Saturday 19 March 2016

Time to celebrate ............... ODS resigns

BelperStuff is celebrating today, cracking open a bottle of Sanatogen to toast the departure of ODS. Yes Ian Duncan Smith has resigned as Works and Pensions secretary.

There's nothing more to say really so it's back to the fortified wine as I give the editorial zimmer frame an extra celebratory polish.

A reminder that ODS had a sensitive side
For those of you who are concerned that life will feel empty without ODS fear not because he will still be around, making his usual ill judged and ill informed comments in the run-up to the EU referendum. Now that has prompted an odd thought ............. is today's resignation a way of ensuring that he will be offered a position in a Boris led Tory administration?

Later Edit

Cameron has moved swiftly to replace ODS with the appointment of Stephen Crabb. Time will tell how this patron of a local food bank gets on in the post though his vote to suppress a report into food banks and hunger in 2013 suggests that it will be more of the same.

Thursday 17 March 2016

Tory Disabled Website ...... disabled in protest at cuts

The Conservative Disability Group Website is rather interesting just now as this message is on display:

This website is temporarily closed owing to Disability Cuts.
The domain name will be transferred when the group secure new hosting.
The owner of the hosting package Graeme Ellis has resigned over disability cuts from the group and will no longer develop or host this site
This is the link: but I am not sure how long it will be before it is taken down.
Graeme Ellis is a life-long Tory voter but is disgusted at the latest round of disability benefit cuts. It seems a bit strange that the 10% across the board cuts inflicted on the disabled by the Tories in the last parliament was acceptable but it's better late than never if at least one Tory has to pay heed to his conscience. The latest cuts, according to a survey carried out by Labour will inflict cuts of £3,000 per year on 200,000 individuals whilst a further 400,000 will lose over £1,400 per year.
It is feared that these two prominent Tories suffer from a disabled compassion disorder
Googling this news throws up article after article highlighting the repugnance many people feel at this group once again being targeted after having been made to suffer so much in the past 6 years. This is but the tip of the iceberg of news articles condemning these cuts and you might like to take a look at this from the Daily Mail (quick - wash those contaminated typing fingers) Jeremy Corbyn says Osborne has declared war on the disabled.
There are many figures being bandied about but what is most disturbing is that this has become a sustained Tory attack on the principle enshrined in the Welfare State compact with the British people, that the disabled would be given assistance enabling them to have a standard of life as near as possible to that enjoyed by the able-bodied. Gains in social justice are being thrown away as this government pursues its underlying aim .......... to shrink the state and replace it with the chaos of market driven services. Unfortunately for the disabled they are not best suited to thrive in the society that is emerging. It is too easy to draw parallels with the scapegoating of disadvantaged groups in pre-war Europe ........... we are nowhere near that horror .......... but the hardship experienced by those less able to adapt to this Tory philosophy is none the less shocking.  

Then this

The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonald, has referred to George Osborne being, morally reprehensible"; specifically:

Overall, the Government's coffers are set to be boosted by nearly £4.2 billion ............. due to a combination of tax increases and spending cuts.

Mr McDonnell said: "One-third of cuts will fall on people with disabilities - I find that morally reprehensible".

And Finally

Zac Goldsmith, the Richmond MP who is the Tory candidate for Mayor of London voted for the cuts even though he was the patron of Richmond Aid, a local disability charity ......... and duly reported in his local newspaper. He has subsequently had to resign that patronage. 

Later post edit:

The government disinformation machine rolls on. A blog reader has drawn my attention to this:

Wednesday 9 March 2016

David Hare ............. the Tory project is bust

I wonder what Tim Berners-Lee thinks about the phenomenon that he made possible (the World Wide Web). Of course there will be pride in a fantastic revolution in communication but in his quieter moments, when fending off spam and batting aside the barrage of irrelevant trivia that comes with any internet search, does he hold his head in his hands and whisper ................ "what have I done?" When he sits in a train or, say a pub, does he feel responsible for the attitude of those that surround him; the 21st century humans having evolved to sit with heads bent forward, peering into small glowing hand held screens, oblivious to those around them. Although they live in an age where communication with one's fellows has never been so easy it is also the age of unprecedented isolation as physical interaction becomes virtual, conversations become digital. Many would say that what Marshall Mcluhan defined in 1967 with these words, "The medium is the message" has become the definition of our age .................. but .............. sometimes something jumps out of that screen and you want to grab your neighbour by the elbow, break into their candy crush obsession and say, "look at this" ............... and we have one of these moments with this article, David Hare - Why the Tory project is bust, a distillation of his 2016 Richard Hillary Lecture at Oxford University. 

It's a long read but is all the more powerful for that. I have chosen a couple of quotes to whet your appetite. David Hare is a master of words, a playwright who has brought insight and intelligence to stage and screen, elevating comment into art, making the underlying themes of our times accessible through drama. I have searched for a video of the lecture itself but so far without success. The quotes:

"There is a bleak fatalism at the heart of conservatism, which has been codified into the lie that the market can only do what the market does, and that we must therefore watch powerless. We have seen the untruth of this in the successful interventions governments have recently made on behalf of the rich. Now we long for many more such interventions on behalf of everyone 

You cannot pamper the rich, punish the poor, cut benefits and then say: “Now feel British!”

Which prompts us to ask, "what next?"

Towards the end of David Hare's article he laments the dearth of original thinking within the present day Labour Party ............ not quite in so stark a way as I have put it but the reference to a nostalgia for 1945 and the pride in the NHS is recognisable. It is important to understand where we are now and how we got here but this must be followed with "what next?". BelperStuff has over the past 10 months looked at the challenges and opportunities, the choices that we as a society can make. Bashing Tories can become so very tiresome. We want to look forward, to be optimistic and to offer hope. The editorial team of BelperStuff believes that a return to socialist values will provide that hope but you cannot rely solely on a philosophy; you must have a structured plan that people can believe in .......... and vote for. You have to replace the politics of fear with a narrative of ambition. (I am here reminded of something else that Marshall Mcluhan said, "A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding" which should be an ever present thought for a blog such as BelperStuff). 

A must read
Thankfully there are some thinkers in the Labour Party who are looking at the "what next" question. It is heartening that the party is paying heed to the Nobel prize  winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and a recent meeting of minds has been written about by Liam Byrne here: An article by Liam Byrne - Only a new capitalism can end inequality in Britain. This is where Labour comes in. Here is but a snippet from Liam's article which was inspired by a talk given to a cross-party group of parliamentarians by Stiglitz.

"Though the Tories attacked us at the time, the advent of the new deal and tax credits meant that, for millions of people, work paid more than welfare. In Rewriting the Rules published last September, Joe Stiglitz argued that progressives need to hold on to the investment we’ve made in education. But we’ve got to be bold reformers now – because quite simply, the rules of our economic institutions are rewarding the wrong people with the wrong prizes and encouraging bad behaviour".

Note that link to Rewrite the rules. It deals with the inequalities and imbalances within the American economy but the problems are universal and apply equally to this side of the pond.

But there is more, a whole raft of thinking that can shape Labour policy, making it a perfect fit for the challenges ahead. There are so many strands of thought that have to be considered but our underlying direction must be the eradication of inequality. There are always those who scoff at such an aspiration but, as another great thinker said, 

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. J.K.Galbraith

In conclusion

This post was motivated by David Hare's article and has prompted a look back at his career spanning over 40 years of inspirational theatre. I was delighted to come across this YouTube video of his 1995 play, The Absence of War which concerns the Labour failure of the 1992 election (this is the link for those who receive BelperStuff blogs by email):

.............. then there is this fascinating episode of Theatre Talk, a discussion with David Hare about his play, Stuff Happens, a look at the origins on the Iraq war:

Once again, here is the link for those receiving the blog via email

Wednesday 2 March 2016

EU referendum .................. to see ourselves as others see us.

A month ago BelperStuff commented on the US primaries and likened them to Alice in Wonderland. Some might say that was a tad patronising but for many of us here in the UK the dynamics of the US political scene are impenetrable. There are similarities with this side of the pond but there are so many elements that feel very alien. We shake our heads at the rise of Trump or the dynastic nature of governance (Bushes and Clintons) and say that could not possibly happen here ............. but then we have the phenomenon of the Bullingdon Club, former Eton schoolboys joining a dining and party loving elite Oxford set (that's the Bullingdon Club) who then go on to become the apex of the UK government (see here:/iconicphotos.the-bullingdon-club/). Now the intention of this post is not to rake over ground that has been endlessly sifted through during the past decade; the Bullingdon Club is however an example of what the average American might point to in the British system and find the word "touche" hovering on their lips.

So it is a matter of perspective, your view shaped by where you live and how you define yourself. This reminds me of the last stanza of  Robbie Burns poem " The Louse" written after he espied a louse on a lady's bonnet:

Robbie Burns 1759 - 1796 (Wikipedia)
O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us! It wad frae mony a blunder free us, An' foolish notion: What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us, An ev'n devotion!

Yes if only we had that power; to step outside our own world and look upon ourselves, our country, our beliefs .......... as others see us. Of course there are some who can manage that feat, capable of stepping back and seeing things not from the perspective of a person within but as somebody without. At a basic, instinctual level this can be achieved by those blessed with the power to empathise, the ability to see a situation from the viewpoint of another. For those not so blessed there is an intellectual discipline that can be employed ........... objectivism (and I am not here referencing the word as used by Ayn Rand). Being objective entails rising above and seeing all sides of an argument and attempting to form an evidence based understanding of, say, the politics of a nation.

This post concerns the EU referendum so what do we see if we climb into our intellectual helicopter (please forgive this clumsy allusion) and rise up above the claims, the clamour, the bias and evidence poor EU debate ............... well it's personalities that come into focus. 

Since the general election in May 2015 the news has been dominated by the bloodletting in the Labour Party ............... the agonising search for the 21st century soul of the party following two defeats inflicted by a media backed Tory group that have managed to implant the idea that the ills of society can be blamed on the poor and therefore the party that naturally fights against inequality ........ the Labour Party, is wholly responsible for .............. well they would claim everything that is wrong with our country. The angst in Labour ranks is understandable as we try to understand the disconnect with the so-called middle of the electorate and chart our way through to 2020 and beyond.

With our rotor blades holding us aloft we look down on the left and not so left in disarray whilst the right surge on with confidence after the May 2015 win ............ but wait a moment .......... is that a serious fault line we see emerging in the Tory ranks? Yes ............ the vitriol and sheer bile with which Tory cabinet colleagues are now ripping into each other as they align themselves in the EU referendum debate is astonishing. Well perhaps not so astonishing for those of us who have been around for a few decades because this is not new; the Tory party is a coalition of opposites, far more than the Labour Party has ever been (and I am mindful of the militant tendency in the eighties). From idiotic statements such as "a stride into the light" if we vote to leave to "Brexit would affect the lives of millions" if we don't vote stay in. What is missing is clear and trustworthy facts.

Not very edifying is it. Politicians scrambling to outdo each other with inflammatory statements that add little of substance to the debate. But, as we start to descend from our lofty intellectual overview what's this we can see on the left? My goodness, the embattled forces that make up the Labour Party seem to have downed cudgels and are standing shoulder to shoulder in their belief that staying within the EU is the correct way for the 5th largest world economy to behave. Ok so there are the odd voices leaning towards Brexit but with 93% of the parliamentary party declaring for the remain in Europe camp this is a demonstration of unity (as opposed to the Tory minority of 44% who have declared for remain).

Nearly forgot that odd purple grouping that clothe themselves in patriotism and glorify under the name of UKIP. Their parliamentary group are 100% behind leaving the EU but as they only have one MP this is hardly newsworthy. They do however have a sizeable following in Britain so cannot be discounted but reading through their literature we find a claim that EU membership costs the average British household over £7,000 per year. The inference being that if we vote to leave each household will be better off to the tune of at least £7,000. Pure fantasy of course as their figures are spurious and highly selective ................ oh and much more ............. a subject that BelperStuff will return to in later posts.

So now we are back on the ground, standing in between the two forces. To the right we see ill informed infighting between self opinionated "big beasts"; to the left we see relative calm and unity.

Will the EU referendum be the bridge of understanding that the Labour Party has so desperately needed? The bridge that connects those who aspire to Momentum (if you don't know what Momentum is here is a link) and those who find a natural home within Progress? (Here is a link to the Progress website). I do hope so because looking deep into their souls they must surely find that they share many core beliefs and if they can agree on a social agenda that is best served by full participation with the EU then that spirit can be harnessed to weld the left and right of the party in the campaign to return this country to fairness and the job of reversing policies that have created such rampant inequality. It could pay dividends if all Labour Party members were issued with a copy of Robbie Burns poetry .............. with the last stanza of "The Louse" heavily underlined.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Neighbourhood Plan for Belper .................. March 1st update

The Neighbourhood Plan for Belper (NP4B) team have been busy and will reach their 4th public consultation meeting tomorrow evening (that's Wednesday 2nd March) which is being held in the Far Laund Scouts Centre. This week the topic is the Built Environment and Housing. Now that should be a lively meeting.                                                                                                             As you can see NP4B now has a logo which will be placed on all future documents and communications.                                                                                                                   It may pay you to refer back to previous BelperStuff blog posts for the background to the NP4B, here: Neighbourhood Plan for Belper blog posts

This poster has also become available:

The 3 previous meetings have been

In January at No 28 Market Place –   topic Community and Leisure

February at Milford Social Club  – topic Transport and infrastructure

February  at No 28 Market Place –  topic Parks and Green open spaces

.............. leading to:

2nd March at the Alton Manor Community Centre, Gregory's Way (some call this the scout hut) – topic Built environment and housing

and then:

16th March No 28,Market Place – topic Culture and heritage.

30th March  No 28 Local economy and employment

These will be followed by a meeting considering energy and associated utilities (such as broadband) that is to be confirmed for a date early in April.

That will conclude the 1st round of public consultations, the NP4B team then assimilating the ideas garnered from the meetings before reporting back to the town on next steps etc.

You can contact the NP4B team via email: or

Go to the website: