory-led coalition seems widely misplaced.

Expect increasingly desperate claims from the local Lib Dems in Redlands and elsewhere over the coming weeks and months.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

UKIP To Replace Lib Dems As Third Party

Clegg: Leading the Lib Dems to political oblivion
Here's an interesting piece which argues that the splits over Europe and Cameron's leadership amongst the Tories and the inevitable fate of a junior partner in a coalition creates the ground for UKIP to prosper.

Peter Obone suggests that:
  • The reason why Conservative Party activists were heavily outnumbered by lobbyists at this year’s Conservative conference was that so many Tory activists have gone off to join UKIP, with Alexander Hesketh, the former treasurer and chief whip in the House of Lords the most recent.
  • Last Sunday’s YouGov poll showing that support for Farage’s party had crept up to 7% – just one point fewer than the Liberal Democrats - is significant as UKIP strive to take over from the Lib Dems as Britain’s third largest political party.
  • The Lib Dems are finished for the foreseeable future – the invariable fate of the smaller party in a coalition government. They will be fortunate to retain a dozen seats at the next general election.
  • UKIP will probably overtake them in the polls over the coming months, most likely pulling well ahead as the general election approaches.
  • The European elections, due in two and a half years’ time, will provide an important test: UKIP will perform very strongly, while the Lib Dems will be all but wiped out.
And as I've previously blogged the LibDems in the House of Commons could end up as an all white, all male party.

Not much sign of UKIP around Reading, but the local Tories are split and the LibDems are already in electoral melt-down at the council elections.


Saturday, 29 October 2011

Euro Bail Out: An Explanation

More money for the banks, essentially, and hoping that Europe will be saved by the Chinese or Aliens.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Sharma: Can't Wait For Your Next Campaign

Sharma: Despite This Publicity Stunt, He Didn't Vote For A Referendum

In a massive humilation for David Cameron, a record number of Conservative MPs rebelled against the government and voted for an EU referendum. In all, 79 Tory MPs voted in favour of an EU referendum while a further two were tellers.

A list Tory MPs who voted for a referendum:  Stuart Andrew (Pudsey), Steven Baker (Wycombe), John Baron (Basildon and Billericay), Andrew Bingham (High Peak), Brian Binley (Northampton South), Bob Blackman (Harrow East), Graham Brady (Altrincham & Sale West), Andrew Bridgen (Leicestershire North West), Steve Brine (Winchester), Fiona Bruce (Congleton), Dan Byles (Warwickshire North), Douglas Carswell (Clacton), Bill Cash (Stone), Christopher Chope (Christchurch), James Clappison (Hertsmere), Tracey Crouch (Chatham & Aylesford), David Davies (Monmouth), Philip Davies (Shipley), David Davis (Haltemprice & Howden), Nick de Bois (Enfield North), Caroline Dinenage (Gosport), Nadine Dorries (Bedfordshire Mid), Richard Drax (Dorset South), Mark Field (Cities of London & Westminster), Lorraine Fullbrook (South Ribble), Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park), James Gray (Wiltshire North), Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry), Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne & Sheppey), George Hollingbery (Meon Valley), Adam Holloway (Gravesham), Stewart Jackson (Peterborough), Bernard Jenkin (Harwich & Essex North), Marcus Jones (Nuneaton), Chris Kelly (Dudley South), Andrea Leadsom (Northamptonshire South), Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford), Edward Leigh (Gainsborough), Julian Lewis (New Forest East), Karen Lumley (Redditch), Jason McCartney (Colne Valley), Karl McCartney (Lincoln), Stephen McPartland (Stevenage), Anne Main (St Albans), Patrick Mercer (Newark), Nigel Mills (Amber Valley), Anne-Marie Morris (Newton Abbot), James Morris (Halesowen & Rowley Regis), Stephen Mosley (Chester, City of), Sheryll Murray (Cornwall South East), Caroline Nokes (Romsey & Southampton North), David Nuttall (Bury North), Matthew Offord (Hendon), Neil Parish (Tiverton & Honiton), Priti Patel (Witham), Andrew Percy (Brigg & Goole), Mark Pritchard (Wrekin, The), Mark Reckless (Rochester & Strood), John Redwood (Wokingham), Jacob Rees-Mogg (Somerset North East), Simon Reevell (Dewsbury), Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), Andrew Rosindell (Romford), Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills), Henry Smith (Crawley), John Stevenson (Carlisle), Bob Stewart (Beckenham), Gary Streeter (Devon South West), Julian Sturdy (York Outer), Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth & Horncastle), Justin Tomlinson (Swindon North), Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight), Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes), Charles Walker (Broxbourne), Robin Walker (Worcester), Heather Wheeler (Derbyshire South), Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley), John Whittingdale (Maldon), Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes)

Two Tory MPs acted as tellers for the rebels. They were Peter Bone (Wellingborough) and Philip Hollobone (Kettering).

Two Tory MPs voted in both the Aye and Noe lobbies, which counts as an abstention. They were: Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) and Mike Weatherley (Hove).

Two Tory MPs notable for their absence from this list: Alok Sharma (Reading West) and Robert Wilson (Reading East).

We can't wait for Sharma's next campaign. Honest.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

We’re Sick Of You Telling Us What To Do

”We’re sick of you criticising us and telling us what to do. You say you hate the euro, you didn’t want to join and now you want to interfere in our meetings” the French leader President Sarkozy told Mr David Cameron.

All this while the Conservative Right rues Cameron's broken promises.

He promises one thing and does another. His own party sees it. Conservative lite has lost its fizz.

Eventually everyone else will see it too.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Europe: What Will Sharma And Wilson Do?

Another Sham Campaign From Sharma?

Our two local Tory MPs have been only too happy to demand a referendum over Europe in the past.

Now, safely ensconced in the rag-bag coalition government (albeit at the lowest level of the greasy pole) what will they do next week when the Prime Minister is facing a significant rebellion among Conservative MPs over his order that they should reject a Commons motion calling for the first popular vote on Britain’s relationship with the EU since 1975.

Will they be caught saying one thing and doing another? We'll see.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Cumpsty Out

Cumpsty and Luckett look for Plan B in Caversham
Local Tory Leader Andrew Cumpsty told last night's full Council meeting of his intention to stand down as leader of the Conservative group.

In perhaps a telling turn of phrase, Andrew thanked his friends on the council "many of whom are in the Conservative Group".

In my opinion and experience Andrew is a decent bloke, ill served by the warring factions in the local Conservative Associations.

The fact that his rag-bag coalition with the local Lib Dems was booted out of office after only one year, despite the national bribe of a council tax freeze, shows the lack of real political strategy or understanding.

The idea of pouring resources into Battle ward last May was one visible example of cluttered thinking, but perhaps that wasn't his decision.

Tory Richard Willis and Lib Dem Glenn Goodall were notable absentees for the statement last night. The pair obviously had more important things to do than be at the council meeting.

Logo courtesy of Dave Luckett

Andrew's statement was met with warm applause from all around the council chamber.

He must know, however, that Caversham is now vulnerable to a resurgent local Labour Party already doing great work on the ground and that his fellow Tory Dave Luckett will probably lose his seat next May. Expect Andrew to bow out gracefully long before the 2014 election.

One comment Andrew made last night did make me and others laugh: his observation that in five years as Tory leader, he had worked with four Lib Dem leaders!

'Nough said.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Fighting For Redlands

Tony Jones: Local resident with huge experience
Redlands Labour Party has selected me to be their candidate at the May 2012 council elections.

I have lived here in Redlands Ward in Morgan Road for over 15 years, with my wife Liz and three children.

Some will remember that I represented Redlands Ward as a councillor during the 1990s. In that time I was instrumental in winning Government funds for a major regeneration of the Hexham Estate that included the building of the popular Hexham Community Centre and children’s play area, as well as helping to win important traffic safety improvements.

I also led the highly successful campaign which opened up over 500 empty homes across the town.

My community roles have included being a school governor and serving on the university council. As Mayor of Reading, I raised a record-breaking sum of money for local children in need and other charities.

I am grateful to Redlands Labour Party for giving me this chance to work alongside Jan Gavin. Since she was elected last May Jan has shown what a difference a Labour councillor can make to an area. I trust my energy and experience will continue to build on her good work for the benefit of all residents in Redlands.

With 28 weeks to go to election day I know that I'm in for a tough fight. But we managed to pull off a magnificent victory last year and there is no reason, with a lot of hard work, we can't do the same again in 2012.

2011 Result in Redlands
Labour 1,295 votes
Lib Dem 757
Cons 526
Green 345

More about me here.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Huhne: Energy Prices "Relatively Good" As 70% Struggle To Pay

Lib Dem Huhne: energy prices are relatively good
Lib Dem Energy Minister Chris Huhne said today that UK electricity and gas prices are "relatively good".
Huhne has previously blamed lazy consumers for high energy bills because they fail to shop around for the best deals.

He also said energy companies were “not the Salvation Army” and that “We expect them to earn respectable returns for their shareholders."

This is in stark contrast to the Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of the energy summit, noting that energy bills had increased by more than £100 for most people since this summer, as energy suppliers profits were eight times higher than last year and a new report which suggests that seven in ten consumers will need to turn to their savings, credit cards or overdraft to fund rising energy bills - not that multi-millionaire Huhne is likely to be one of them.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

This Would Be Funny If ...

Liam Fox and Oliver Letwin - shambles at the heart of government
... it wasn't for the fact that unemployment in Britain has jumped to its highest level since 1994, with young people and women hit hardest as private companies fail to make up for job losses in the public sector, while the economy is teetering on the brink of recession again as consumers tighten their belts and key export markets slow down, particularly in Europe.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Parking Mad

Sharma Attacks Coalition Decision
Here's a story of the Reading West MP attacking his coalition colleagues on Reading Council and showing his ignorance all at the same time!

Alok Sharma has finally woken up to the fact that the Lib Dem/Tory gang who briefly ran the council managed to slash residents parking permits by half LAST January, replacing the 20 all-day permits offered free to residents each year with 20 half-day vouchers.

The Labour run Council has since doubled the number of free half-day permits available a year to the 12,000 people living in residents' parking zones from 20 to 40.

The Tory MP said residents were concerned about the lack of consultation by the Lib Dems and Tories over the January change from all-day permits.

I guess Sharma must have finally held a surgery to wise up to the changes. Cllr Willis, are you listening? Well done Reading Chronicle!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

All But Two FTSE 100 Firms 'Avoid Paying Tax'

Nearly all of Britain's biggest companies avoid paying tax in the UK. Action Aid found that 98 out of the 100 companies on the FTSE 100 base their operations in territories where there is low or no tax.

The biggest users were based in the financial sector despite the industry's role in the economic crisis, with Britain's four biggest banks - HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds and RBS - having 1,649 tax haven companies between them.

Action Aid's tax justice expert Chris Jordan told Sky News that the UK could be missing out on £18bn a year in tax revenues due to the practice.

He said: "Tax havens have a damaging impact on the UK exchequer, the stability of the international financial system, and vitally on the ability of developing countries to raise tax revenues which would lift them out of poverty and make them less dependent on aid.

When multinationals use tax havens to avoid paying their fair share, ordinary people in both poor and rich countries are left to pick up the bill. Spending on doctors, nurses and other essential services gets cut for those who need it most."

Remember that the next time you hear a news report saying that these business leaders have all signed a letter supporting the cutting of the minimum wage, or cut backs to publuc services.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Lest We Forget

As Rememberance Day approaches, thanks to Simon Foley for the image. Helps puts politics into perspective.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Huhne Apology For Newspaper Story

Huhne: Wanted to keep his "fingerprints" off newspaper story

Embattled coalition Lib Dem Minister Chris Huhne has apologised to Theresa May for tipping off a national newspaper about her notorious cat speech.

Huhne's actions came to light after he accidentally posted a private message on Twitter about the story which undermined his Cabinet colleague, saying he wanted to keep his “fingerprints” off the story, which must appear as if it had come from “someone else”.

Huhne has recently been described in the High Court as a hypocrite who concealed his affair in order to portray himself as a family man in the run up to the general election.

He has also been investigated by Essex Police amid claims that he asked his ex-wifeVicky Pryce to take three penalty points for him in March 2003.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Cameron's Flip Flop On Fox

Saturday morning: In another astonishing failure of judgement by David Cameron, the PM has declared he has "full confidence" in the embattled defence secretary, Liam Fox, and the Ministry of Defence Permanent Secretary's review must be allowed time to report, after new revelations about his close friend and self-styled "advisor" Adam Werritty.

The Guardian has established that Werritty used Fox's room 341 in the MPs' block at Portcullis House as the official headquarters of a rightwing charity, the Atlantic Bridge, which works in conjunction with a major US business lobby group - recently closed down following criticism from the Charity Commission. The office was provided at taxpayers' expense. Werritty has made 14 visits to the Ministry of Defence over 16 months despite not being employed by the government.

Fresh questions will be asked following claims in the Daily Telegraph that Werritty stayed "rent free" in the defence secretary's tax-payer funded London flat. He is also said to have used that address when setting up a defence consultancy firm.

Fox pulled out of scheduled interviews with the BBC today and refused to answer questions.

Odds are mounting that he will be the second minister to leave the Cabinet, following the disgraced David Laws.

Same old Tories.

UPDATE Saturday afternoon: Obvious confusion and panic in Downing Street (just as there was with the "Pay off your credit cards" speech) as Cameron has now asked the Cabinet Secretary to examine the initial findings of the MoD Permanent Secretary's review, and report his conclusions to him on Monday.

Many MPs are now demanding Fox makes an emergency statement to the House of Commons on Monday about the access to government Mr Werritty has enjoyed. Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy has warned that if Dr Fox refuses he will attempt to use parliamentary procedures to force him to address MPs over a series of allegations. It will be at the discretion of the Commons Speaker to decide if that is granted, though it is unlikely that he would reject a submission concerning such a high profile case.

Mr Murphy said "This is a self-inflicted political crisis and it seems to run and run with fresh allegations every day. There should be a full statement by the Secretary of State on Monday in the House of Commons. If he doesn't volunteer to make a full statement I will seek to summon him. An inquiry is important but so too are direct answers. There are accusations mounting. It is time for the avoidance to stop and for the answers to start."

Same old Cameron: flip flopping judgement.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Tory Cat Fight As Country Goes To The Dogs

Clarke on  May: "laughable, child-like" claims about the law
While the David Cameron defends Theresa May over her “laughable, child-like” claims about the law, a new report highlights the difficulties facing hard working families.

When will they stop squabbling and realise that their Plan A isn't working?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Millionaire Cameron: Patronising, Out Of Touch

Millionaire Cameron was to tell the rest of us to pay off our credit cards to help the economy - but this was pulled from his conference speech at the last minute. Someone realised that his patronising demand for families to clear their debts is bad economics and terrible politics.

George Eaton explains that at a time when voters are facing the biggest fall in living standards since the 1920s (owing to a combination of rising prices, falling wages, lower benefits and higher taxes), Cameron's demand is hideously patronising. It is a perfect example of what the novelist Joyce Carey once described as a "tumbril remark" - the sort of statement seemingly designed to ignite class war.

Cameron, a man who has had never had a money worry in his life, insists that the poor must repay their debts, as if, up to this point, they had merely chosen not to do so. Has there ever been a less sensitive or more thoughtless remark from a serving Prime Minister.

But worse, Cameron's comments confirm that he has no grasp of basic economics. The more people save, the more they reduce aggregate demand, thus further reducing (and eventually destroying) economic growth. They will be individually wise but collectively foolish. If no one spends (because they're paying off their debts) then businesses can't grow and unemployment willl soar.

The final irony is that Cameron is leading a government whose own policies are increasing household debt. George Osborne's decision to take an axe to the welfare state is helping to fuel the household debt bubble.

Cameron's blunt demand for households to repay their debts suggests a man who not only can't solve the problem but doesn't even understand it. Today, we have seen the clearest indication yet that he is unfit to govern this country.

And this from a man who claimed 40p for a chocolate bar on his parliamentary expenses.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Health Experts Reject NHS Changes

Nearly 400 public health experts warn Lords to reject NHS reforms as
the Lib Dem / Tory coalition is facing a fresh revolt over their controversial health reforms, saying the plans will cause the NHS “irreparable harm”.

In an open letter to peers published in The Daily Telegraph, the public health specialists say the proposals will put patient safety at risk, waste money and damage trust in the medical profession.

They say that the Health and Social Care Bill will weaken the ability of the authorities to fight disease and tackle health emergencies. The experts also tell the Lords that the goverment is wrong to claim that doctors support them.

They conclude: “It is our professional judgement that the Health and Social Care Bill will erode the NHS’s ethical and co-operative foundations and that it will not deliver efficiency, quality, fairness or choice. We therefore request that you reject passage of the Health and Social Care Bill.”

Nick Clegg, who forced the “pause” in the Bill’s progress after a uprising by grassroots Liberal Democrats in the spring, stopped his party calling for more substantial changes at this month’s conference.

However, it is expected that Baroness Williams, the influential Lib Dem peer who has "huge concerns" about the Bill, will lead the opposition with Lord Owen, a former health minister who has called the plans "fatally flawed", also likely to figure prominently in the debates.

The Shadow Health Secretary, John Healey, said: "David Cameron is in denial, both about the damage his plans are doing to the NHS and the strength of opposition to his Health Bill across the NHS."

"There is no mandate for the Bill, either from the election or the coalition agreement. With the government having railroaded its plans through the Commons, heavy responsibility is now going to be shouldered by the Lords."

Sunday, 2 October 2011

How The City Bankrolls The Tories

The Conservative Party has become reliant on the financial sector for more than half its annual income, new research shows. Since Mr Cameron became leader, the Tories have become increasingly dependent on City funding.

Dr Stuart Wilks-Heeg, executive director of Democratic Audit, which monitors the state of democracy in the UK, said: "The coalition agreement included clear undertakings to take big money out of politics but there appears to be no sign of this happening. What this study tellingly reveals is the scale of the Conservative party’s reliance on a variety of City interests at a time when the Conservative-led government is attempting to kick banking reform into the long grass."

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Downturn Abbey

One of the best jokes at Labour Conference about how out of touch the Tories are, came from Harriet Harman when she told delegates "I hear they do watch TV from time to time and I hear they love Downton Abbey. The only problem is they think it's a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

The Tories probably thought everyone lived on a posh Edwardian estate. Harman added: "And they never need to do their own dirty work. Why would they? They've got the Lib Dems for that.

The Lib Dems boast of being a brake on the Tories. So what happened on tuition fees, on VAT, on police cuts, on the NHS? Clearly the brakes failed."

Meanwhile Cameron's sexism continues to drive away women voters. Yvette Cooper said the PM had turned his back on millions of female voters by cutting childcare, child benefit and Sure Start centres.

Remember Cameron's response to Angela Eagle who warned him about the damage he was doing, not 'sorry', but 'calm down, dear'.

Same old Tories.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

2012 - The Year To Celebrate

Reading Y2C say:

"It’s going to be a fantastic year – and you can make sure you don’t miss a thing by using this site to find out about all the events going on in the Reading area leading up to, and during, 2012. It’s the only site you need to plan your year of celebrations – including the London 2012 Games and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee."

Something tells me that in Redlands, as in other parts of the town, Thursday 3 May 2012 will be a day of great celebration. Just 31 weeks to go ... and counting!

No One Voted For The Coalition To Break Up THe NHS

Before the election David Cameron promised "no top down reorganisation of the NHS". However, no sooner had he crawled into government with his Coalition Chums led by Nick Clegg, then they unveiled the biggest top-down reorganisation of the NHS since it was created in 1948.

We've always known that you can't trust the Tories with the NHS - but now it is clear that the Lib Dems are no better, as they bring in to a Competition Regulator and Competition Courts, coalition ministers talk about "huge opportunities for the private sector" and American and German multi-national investors being lined up to buy our hospitals and take home the profits.

If thay have their way, the NHS will just become a badge, a powerful brand logo, as cover for the break-up of our national service, with a greater post code lottery in health care, as waiting lists get longer.

The battle is not over. The NHS was built by the people, is cherished by the people, it belongs to the people.

We heard Cameron's promises at the last election and saw his posters, but the truth is, you can't trust the coalition with the NHS.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

YouGov: Labour 6 Points Ahead

The latest YouGov poll has Labour 6 points ahead of the Tories and the LibDems at a dismal 8%.

Labour 43%
Conservatives 37%
Lib Dems 8%

The overall approval rating of the Coalition Government is at minus 25%

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Stand With Labour

I'm proud that my 100th post of the year is a message from Ed Miliband:

I have just finished giving my speech to Labour’s Annual Conference and I wanted to write to you straight away. The way Britain is run is letting people down and holding our country back. For too long our economy and our society have rewarded the wrong people with the wrong values.

We need to build an economy that rewards the right people with the right values.

I’m asking you to ask one friend or family member to stand with Labour as a supporter.

A new bargain matters to people up and down our country. I wasn’t just speaking to Labour members in the hall when I said that I am the guy who is determined to break the closed circles of Britain. It was a message for the whole country.

As young people confront the choices they have in life, they see routes to success today based on the wrong set of values.

Ask a friend to stand with us as a Labour Supporter and together we will build a society that rewards hard work and the people who help each other.

Today, Labour said "no more". We need change and we need a new bargain. We need an economy built on the values of hard work, something for something, the long-term.

We see the need for a new bargain when we look at what this Government is doing. Young people, doing the right thing, wanting to go to higher education are going to find that their hard work and ambition will be punished with tens of thousands of pounds of debt.

And yet at the same time, George Osborne plans cuts in corporation tax for the banks.

These aren’t my values. I know they are not yours either. If your friend shares our values then ask them to stand with us as a Labour Supporter today

I don’t want to be Prime Minister so we can have more of the same. I want us to build a country together where each of us can reach our potential. Where together, we fulfil the Promise of Britain.

Ask a friend to stand with us and make that possible. Ask a friend to help us build a Britain based on Britain’s values: hard work, helping each other and something for something.

Thank you,

Ed Miliband
Leader of the Labour Party

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Prime Minister, The People Are Hurting

We are told by David Cameron and Nick Clegg that there is no alternative to the cuts. No Plan B to be contemplated instead of their austerity package.

Yet when the coalition embarked upon their 4 year dash to “rebalance the economy” they said the private sector would step up to create the jobs slashed in the public sector and help support our local economies. But that hasn’t happened.

Unemployment is rising, with a million young jobless and more women out of work than at any time since 1988. The economy is sliding back into recession, while the banks sit on stock piles of capital unwilling to lend to small businesses or would be mortgagees. Property developers sit on land banks, waiting for easier planning laws, while the country cries out for new housing. Food prices at record highs and train travel becoming unaffordable for many. Hospital waiting lists grow ever longer, as operations are rationed. And we now have a record prison population.

And hidden fuel poverty waiting in the wings to become a winter killer for 7 million families while Chris Huhne blames for us for being too lazy to shop around to get a better deal.

Remember when Cameron and Clegg used to claim “We’re all in this together”. They’ve stopped saying that lately.

Coalition ministers – Tories and Liberal Democrats alike – have little experience of unemployment or life on benefits. In fact, 23 of 29 Cabinet ministers are millionaires with little understanding of economic hardship. Not since the late 1950s has Britain been governed by politicians representing such a narrow social base. But at least MacMillan and his millionaire colleagues believed in the universal welfare state. Cameron and his rich chums, in contrast, are engaged in a war on welfare.

Prime Minister, the people are hurting. Are you listening?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Big Society: Disappearing Off The Agenda

Last year we had David Cameron telling us all about his "great passion" and something that will "make a real difference" to Britain - but there is no place for the Big Society on the agenda for this year's Conservative Party conference.

However, it has been blamed for dividing the cabinet and criticised as a "cover" for government spending cuts, so with volunteering and participation in the community at at a 10 year low, is this another headline grabbing initiative which will slowly be forgotten about?

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Coalition Council Bans British Legion Poppy Sellers

The Royal British Legion has been banned from selling poppies in Birmingham city centre in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday.

Birmingham City Council, which is run by a Liberal Democrat and Conservative coalition, said it was following a strict first-come-first-served policy to applications from charities.

Both the Anthony Nolan Trust and Shelter, who were due to collect on the 11th and 12th November, have offered to waive their right to collect. However, the Chairman of the licensing committee Bruce Lines said "Unfortunately they are unable to overturn that decision as it would be unlawful.".

Labour Councillors in Birmingham have called on the Tory and Lib Dem leaders to make sure this problem is sorted, that common sense prevails and that the British Legion get a satisfactory outcome.

To donate on-line to this year's Poppy Appeal go here.