Thursday 22 December 2016

BelperStuff word of 2016 is --------

It's that time again when dictionary compilers make their judgement on what has been the defining word of the year. Obviously the significance of words varies, country by country and it is interesting to compare choices made. Oxford Dictionaries has put together this neat video (as usual, for those who do not see the embedded video here is the link). In the UK we seem to have adopted:

Post Truth

Meanwhile on the other side of the pond Merriam-Webster chooses:


For me this is surreal:

Yes I can see that Surreal is a reasonable choice given the way it went with just under half of those who voted choosing nihilism. I am though rather disappointed as elevating Trump to stand beside such pillars of art and culture as Bunuel and Dali is not acceptable. That said, there have been disturbing parallels between Bunuel's masterpiece, The Exterminating Angel and the Trump vision of America, at least as seen from this side of the pond. "Terror is our only defence against anguish". Xenophobia as a means to achieve greatness is as surreal as it gets so, on reflection I think that Merriam-Webster got it right. It didn't work in the thirties so why should it work in 2016.

And now for BelperStuff's words of 2016 


Before 2016 this was a word that signified a sort of benevolent fart ........... benevolent insomuch as:

Nellie the elephant packed her trunk and said goodbye to the circus,
Off she went with a trumpety-trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.

Post 2016 it is a noxious smell that has the potential to linger for a minimum of 4 years.

An example of a typical Gove


A Gove is a person of limited intelligence who cruelly believes that he is gifted with great wisdom. Further variations include the term Govian Universe which is an exact fit for the alternative, post truth world that is reported upon by the Daily Mail. Despite repeated attempts by astrophysicists to verify its existence the only theory that has credence is that the Govian Universe is in fact a pub in Kensington where gin sozzled Daily Mail hacks try to outdo each other with ever more fanciful tales.
A further derivative is, "to do a Gove" which is a term used to describe a chaotic reorganisation of an education system but can be used in a more general sense when commenting on the reorganisation of a complete society; as in "to do a Gove with the economy" which is now shortened to the single word, "Brexit".


This is the medical term for the organ used by Nigel Farage to utter. pearls of Trump-like wisdom.


The only measure that really matters. The unequal share of the riches of this planet that leads to impoverishment of both the environment and the peoples who inhabit that environment. No attempt at a joke here.

Words to look out for in 2017


This is the pleasure experienced by a bigot when they think that they have found proof that their bigoted view of the world is in fact correct. You will see a lot of this in 2017 as post-truth believers search diligently for any evidence that tells them that their faith in Govian reality and or the fragrance of a Trump has not been misplaced. It also contains hints of schadenfreude because smugetry is at its most enjoyable when accompanied by the feeling of superiority over those who will suffer because they are not as all-seeing as you ............. the Smuget.

Farage gleefully blaming Merkel for the Berlin Christmas market atrocity is an example of a grade A smuget wallowing in Smugetry. His further comments about the Schengen agreement allowing the Christmas market murderer to reach Milan before being stopped is a further example of a smuget smugly making capital out of a tragedy.


This word was formerly known as the 1st day of May or a cry for help from distressed vessels but in 2017 the two meanings are historically linked when Mayday is used to signify the day we all drew in our breath in utter astonishment at the sparsity of ideas contained in the May government's strategy for Brexit.


Trump declares that this is in fact a thriving community in Mississippi and a Fox News journalist is sent there post haste to do a voxpop of randomly selected citizens driving rusting pickup trucks.

Fissiparous (English usage)

If society seems to be broken in 2016 you ain't seen nothing yet. As the cracks become wider the true nature of our plight becomes all too apparent. In 2017 the word fissiparous (Oxford Dictionary definition as in "the fissiparous tendencies inate in tribalism") is on everyone's lips as populist movements fragment when promise after promise gets broken. The inherent problem of nebulous politics such as Brexit is that at some point those you bamboozled expect to see tangible results and when you fail to deliver society becomes fissiparous.

Fissiparous (US usage)

Sometime towards the end of 2017 Trump adopts the word and it becomes a staple of Oval Office banter. Unfortunately he gets it confused with the vapourising potential of fissile materiel resulting in the start of World War 3. (see here a New York Times article about Trump tweeting that the US should expand it nuclear capability).

Hopefully we survive long enough to look forward to words that define 2018.

Monday 21 November 2016

It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

Writing a blog like this you must always ask yourself the question, have I something that is worth saying or am I just adding my paltry two penn'orth in the delusion that what I say and think actually matters. With that in mind I strive for originality and one device that I turn to  is to make reference to a quote from someone better qualified than myself or to make an amusing link to a song which bears a similar message. With the title of this post, quoting Macbeth, I am obviously going for gold and trust that you are already ahead of me in imagining that Shakespeare wrote this pithy line with Trump in mind. The sound and fury bit is plucked from the Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow speech spoken by Macbeth himself:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

I was reminded of this when following up an interesting item in the Independent, How did Obama explain Trump's win to his daughters? where I read the following:

How did he speak with his two daughters about the election results, about the post-election reports of racial incidents? “What I say to them is that people are complicated,” Obama told me. “Societies and cultures are really complicated. . . . This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it’s messy. And your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding. And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop. . . . You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say, O.K., where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.”

The Independent article was in turn a nugget taken out of a far more impressive piece in the New Yorker Magazine: Obama reckons with a Trump presidency by the editor, David Remnick. Check out the link; it is a well written read.

I know that Obama's words may not on the surface seem to chime with Macbeth but the similarity for me is in the quiet acceptance that all is underpinned by time. Perhaps the most impressive is the acknowledgement that you have to contend with your own bigotry as well as that of others. As I said, read the full New Yorker article and perhaps you too will see the common sanguinity of Obama and Macbeth.

Hyper Normalisation

In that New Yorker article Obama also spoke about the acceptance of untruths during campaigning and how just a few short years ago such distortions would not have been accepted.  He also speaks of the role of social media and how an truth (his example was of global warming) has no more prominence than an untruth. There is no quick fix for this but somehow we have to work out how to separate fiction from fact.

It was then quite apt that I chanced upon a film by Adam Curtis, HyperNormalisation on the BBC iPlayer. Here is the link: HyperNormalisation, a film to be found on the BBC website. I apologise to those who are unable to view media content on the BBC but I urge you to seek out this film as it plots the early years of several government's misinforming their citizens and their complicity in manufacturing fiction as fact following the withdrawal of US troops  from the Lebanon in the face of the new weapon, suicide bombing. It is a point of view that is well worth considering and it does echo Obama in that New Yorker piece. (going back to the climate debate):

That marked a decisive change from previous political eras, he maintained. “Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree that climate change is the consequence of man-made behavior, because that’s what ninety-nine per cent of scientists tell us,” he said. “And then we would have a debate about how to fix it. That’s how, in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, you had Republicans supporting the Clean Air Act and you had a market-based fix for acid rain rather than a command-and-control approach. So you’d argue about means, but there was a baseline of facts that we could all work off of. And now we just don’t have that.”

The HyperNormalisation film claims that a regard for evidence and truth was ditched in the area of foreign policy following the bombing of the US barracks in Beirut in 1983. Many now believe that there are governments that have extended such disinformation into other areas of governance, most notably in their handling of refugees, migrant workers, treatment of the impoverished and their complicity in the rise of unrestricted capitalism. The use of outright lies in both the Brexit and US presidential elections indicate that this trend is accelerating.

Unfortunately there are many who vote after hearing the tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. 

Thursday 10 November 2016

Nuit Blanche ............... A sleepless night

For those of you suffering from a sleepless night ............. you know .......... when that nightmare keeps returning and continues to colour your mood through the waking day .............. I offer you this as a healing balm. Nuit Blanche by Eberhard Weber:

I apologise to those who just don't like this sort of stuff.

Who better to comment than the Marx Brothers

Wise words from a wise man
The pain is now transatlantic and amplified by thoughts that other people in other lands may prove to be susceptible to this distortion of truth that masquerades as political wisdom. We fear the domino effect. At the very least the fallout will effect every continent, the double hit of Brexit and Trumpism leading to the downward spiral of protectionism both in the importation of goods and people. It is the callous exploitation of our basest fears that wrankles the most. The EU Leave campaign scapegoating the foreigner, the self same trick then rolled out in the US to get a self confessed misogynist liar to the White House. We stand on the brink of indecency as the far right take note that if you keep scratching at  the sore of xenophobia you will gain electoral success.

................ and then this prescient wisdom from Karl

The underlying problem is the freedom of capital which moves manufacturing and service delivery to locations where pay rates are at there lowest. Without a matching freedom of labour everybody suffers except those who we define as capitalists. In the American context I refer you once again to the articles of Josef Stiglitz at the Roosevelt Institute (Roosevelt Institute Link) . If we credit our politicians with even a scrap of intelligence then their baying calls to blame immigration for the ills of unemployment and poverty is a cynical distortion of reality espoused for their own self interest or the protection of the wealth of those who fund them (why they do this is perfectly described by J.K. Galbraith - see here in the previous BelperStuff blog post). On the other hand, if Trump, May, Farage, Johnson, Le Pen, Frauke Petry and sadly many, many others, if they genuinely believe what they are preaching then their reason has been irretrievably corrupted by an innate xenophobia which, when it is directed at specific peoples is nothing short of racism. Whatever the motivation the manipulation of facts to the point of outright lying to the electorate fundamentally undermines the legitimacy of  their tenure in Downing Street or the White House. If we have to add the Élysée Palace and/or the Reichstag to that list then we will indeed have returned to a world reminiscent of the 1930's.

So what is to be done?

Those opposed to this abhorrent crew and their message of racism and hatred have to find a way of moving the debate into the realm of fact ............ not fiction. The scapegoating of immigration must be challenged and any temptation by a left leaning political party to adopt a watered down yet still repressive control of immigration in the hope that by so doing they gain an advantage at the ballot box has to be resisted. Only the truth will suffice. If you want to dig deeper into this then I can suggest nothing better than this article from the Global Civil Society 2004 Yearbook. This references, amongst many other sources and ideas, this quote from Marx, " if free movement of capital is allowed, so free movement of labour should be".

A conversation with my wife as we drove home from a Labour branch meeting the other evening really set me thinking. She reminded me of the meeting we attended at the Labour Conference in Liverpool this year, to be specific, the meeting of Christians on the Left where the references in the bible to acceptance and love of the foreigner chimed perfectly with my own belief in open borders. I contrasted the open hearted and unconditional love I witnessed at that meeting with an interview on the BBC last night with a representative of the Evangelical Movement in America who without any qualms was able to defend the fact that 4 out of 5 white evangelicals voted for Trump. (see this article in Christianity Today). They are self styled as "born again" but I fear that many in the world will suffer because of the inherent born again racism of christian fundamentalists in the US. We have to find a way to counter these extremists who cleave to those who preach hate such as Trump. We just have to find a way of reaching their minds. If only we could call a meeting between the US Evangelicals and the Liverpool Christians on the Left, Now that would be a debate worth watching.


We also have to be prepared for the unthinkable. The running mate of Trump, Mike Pence, will now become the Vice-President in two months time. Mike Pence is a creationist see this youtube video of Pence speaking against the theory of evolution. He is but one step upon the grassy knoll of becoming the President (not something I would wish for I hasten to add). The fear is that even as a Vice-President he will be given a range of responsibilities by a President who will not want to be bothered by details. That he might be given the freedom to enforce a change in school curriculums that will embed the idea in young impressionable minds across the entire US that our world is a mere 4,000 or perhaps 7,000 years old is chilling. Who knows what Trump promised to Pence to get him to agree to be his running mate ................ and who know what the pair of them have had to promise to deliver to enlist the support of a variety of organisations, not least the global warming denying element of capitalism that wants to stifle any debate about the environment ( but that's a topic for another blogpost).   

The wonderful wall, the 11 million expulsions, borders closed to muslims and the imposition of 45% trade tariffs and what else? Exclusion, expulsion, embargoes and protectionism have proved to be persuasive arguments in both the EU Referendum and US Presidential campaign ................ a far cry from the Christians on the Left and Marxist philosophy that mankind should be borderless. 

Remember, if you want to avoid that sleepless night:

Love banishes fear

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Brexit reminds me of the Nantucket Sleigh Ride

Four months on from the EU referendum and still no sight of a plan. The warnings of dire consequences following a Leave vote are materialising even before the process of negotiating an exit gets underway next March. I am losing track of the state of the pound but it is getting dangerously close to losing 20% of its value which in turn means higher prices in the shops (Unilever looking to raise prices for its products by 10%) and inflation is tipped to go from the post referendum level of 0.6% to over 2.5% sometime next year. Meanwhile the UK FTSE index goes from strength to strength so the folks with capital make money whilst those of more modest means have to pay the price. We witnessed similar distortions following the "credit crunch" with subsequent household earnings of the better off going up whilst the less well off have suffered severe cuts to their income.
Seismic economic and now with Brexit, political changes do seem to offer significant opportunities for the wealthy to become wealthier whilst the ranks of the impoverished increase in numbers following each shock to society.

I cannot escape the feeling that the desire for revolution now resides within the very soul of capitalism because ............ well along with chaos comes the chance to make a lot of money. For years the establishment have warned against the revolutionary forces of the left, how they were committed to the overthrow of the state and the destruction of civilised life as we know it therefore a vote for conservative policies was the safest and surest way to preserve that which was worth preserving. Those of us who have ever been involved with the so-called revolutionary left were never fooled by this
rhetoric because we remember looking around at our beret wearing comrades, miserably fixated on making a half pint last through an International Socialists (IS - later to become the SWP) meeting in a dingy pub back room. It was painfully obvious that these good folk would never become the standard bearers of a new world order.

It was the late sixties, the bloom of flower power inevitably withered at the end of one brief summer, Students in revolt in Berlin and Paris; a raging battle between the police and anti-Vietnam war demonstrators in Grosvenor Square in London. A prominent Tory MP touring the country preaching his bile of hate against non-whites settling in our community whilst Russian tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia, crushing the tender shoots of the Prague Spring. History was in the making all around us but we IS members could only contribute to the cause by standing on street corners on a Saturday morning selling copies of Black Dwarf which contained the thoughts of Tariq Ali; but it was doubtful if those that were sold were ever read.

Disillusioned, I started to listen to other voices, broadening my reading then chanced upon a talk being given by J.K.Galbraith who had been part of the President Kennedy administration. Galbraith was a gangling height of a man who draped his angular body around the lectern, his essentially monotone voice gaining much needed modulation from an infrequently raised long and bony finger ........... but the delivery was of no matter because he held his audience with his words. I can still hear that voice in my head, "Revolution brings the most harm to those it purports to set free". I of course paraphrase but he went on to say that the best hope for society was an evolutionary democracy that held the wellbeing of its citizens as a core objective. Strangely enough, a few weeks later I heard Harold Wilson making those exact same points in a televised speech. I was already an affiliated member of the Labour Party through my union, the TGWU, but it was Galbraith and then Wilson who severed my "fashionable" involvement with the revolutionary left.

If you've managed to read this far you are probably wondering what all this has to do with Brexit and what on earth is the relevance of a Nantucket Sleigh Ride. Yes I'll get to the point. We now seem to be living through times of revolution and chaos felt most acutely in Britain but also in the US (think Trump), the middle east never more dysfunctional and we hold our collective breath in fear of the next African famine or scourge of disease. In both the US and the UK self serving politicians with the fervent backing of their own biased media have scapegoated immigrants for all the perceived shortcomings of society. The result in the UK is plain to see as our politicians fail to come up with an answer to a problem which is of their own making. The Nantucket Sleigh Ride analogy refers to the harpooning of a whale by men precariously hunting their prey from a small rowing boat. The harpooned whale would take off with fright, towing the row-boat behind them at considerable speed until all the strength of the great beast was exhausted. Being towed by the whale was dubbed the Nantucket Sleigh Ride.

I don't think I have to spell this out but .......... the UK politicians who campaigned for us to leave the EU have harpooned the whale of Brexit.
Follow this link for the source of this cartoon
They are now being towed at great speed, clinging on to the gunwhales with white knuckles, praying that the blind panic of Brexit will soon run its course and that by then a plan will have emerged, how to deal with the bloodied carcass of our economy.

At least the Labour Party emerged from months of navel gazing to mount a serious challenge to the government last week. It is not unreasonable to ask Teresa May and her Tory team how they propose to tame the beast that is Brexit but the response that they do not want to show what cards they possess before they begin negotiations is vacuous. There is no trump card, no winning suit. Everybody involved with the negotiations, from May/Boris/Fox/Davies to Angela Merkel's dog knows that we are a busted flush.
Meanwhile the fat cats who fund the Tories make money out of the chaos as the rest of us pay the price of their selfishness .............. for as Galbraith said:

Finally- for those of a nostalgic bent

Mountain - Nantucket Sleigh Ride

Friday 7 October 2016

A brief heads up on the Neighbourhood Plan 4 Belper blog

A Neighbourhood Plan for Belper/Transition Belper team with the help of some other great volunteers undertook a dawn to dusk traffic survey by the Belper market Place on Thursday 6th October and a brief initial look at the data has been posted to the or you can use the Neighbourhood Plan tab situated above left to this post. Of immediate interest is this graph using just a part of their data:

Graph from NP4B

Saturday 1 October 2016

The Labour Party Conference 2016 - Momentum and the alternative debate

Since writing the last two BelperStuff blog posts about Conference Sunday I have stumbled upon this article:

The interior of the Black E. Christopher Furlong/Getty images

I was disappointed that we could not gain access to the Momentum event as I was keen to understand what this alternative vision for the left was all about. So far all I have managed to see are the negatives but as is the way of all things, there must be positives; nothing's all bad.

I am posting the link to John Harris's Thursday article in the Guardian not because I necessarily believe his assertion that we were witnessing the birth of a new Labour Party .......... that is far too glib and an assertion based upon very scant evidence but he did point out the positive side of the Momentum alternative conference. There was really no joy in witnessing the sadness of the 38% who attended the conference proper in the ACC on Albert Dock and if there was fresh and relevant debate going on just half a mile away in the city then I am sad that I missed it. For many at the main conference there really was a feeling of being the unwanted embarrassment, like ballroom dancers at a disco (yes I did see Ed Balls arriving at conference on Sunday) and they would have benefited from participation in a genuine debate.

It was striking how conversations with the 38% turned towards the activism of local politics and the problems of delivering social care, housing and transport in specific towns or regions. It was almost as if those who did not vote for Jeremy had realised that they were now excluded from the national debate but that they still had some relevance at borough, city or county level. In that they are probably correct because there are an awful lot of activists numbered in that 38%. It is such a shame that they now feel excluded from the national debate because I witnessed many discussions about how the party was evolving with many making similar comments to those described by John Harris in the Black E. 

Time will tell but I think it is far too early for John Harris to claim that a new Labour Party is emerging. Sadly there is still some way to go but I do genuinely take heart that issues of party identity were discussed at the  Momentum alternative conference. What concerns me is that there is a large section of the party that feels disenfranchised from the debate.

In Liverpool I balanced the navel gazing within the conference with the views of ordinary voters. Liverpool is a Labour city and as such a good barometer of the current health of the party. I spoke with bar staff, hotel staff, passengers on trains, policemen, taxi and bus drivers ............ well just about anyone who I shared a couple or more minutes with outside the conference hall, conversation being easy because they were keen to talk with someone wearing a conference pass around their neck. I have to say that not one of those people were happy with the Labour Party in its present state or confident that there will be any improvement in the short term. When I asked if they would still be voting Labour many said that there is no real alternative but rather than a positive vote for Labour it would be a negative vote to ensure that the Tories or worse do not get in.

Policy rather than personality

I welcome any optimism towards Labour's future but I feel that John Harris may be a little bit premature with his article. By the end of conference I started to detect a level of disquiet amongst a few of the 62% at the fudging of Labour's position on Trident. Similarly I detected some soul searching of the 38% with the policy commitments for uncapped immigration and taking back into public control and properly funding social services such as care for the elderly. These policies resonate with many of the 38% and may be a means by which the party can move forward. There is genuine hope that if the party can move on to debating policy rather than personality we will start to be of relevance to our voters.

Thursday 29 September 2016

The Labour Party Conference 2016 - Good feeling of Sunday lunchtime unity lost by the evening

I have realised that the problems encountered on Sunday evening at the Labour Conference are the cause of my tardiness in writing these blog posts. I needed a little time to calm myself to ensure that my words were balanced and objective. To be honest I was shaken up a little and if I was other than I am, a grizzled old bloke with decades of experiences to fall back on, what happened when my wife and I visited the Momentum Conference held in the Black E would have been very upsetting.

The Black E. Photographed by the BBC on a quieter day

We were interested in attending the debate on anti-semitism that was hosted by Momentum. I was very pleased that they decided to explore this theme as the accusations made against Labour have to be fully discussed if only to satisfy those critics who believe that the Labour Party does contain elements who are anti-Jewish. The list of speakers was impressive and this seemed like a go to event but unfortunately we could not get in as there was a long queue to get into the building (I estimate a couple of hundred of us). To the credit of Momentum we were kept informed about how long we would have to wait but, in the end we were told that despite the switching of this meeting to a larger room that was now full so we could not get in. As to what happened in the meeting I depend upon this report of proceedings: New Statesman report by Anoosh Chakelian which contains some degree of criticism towards (amongst others) Jackie Walker the chair of the meeting. I do however take some comfort from the update to the article:

 Momentum appears to be distancing itself from Walker’s comments at this event. A spokesperson emphasises that the group hosted the discussion on antisemitism in light of the Chakrabarti inquiry “because it is absolutely crucial that our movement understands how antisemitism manifests itself, and works to stamp it out in society as a whole as well as in our party”.

That's well said and I do hope that the Labour Party can benefit from the wise council of the Jewish Labour Movement headed by Jeremy Newmark. Working together to prevent not just claims of anti-semitism but anti-semitism itself must be our goal. There has subsequently been published a fascinating article in the Guardian:  

This is truly a minefield and I comment on this issue with some trepidation so I urge you to look at both articles and make up your own mind. Such a pity that we could not get into the meeting.

What happened next

If we had managed to enter the Black E then the bit of nastiness that followed would not have happened. We stood to the tail end of the queue, very close to a group from the Wallasey Labour Party branch that has been suspended: see here for the BBC report on that suspension. I have some sympathy for branch members who are denied a voice but as all branch meetings were subsequently suspended across the whole country my interest in the plight of the Wallasey branch faded away. That is until Sunday evening when the Wallasey branch staged a street meeting beside the Black E queue where speaker after speaker spoke of their grievances at being suspended and in some cases expelled from the party. The atmosphere was becoming uneasy for some who are not used to such forthright street politics but in truth I had no problem as they were merely shouting out what they had to say but then a young woman went along the queue asking us to sign a Momentum petition for mandatory deselection of Labour Members of Parliament. When she asked me I had to decline, telling her that I would not sign because I did not believe that such a rule change was desirable.

Unfortunately the young lady then became very abusive stating with increasing decibels that I was obviously a Blairite in favour of government cuts and that there would be a purge of Labour members like me from the party (she could see my conference pass slung around my neck). I should have known better but I responded that just because a Labour Party member does not agree with a particular point of view does not mean that they should be shouted at and hounded out of the party but she would not have it. I did not wish to prolong the encounter and luckily we then realised that queuing to get in to the building would not be successful and a gentle tug on my arm by my wife who cleverly made the suggestion that we go for a beer. She knows me well only to well; with the merest hint of a beer I am as predictable as Pavlov's dog.

I do however have real fear that there are many who support mandatory deselection of out of favour MP's but also a purge of members who did not vote for Jeremy. Only last week I had 2 young local members asking me why I bothered to stay in Labour if I did not support Jeremy (I hasten to add that this is not typical of my fellow branch members). I also saw evidence within the conference hall itself of a certain ......... shall we call it a distance ......... between the traditional Labour members and the new entrants. In one case I saw an elderly black lady who seemed quite upset being told by a young man that she should not be so insulting to him on account of his youth. I did not see the start of that altercation but there really does seem to be a disconnect between parts of our party. 

Don't get the impression that it was all young against the old, far from it. I was talking with a shop steward in the bar of my hotel, a man about the same age as me who, when learning that I had not voted for Jeremy said that he could no longer talk with one such as me and promptly walked away to the other end of the bar. To his credit he returned 10 minutes later to apologise for his behaviour saying that he needed some time to get his head straight. I subsequently bumped into him at fringe meetings and then again at breakfast in the hotel and we were comradely to the point of enjoying each others company. We neither of us could understand why this rift within the party has developed or how we ourselves could become infected by it.

I spoke with many at the conference who were similarly bemused and were tentatively reaching out for some assurances that they were still valued as members of the party. I soon became adept at working out who had voted for Owen Smith or even abstained from voting in the leadership election because on first meeting there would be a degree of evasiveness before they would talk freely about their views. There was no hostility towards Jeremy but they all had deep concerns about the electability of Labour. I listened carefully to what each of them had to say and again and again it was the same story, that we were losing our core Labour support and therefore becoming a party that could not get into government ............. that the fervent Corbyn supporters were blind to this. I encountered this from average members such as myself to "beleaguered" senior local councillors.

I really am sorry if anyone has been offended by this post. Looking deeply inside myself I can genuinely say that I don't have a problem with any of the people I have mentioned. We each try to make meaning out of this confusing world whilst we are fed so much disinformation. Is it any wonder that when a strong clear message of hope comes along there are many who grasp it out of desperation. Thinking of that young woman who condemned me as a Blairite, a name that has now become shorthand for all the ills they perceive in the party, thinking of her I have to say that I admire her enthusiasm and the desire to act. We should be very thankful that there are still people who care enough that they give up their free time to pursue and oppose the injustices that best our society. We just have to work our way through these current difficulties and then I am sure that we will once again be on an upward trajectory.

That phrase from Saturday night keeps whispering in my head:

Love banishes fear

A week later and a late addition. I chanced upon a thought provoking article by Sarah Ditum which really got me thinking about my own views:

Labour can't solve its anti-semitism problem until it understands why the left needs to blame the Jews

The Labour Party Conference 2016 - An outbreak of peace and solidarity at lunchtime

Sunday was an amazing day here in Liverpool, the sun was shining, the Mersey sparkled and the delegates and visitors were still full of hope at the start of the conference. I have to admit that I nearly fell asleep in the opening hours in the main conference hall but how lucky I was in my choice of lunchtime fringe event.

The view of the Mersey from my seat at the Mirror/Unite Sunday lunchtime meeting

Real Britain Fringe: Reconnecting Britain

This was an event organised jointly by the Daily Mirror and Unite the Union with a range of very interesting speakers chaired by the well known Associate Editor of the paper, Kevin Maguire. The speakers included:

Dave Johns (the lead actor in I, Daniel Blake) who spoke about his experiences making the film with Ken Loach. Apparently Ken's directorial advice to the actors was that they should listen to each other - - something that we must be doing in the Labour Party.

Liz Carr, the actress (you may know her from her work in Silent Witness) and she gave a most impassioned speech about the evil of the Tories and their "tax" on the disabled and the awfulness of the disability assessments. She is a brilliant speaker who should be heard by a wider audience -------- so here it is, an embedded video in this Daily Mirror article:

You will notice Andy Burnham sitting beside Liz and being given the unenviable task of following her speech. I was willing him to do well because he lost a lot of support when he ran for leadership in 2015 and opened his campaign with an austerity-light speech. I was thinking of voting for him as I thought he was the best bet to unite left-right-centre of the party but there was no way that I and many others could endorse any Labour policy that advocated that the deficit should be contained by taking money away from the impoverished. Admittedly by the end of that campaign he had changed his position but by then it was too late. That said I could see that Andy was a force for inclusivity in the party and a person who could appeal to the ........... I am sorry for this but this is the accepted language ......... the broad church that is the Labour Party and those who vote for it. He did not disappoint me on Sunday with a speech that was strong on regional opportunities .......... not surprising given that he is our candidate for devolved Mayor of Manchester. He cemented his rehabilitation in my heart when he stated that under his leadership Labour would bring back all social services into municipal control, in effect reversing the privatisation that has so bedevilled the care of our elderly, vulnerable adults and special needs youngsters. This is what Manchester needs and let's hope the example of Manchester catches fire in the rest of the country.

Andy went on talk about the folly of Teresa May and her faffing around with the fate of EU citizens who live and work in the UK. Andy said that she should have granted them an assured right of residency on day one of her sojourn as Prime Minister. He is right. At a later meeting on Tuesday evening I leant that there are 191,000 non-British EU citizens employed in the social care system. Without them our care services would collapse. Come on Mrs May get real and show some backbone before you earn the soubriquet of Teresa May Not .......... ooops .......... too late.

All the other speakers were impressive and there was a genuine warmth in the room. This was a Unite the Union event and that was the atmosphere in the room ........... United.

Monday 26 September 2016

The Labour Party Conference 2016 - Saturday evening - Christians on the Left

The conference started on Saturday evening for me. Arrival in Liverpool was followed by an afternoon in the art gallery just opposite Lime Street Station; a dose of culture before immersing myself in the internal wranglings of the Party. That said, I was pleasantly surprised with the first fringe event, Christians on the Left - The Theology of Refugees.

This was a marvelous event ---- even for me, a decidedly non-believer in fact an atheist. The important thing was that all in the room were socialists and in this we were united. There was no debate about who we voted for to lead the party, this meeting was about refugees and how we should respond to their plight.

The main element was a forensic examination of what the Bible has to say about refugees presented by Tim Morley. As he started I braced myself for what was to come but within minutes I was fascinated with the story that Tim unfolded. I learnt that there are numerous references in the Bible to the alien, the stranger or the foreigner and in all cases there is the exhortation to treat them as you would be treated yourself ............ it even goes further by stating that we must honour and cherish them. After 50 minutes of carefully being led through both the old and the new testament I could understand why religious communities in Britain are so insistent that the Tories must change their policies towards refugees.

I left the meeting with my atheism intact but I did gain a profound respect for Christians on the Left and their message of love and understanding. There were a few statements that stood out:

  • Christians must love in both thought and action.
  • There is a place for righteous anger in the church.
  • Perfect love casts out all fear.
I think that these are ideas that even we atheists can accept and make a part of our lives. 

For those christians who might chance across this blog here are the references that Tim explored:
  • Leviticus 19: 17-18 and 33-34
  • Exodus 22: 21 and 23
  • Deuteronomy 10: 19
  • John 3:16-18
  • Leviticus again 24:22
  • Numbers 15: 15-16
  • Luke 4: 18-19
  • Matthew 25: 35-36

Friday 23 September 2016

The Labour Party Conference 2016 --- or Mayhem on Merseyside

The Summer hiatus is well and truly over and BelperStuff returns ----- not exactly refreshed and re-energised ------ more shaking head in amazement at what is going on. There have been many days when it was tempting to break the self imposed purdah and some posts were actually written but, as my finger hovered over the upload to the blog key the question was asked, "is this a useful addition to the debate or merely vanity on my part." The month of silence speaks for itself.

As you can see from the title of this post BelperStuff will once again be attending the Labour Party Conference, this year in Liverpool. The main event is as predictable as ever. Composite motions being voted for by delegates which will then become party policy. You can watch all this on television so what is the point of going to the expense and bother of physically being there? It's the fringe events that are the attraction; the only real problem being which events to attend and thereby which conflicting events to forego. It is wise to plan these things so choices have already been made:

  1. Saturday evening will see BelperStuff attending "The Theology of Immigration". Should be thought provoking.
  2. Sunday evening will be a visit to the Momentum parallel universe for a debate on Labour and anti-semitism. I am pleased to see them staging this.
  3. Monday is SERA day with one fringe event at lunchtime and two in the evening (luckily one follows the other)
  4. At the same time on Monday evening is the East Midlands reception and also the Rally for our EU rights. Somehow I plan to squeeze the East Midlands bash into the half hour gap between the SERA events and then attend the EU rally later in the evening. I should arrive back at the hotel just before they close the late bar!!!
  5. Tuesday provides the opportunity to attend a lunchtime event dealing with railways and in the evening the, "Universal Basic Income - Should Labour Lead the Way?" catches the eye and there is always a chance that, "What Would It Take For Labour To Win  General Election" can be squeezed in beforehand if light relief is needed.
  6. Wednesday has still to be decided upon .......... should it be child poverty or the Labour Energy Forum?
The backdrop to all this is the conference proper and the big question this year is .............. you can fill this in yourselves but I imagine that most will choose a wording that refers to peace breaking out. I am hopeful that this will be an opportunity for the massed ranks sitting in the main hall to magically give off a glow of solidarity which, over the course of 4 days brings about a feeling of unity between members, affiliates, officials and parliamentarians. Well one can dream. 

A thought on bloodletting

The use of bloodletting as a medical procedure endured for thousands of years but gradually lost favour in the 19th century. Strangely the practice jumped species, from the sick and injured to those afflicted with a belief in socialism. The more diverse the intensity of belief then the more need for the veins of the party to be bled. Let's hope that the anaemic body of Labour is now given time and space to replace the spent red corpuscles.

If my own constitution can stand the pace of conference then I will endeavour to report evryday much as I did last year: Labour Conference in Brighton 2015

Now, in true BelperStuff fashion I will sign off this first 2016 conference post with a return to the second best Liverpool band with this video, "When two tribes go to war"...... how precient:

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Labour leadership candidates answers to SERA's questions

Both leadership candidates have now supplied their answers to the Labour Environment Campaign (SERA) questions.

This is Jeremy's response

.......... and this is Owen's

I will leave you to make up your own minds but on first reading there doesn't seem to be much difference in their answers. Being the cynic that I am I do actually wonder who it was who penned these responses.

SERA Campaign

The SERA Breath of fresh air campaign is referenced in the answers and this is the link to the relevant pdf.

This is a national initiative yet many of the levers of change are accessible at local level. for instance, the task of monitoring air quality is undertaken by local authorities which for us is Amber Valley Borough Council. Upon investigating their air quality annual reports I discovered that Bridge Street in Belper, despite being a key monitoring location has not been tested since 2008. The records show that there was a 10% increase in certain classes of air contaminants between 2004 and 2008 even though the readings were still below the maximum permissible standards.

The next step should be to read the SERA fresh air pdf and you might also find this SERA article by Samantha Heath - Campaigning against polluted streets to be of interest.

Monday 22 August 2016

Re-posting: Labour Environment Campaign questions for Corbyn and Owen.

BelperStuff does not normally repost articles but this simple set of questions does not need any interference from me. If you want to know more about SERA (the Labour Environment Campaign) then try this link to their house magazine, New Ground.

The following was emailed to SERA supporters this month:

Labour Leadership Election 2016

In just under seven weeks (this was posted on 9th August)  we will meet in Liverpool for the results of the Labour Leadership Election and Party Conference.
So far in this campaign the challenges of climate change and the need for a strong and progressive set of environment policies has not been given sufficient prominence, indeed it wasn’t mentioned at all at the last hustings. It is time to change that.
We’ve produced the following questions to ask Owen and Jeremy, will you join us and ask them too?
1. Ambition: What do you think are the key environmental challenges ahead?
2. Challenging the Government: The government is not on track to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, will need to fulfil commitments agreed at Paris and agree new commitments flowing from COP21 in the next two to three years. How will you and your team hold the government to account and encourage them to pursue a stronger environmental agenda?
3. Brexit: There is a huge threat to environmental laws, protections and enforcement due to Brexit? How will you work with NGOs, SERA and across parties to get the best deal post-Brexit for the environment and challenge vested interests seeking to water down commitments?
4. Devolution: There is an important role and agency for the nations, combined authorities, Mayors and local authorities in driving strong environmental agendas. How will you work, support and further empower sub-national organisations in tackling climate change and securing ambitious environmental policies?
5. Mainstreaming: How will you mainstream progressive environmental policy, not just promoting ‘green’ policies like increasing recycling or biodiversity but across all areas of policy: housing (low carbon homes), economic development and growth (green jobs, skills and businesses), transport, procurement, and energy.
6. Just Transition: What is your commitment to ensuring people aren’t left behind in the move to a low carbon society, such as connecting environment programmes to former industrial areas (green jobs), promoting co-operative energy to give people a stake; and challenging climate change skepticism?
7. Inspire Members: How will you promote a strong environmental agenda within the Party and work with SERA to inspire members, activists and organisations? Also SERA runs a number of campaigns. SERA is currently campaigning on air quality and supporting a call for a new Clean Air Act. Will you support A Breath of Fresh Air and join a growing number of Labour MPs, MEPs, AMs and councillors demanding action?
At SERA we believe Labour must challenge the government on its environmental failings and that our party campaigns on an ambitious and progressive environmental agenda which can inspire voters and help us win elections. This is an agenda across policy areas including the opportunities for green jobs, improving the standard of living with access to clean air and green spaces, low carbon housing, more and cheaper renewable energy, and improved public transport.
We have sent these questions to the leadership candidates, and encourage you to challenge them on progressive environmentalism too. 

Saturday 20 August 2016

Weep for the voiceless, who have known the cross without the crown of glory!

Weep for the voiceless, who have known
The cross without the crown of glory!

I have been struggling these past few weeks with my own innate pedantry. Faced with a choice of two opposing trenches in the Labour Party leadership battle I have been scoring the mud spattered candidates on their inconsistencies and inabilities. There is much that has disturbed me .......... from the shadow chancellor proclaiming on a public platform that 175 Labour MP's were "f*****g useless" (see it here - an embedded video in a New Statesman article) to Corbyn's idea that extending the right to buy to private tenants would solve the housing crisis (he is quoted here on Labour List in June 2015) , and I could go on with many other issues where I find myself to be at odds with the Corbyn agenda.

Let me be pretentious for a moment

I have to say that I am unconvinced by many in the Labour Party who oppose Corbyn, just as I was in the 2015 leadership contest where I had a choice of 3 who promoted varying degrees of continued austerity but the only anti-austerity candidate was a man who claimed Hamas and Hezbollah as friends ........... that was not a choice so I voted for nobody. I will not make that mistake again. Now we are where we are, staring at each other from entrenched positions whilst between us no-man's land is pock marked with shell holes of distortion within which lay the casualties of the Labour war ............... the voiceless whose only hope is a return to a Labour government. 

The Joseph Rowntree Trust state that there are 13 million people living in the UK who do not have enough to meet their needs. It is they who suffer from austerity but gain nothing if Labour does not get back into power ............ that's 20% (and rising) of the population whose only hope is that the Labour Party wins the next general election.

The crux of the debate

That for me is the crux of the debate; not as some term it a battle for the soul of the party, nor is it a clash of ideologies however hard some try to push that idea. Even though it is tempting to make comparisons with the 1980's and the expulsion of Militant Tendency or the struggle for supremacy of the Bennite purists and the pragmatism of Wilson .................. this now is a different debate .............. should the Labour Party be a broad based movement tolerant of shades of opinion from far left to social liberalism (as expounded by L.T. Hobhouse) and thus attract voters from left, right and centre or should it redefine itself as an expression of grassroots power. I detect a sense that we are revisiting the debate of 1906 where the alliance of trade unions and socialist political groups, coexisting under the Labour Representation Committee banner, decided to call themselves The Labour Party. The core of that historic decision was that the party would seek to promote the interests of those it represented via the ballot box; to gain power through Westminster. Thus was born the Labour Party that gained so much success in the following 100 or so years. The idea that a balance between ideology and pragmatism would be electorally successful and result in such radical social change was but the stuff of dreams in the 19th century. Electability was the key.

Current UK polling for the 2020 general election. Source: link to Wikipedia
UK Opinion Polling for the 2020 election including polls which started on or before 12th August 2016 (moving average is calculated from the last ten polls)
  Liberal Democrats

The decline in Labour support following the EU Referendum in June is marked. I am afraid that Corbyn's assertion that he will have to appeal to potential Tory voters only elicits a shake of the head in disbelief. So back to Oliver Wendell Holmes:

A few can touch the magic string,

And noisy Fame is proud to win them:--
Alas for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them!

We are letting so many people down, by failing to get elected we condemn them to more misery, more lost opportunities and failure to live up to their potential. It's called inequality.