What has become of the British Conservative Party?

What has happened to the British Conservative Party. Once a proud party, a broad church, including many ‘One nation’ conservatives, socially conservative but often supporting the opportunity for individuals and businesses, and the ability for a person to better themselves and prosper. A party with some dignity, and intellectual and political heavyweights. Inherently an economically conservative party, noted for fiscal responsibility, it was destructive in its ideological privatising and marketeering for the sake of it under mid and later Thatcher / Major governments, but still had an eye on balancing the books. Now it is fiscally irresponsible, making promises to spend money that would make a Labour Opposition Leader or perhaps Trade Union boss blush. Promising all the plenty from the magic money tree plantation (someone on social media said that).

Now it is a party led by chancers, dishonest fraudsters, and naked opportunists. In hock to a tiny band of bigoted small minded extreme Ulster Unionists who are out of step with the modern world, even where they live. A destructive influence in British society and British and European politics. A mix of ideological and opportunistic, profiteering leaders in Government, very few of whom match the quality of any previous Cabinets in my adult life time, and none of whom meet the ability of the Ministers who were statesmen under Thatcher (or I realised when older, Wilson, Heath or Callaghan), Major, Blair, Brown or even a few under Cameron and May. As I don’t believe any one party has a monopoly on wisdom or good ideas, and as I reject policies based on ideology or economics, it is sad to see the destruction of a party that has done much good, though more bad in its time. At least now hypocrisy and naked amibition are exposed. Their name is Boris, Bannon and Mogg.

My latest short visit to Ukraine & election observation work.

What I was doing last week.
My 11th election observation mission for OSCE / ODIHR on behalf of the UK FCO observing elections in the Balkans & former Soviet Union. Deployed by David Kidger of SOLACE Enterprises as Short Term Observer (STO), and SOLACE / Godfrey Cromwell of BEWC as Long Term Observer (LTO), since February 2007. This time deployed as a Short Term Observer to Lviv. I observed the Parliamentary election with my partner and our local staff in the Peremyshlyani district, south of Lviv.

My 8th visit to Ukraine since 2014, as election observer & / or University volunteer, and occasional tourist, working in my 5th region of the 7 I’ve visited (& many regional level cities, numerous towns and villages).

The OSCE election observation mission final report will be published in a couple of months but it is reasonable to say, from the Preliminary Statement, that people in Ukraine were freely able to vote for who they wanted to, in an election which was largely very professionally run by the many people administering it.

More information on the mission to observe the Parliamentary elections in Ukraine can be found here: https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/ukraine/422585

OSCE /ODIHR Election Observation Mission to the Early Parliamentary Elections, 21 July 2019.

Economic and political consquences of Britain Brexit (self)destruction.

(A note that was originally a comment on a friend’s Facebook post). I sympathise with those in the fishing industry who lost out because of joining the EU (though they lost a lot due to losing the Cod Wars with Iceland as well). I understand the concerns of those from Australia and New Zealand and Canada that we shouldn’t have sacrificed closer links with Commonwealth countries, (though the same arguments about India or Asian countries are not put by the same people). I dislike the EU Court of Justice deciding on British benefits or immigration policy (to ensure rules are the same across Europe that were supposed to be the same for free movement of workers). What I rarely hear is any of these arguments logically put by any one spouting off anti the EU. I love the fact that Liverpool, and even immigrant unfriendly Birkenhead (more accurately Birkenhead with immigrant unfriendly Labour MP) or suburbs, has lots of South Americans in it now. I like my Turkish barbers (probably Kurdish, maybe Yazidi), and I love all the new Arab food businesses that have sprung up including Syrian and Iranian and African. Entirely a matter of immigration under the control of Labour / Coalition / Tory governments – nothing to do with the EU. But these anti-EU people who bleat on about money have cost me money every time I travel abroad as the pound has plummeted against the Euro, and most places I go across Europe Euros are the international currency of choice (inside and outside of the EU). My savings have been hit because of the political instability in Britain and the political instability across Europe that the political crisis in Britain has made worse. Most of our Conservative and some senior Labour politicians (and the extremist DUP / Farageist / UKIP groupees) have contributed to this political instability. How we need real statesmen now. Many of the latter currently are women, mostly in the Greens, SNP, Lib Dems and Plaid plus a few dissidents in Labour and Conservative Parties and Change UK / Independents.

I support the EU on grounds of principle and practical reasons, but wish Brexit supporters would lose their own money rather than mine.

A friend, David Ellis, posted the (always brilliant) Matt cartoon from the Daily Telegraph, about post Brexit subsidies being required for the fishing industry if Britain leaves the EU.

UK backs independent media in Ukraine, & other reforms. Praise and concern.

I posted this comment on Facebook, especially aimed at Ukrainian professional friends who work on media related projects, and anyone who cares about reforms.

… and other friends working on media related projects may by interested in this UK FCO (Foreign Office – Foreign Ministry) announcement about support to independent media in Ukraine.
“Foreign Office Minister of State Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon will today (Tuesday 2 July) announce that the UK is supporting independent media in Ukraine and the wider region through a new £9million three year project, as he attends the Ukraine Reform Conference in Canada. The announcement comes ahead of the first Global Media Freedom Conference in London next week.”
And other political reforms.


It was clear from my three months working in Ukraine recently that media independence – at local and regional level as well as national – is of vital importance, and supporting investigative and political journalism. The lack of local political reporting (except some by television, and citizen journalists), and the obvious concerns for their livelihood or safety of even fairly low key independent journalists, hinder the ability to inform the public.

There are two parts of the four reform priorities set out that I am continually uneasy about:
“We must remain focussed on fundamental reforms: first, reform of the judiciary; second, a well-designed privatisation programme; third, legislation to dismantle monopolies; and, fourth, reforms to media ownership that ensure a free and fair press.”

Judges. I’ve met many Ukrainian judges, in many places and they strike me as being as professional, educated and independent as judges I’ve met in Western Europe (if rather younger than many of the judges in the UK). Of course I haven’t seen them in cases, and have only met briefly, but I’ve been impressed by the regional, city and town judges that I’ve met. As one judge said to me four years ago, people criticise judges but they don’t usually criticise the judge in a case that they are in, or a judge that they know personally. I don’t know the judges at national or Kyiv level who have been often embroilled in controversy – and heavely criticised by Maidan and civil society activists and reformers. But the principle of judicial independence is something that should not be lightly tampered with.

Secondly, this statement talks about a “well-designed privatisation programme.” That is better than the gung ho usually American and London American backed think tanks who seem to think privatisation is an end in itself. There are only practical reasons in favour of or against state ownership or privatisation of utilities and monopolies for example. Being done on ideological grounds is a bad reason. Being done badly will discredit the reform process in Ukraine and set it back.

Nearly every ordinary person I met in Ukraine was most concerned about the cost of utilities, the poor quality / cost of health care, lack of good job opportunities at home for skilled workers and professionals with higher education, and they wanted the War to end. No Ukrainian President can wave a magic wand to solve the first or the last. Only Putin / the Russian State or Army can end the last. On the former at least (as I’ve been arguing for years) there is now big investment into renewable energy in Ukraine, and an emphasis on energy efficiency (much of the latter backed by aid from foreign taxpayers). New windows in very many schools that I visited was a very good start for the children and staff in them.

In Contact. ВКонтакте (V Kontakte).
I also posted it on the ‘Russian speaking’ social media VK (In Contact) which is still used by many in Ukraine, especially popular with Russian speaking young people, even though it has been restricted. Ukrainian government policy and communication fails to reach this audience especially, measures such as (quite reasonably) restricting Russian owned social media without preparing people for alternatives was a particular own goal. One that the new President, a first language Russian speaker like many in Eastern and Central and southern Ukraine, probably understands better than most.

Shakespeare in Chernihiv, and Zaporizhzhya, North central, and South East Ukraine.

One thing puzzled me continually in the lovely historic small city of Chernihiv. Everywhere I go, since my brother Pat was creating Shakespeare Magazine, I see Shakespeare connections. There is always everywhere some link to William Shakespeare.


But not in Chernihiv. I didn’t see any link at all in this cultured modern Ukrainian city.


Until my very last night. Going to call in to a bar to see the barman that I knew, Rosti (Rostislav), I saw this poster on a door next to the entrance to the basement bar. For a performance at the Theatre in the city a few days earlier.


A one man performance by Valerii Chilyaev. In my last week of work in the town I probably walked past a giant banner advertising this event, as it was on at the main theatre on the main square. 20 April. “Performance after the performance”. A one man show including extracts from Othello, Macbeth, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night or What You Will. By Valerij Chyglyayev, Honored Artist of Ukraine.


By contrast as soon as I arrived in Zaporizhzhya, the post industrial post Soviet city in the South East I saw a Shakespeare poster immediately. Although this isn’t a surprise in the Faculty of Foreign Philology (Language) in a city that is a centre of Shakespeare scholars in Ukraine. A week earlier there had a been a whole host of events, put on by students for students across the Zaporizhzhya National University, to celebrate the bard’s birthday. I saw a poster for one postgraduate giving a seminar, and then this noticeboard with several others. All badged as part of the large scale ‘Shakespeare Days in Ukraine 2019’ linked running festival of events across the country. Many of the links promoted by the energy and ideas of Professor Nataliya Torkut.




Just one of the presentations was by Oksana Sobol, speaking on Shakespeare and Nazi ideology. How the texts and words were used both to support and resist Nazi ideology. Oksana gave the same presentation to third year students immediately after my talk to them, on 10 May, about Shakespeare Magazine.


When talking about Nazi attempts to co-opt Shakespeare one can’t but help laugh that Hamlet here is Gamlet (like that well known magician, Garry Potter). Ironic as well that this talk was taking place yards from where Hitler gave two speeches in 1943, the day after victory over the Nazis was celebrated. Our civilised cultural links have survived and grown stronger.


With thanks to Christina Bondarenko for original and additional translation.

Why everything you know about the UK housing crisis is wrong.

Housebuilding & homes crisis debunked.

An unsuccessful entry for the ‘right wing’ ‘libertarian’ think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs Koch prize on how to solve the housing crisis in the UK.

Housing crisis solutions Koch prize K Reid final

Cover note to follow. 04 May. A shorter version of this soapbox appeared in Liberator Magazine, January 2019.


Housing crisis solutions Koch prize K Reid final

Back in Ukraine as a professional International Election observer.

From 11 Feburary to 1 May I have been working in Ukraine as an election observer for the election of the President. Apart from training, briefings and meetings in Kyiv, I worked for two and a half months in the Chernihiv Oblast (region) in the north of Ukraine, 100km north of Kyiv. My team, Long Term Observer Team 28 (LTO28) covered the small city, towns and districts of Nizhyn, Pryluky and Bakhmach, south of the historic city of Chernihiv, the regional capital.
Deployed by SOLACE International Elections, joint with the British East West Centre, on behalf of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to join the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Election Observation Mission to Ukraine for the Presidential Election, 31 March and 21 April 2019.


Birmingham and Zaporizhia, Ukraine. Twin cities, back in the USSR?

Thanks to the library catalogue prompt at the Library of Birmingham, & the helpful staff of the Archives section, after 4 years of enquiries I’ve found the evidence that Zaporizhzhya in Ukraine is or was twinned with Birmingham in Great Britain. People in Zaporizhia remember this but no one in Birmingham seemed to. The sixth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 750,000 people.

I hadn’t thought to look for the spelling Zaporozhe – but the library catalogue software prompted me, “did I mean …” and up came one sole result. A record from 1980 of a typed document with no length and no author. ‘Zaporozhe : Birmingham’s twin city in the USSR’.
Typescript (photocopy), [1980]

And a helpful member of the Archives & Collections team volunteered to look if there were any other items at the same class number. She came back with three slim card folders with A4 photocopied documents.

These included ‘Programme for the visit to Birmingham of a civic delegation from Zaporozhye U.S.S.R, 24th Sept.-1st October 1973’


‘Communique of the first meeting of the twin cities of the USSR and UK’
Typescript (photocopy), 1987.

The twin cities met in Donetsk in July 1987.

I hope that these Birmingham – Zaporizhzhia links can be rekindled. I first was told about them by Assistant Professor Marina Vorybyova at Zaporizhzhya National University in October 2014. That was my second visit to the city and Ukraine, and first visit as a volunteer honorary Professor. I’ve been back four more times since (including volunteering and a lengthy work trip to Ukraine) and will be there again in the Spring.

The 1980 twin city pamphlet is a fascinating 7 page read, by the Birmingham Branch of the Great Britain USSR Association with the help of the Centre for Russian and East European Studies of the University of Birmingham. Contact M. J. Berry.

Of course the full, lavish & wide ranging programme for the 1973 delegation from the Soviet city included a tour of Shakespeare’s birthplace & performance of Romeo & Juliet in Stratford upon Avon. This is fitting as Zaporizhzhya is home of the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre. You can read more about that on the Shakespeare Magazine website. http://shakespearemagazine.com

Thanks to Wikipedia for explaining the naming (and statistics):, though there are more different transliterations in English that you can see.
Zaporizhia (Ukrainian: Запорі́жжя [zɑpoˈriʒʒɑ] Zaporizhzhya) or Zaporozhye (Russian: Запоро́жье [zəpɐˈroʐjɪ]), formerly Alexandrovsk (Russian: Алекса́ндровск[ɐlʲɪˈksandrəfsk]; Ukrainian: Олександрівськ [ɔlɛksɑndriu̯sʲk])
(Viewed 29/01/2019).

These are the transliterated into Latin letters name variants that I have come across (I may have missed some)
Zaporizhia / Zaporozhe / Zaporizhzhia / Zaporizhzhya / Zaporozhye / Zaporizia

The third record the archivist found doesn’t even appear on the catalogue when searched under that Call Number LP 31.8. (It was mistyped as P 31.8). A great bit of old fashioned library research.

With thanks to Bob Deed of Birmingham, friend of Ukraine and expert SE Europe traveller, for his continued support in finding out about these links between two major European industrial powerhouses.

Zaporozhe Birmingham s twin city in the USSR scan

Birmingham civic delegation ex Zaporozhye USSR

First meeting twin cities USSR and UK 1987

The ridiculousness of ‘age barring’ alcohol related websites.

The most silly gesture of the ‘responsible drinking’ campaign and anti-alcohol lobby is the requirement on many websites connected with breweries, wineries, vineyards and drinks groups (alcoholic drinks groups) to tick a box to say that you are aged over 18 before visiting the website. How is blocking those aged under 18 from reading about beer, wine or spirits a way to encourage them to ‘drink responsibly’? (The slogan of the Portman Group of concerned drinks companies). It is an aged 21 requirement in some old fashioned countries where guns are more available than drink. Leaving aside the fact that it is a self-verification system. Encouraging, educating, supporting (in a context of family, friends or as could have been the case with Sixth Formers in the past, teachers) young people – and any age – to drink socially, enjoyably, to enjoy the experience rather than simply volume and getting drunk, these are useful ways to help a better drinking culture in Britain, more like that of many of our continental European friends.

Banning people under age 18 from reading about alcohol on websites is no way to do it. On principle I refuse to put in my details and enter any website that has an age bar. I won’t look at that brewery or company site – I will almost inevitably find another website that tells me what I want to know about the beer, wine or vineyard. I’ve learnt, and try to follow, three lessons in recent years. To concentrate on enjoying the experience and spending time with friends, rather than focusing on drinking and getting drunk. To eat when drinking (as they do usually in Ukraine, Georgia and Spain, sometimes France and Italy). And to drink water or other non alcoholic drinks – to get less drunk less quickly and stay hydrated to get less hungover. My efforts have often led to more enjoyable experiences, both in the evening and the next day. Whether alone or with friends – lessons best learnt with family and friends, to drink enjoyably with food and water as well. Pub companies, the Government, health / anti-alcohol lobby and the big companies and small craft breweries could all take a less preachy, less nagging approach. As the Council and Police advertising campaigns in Liverpool and elsewhere have encouraged – aid people to have a good time, not have a night that ends up bad.

The gallery shows some examples. Mostly screen shots from my phone. On a couple a friend’s Facebook pic in Messenger was also captured so I had to edit that out.

The drinkaware.co.uk and other health related websites do provide a wide variety of useful information, advice and practical tips. All about helping people have better times.

How to end the obscenely excessive Executive pay at BT and other top firms.

In November 2013 in Liberator magazine I wrote about the failure of the shareholder model of company ownership. (Printed as ‘Time to close the casino’, Liberator 362, p. 18). More recently Peter Tatchell wrote about the need for economic democracy and Lib Dem peer Trevor Smith in the same edition criticised the British capitalist economic model (April 2018, Liberator 389). The obscene excessive Chief Executive pay and pay offs at BT show the model and its regulation is a failure. Human rights campaigner, Tatchell, is right that more inclusion of workers may help. Here are two simple ideas for BT:

1) Hire a Chief Executive for quarter of a million and see how the results compare relative to the ones being paid over a million [£2 million in fact]. I’m willing to bet that the results will be significantly better than a quarter or an eighth as good. If they do badly, then change them (with a non-obscene pay off clause in their contract) and replace with another one after a year.

2) Sack Tony Ball and the rest of the “approving obscenely excessive executive pay committee” and hire a randomly selected pool of ten BT employees to do the job instead. Pay them each a share of half the amount that Tony Ball and colleagues were paid to recommend hugely unequal pay. See how well they do. I’m sure that randomly picked employees paid a lot less will be able to recommend salaries that get very high quality leaders to work for BT.


Pay those leaders a quarter or an eighth of what they are paid now – keen, ambitious, bright people who want to succeed, I reckon they’ll be better not worse than the crop there has been. A pretty safe bet in value for money that they’ll do much better relatively than Gavin Patterson and Philip Jansen. Football companies [Clubs] could do the equivalent with some of their ridiculously over paid footballers and give money back to fans.

Incidentally the media coverage of the BT excessive pay was highly misleading. Headlines gave the impression there had been major improvements when that had hardly been the case. The Belfast Telegraph, Irish Independent and Daily Mail were among the papers  that gave headlines such as “BT Acts on Excessive Chief Executive Pay Following Massive Revolt”. This line was common in the regionals & Scottish titles, so probably syndicated. Perhaps predictably it was the line as well in the possibly biased business press. The Guardian especially and the Telegraph were more realistic. A shareholder revolt is good news – my Liberator article attacked a model where shareholders get money for actually contributing nothing, but any effort to share rewards more fairly should be applauded.

(I must declare an interest I would prefer BT to split the obscene pay with employees, customers and me as a shareholder to keep us all happy).

Ironically British Telecom is the only company I have shares in (out of my small portfolio of half a dozen or so shareholdings) where I vote in favour of the auditors each year. I on principle vote against the corporate auditors in each AGM vote as a small blow against a corporate racket that protects auditors and high pay and does virtually nothing for shareholders or employees or anyone else. It’s a highly paid (and yes perhaps highly skilled) cartel of four or so firms. British Telecommunications is the only company in its annual report that clearly, fully and reasonably explains why and how it has appointed or reappointed the auditors that it has done. I first read this about four years ago and was impressed that the writers of the report had taken the trouble to explain and justify the otherwise (in other companies) apparent automatic reappointment or appointment of one of the same club of overpriced City firms.