David Parkin on the Tour de Yorkshire, Forward Ladies and growing Chinese links

David Parkin on the Tour de Yorkshire, Forward Ladies and growing Chinese links

IF the Tour de Yorkshire doesn’t go past your house then the chances are that the cycle race will not be too far away. The annual event, the legacy of the county hosting the phenomenally successful Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014, will be bigger, longer and more challenging than ever when it takes place over four days in early May next year. The full route for the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire was unveiled at a packed press conference amid the spectacular surroundings of the Piece Hall in Halifax this week. Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity announced the routes joined by the Amaury Sport Organisation’s Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme. Mark Cavendish – winner of 30 Tour de France stages, a UCI Road World Championship and numerous other accolades – was one of the many star riders in attendance along with a host of Yorkshire cycling legends such as Brian Robinson, Malcolm Elliott and Denise Burton-Cole. The fourth edition of the race has been expanded from three to four stages and will take place between 3-6 May 2018. It encompasses all four corners of the county and takes in 169 villages, towns and cities along the way. Inviting Dimension Data team mates Mark Cavendish and Scott Thwaites to the stage, Sir Gary asked Cav, who memorably crashed when launching his trademark sprint for the finish at the Tour de France Grand Depart in Harrogate, what he made of the punishing Tour de Yorkshire route. “It’s hard, innit,” replied the cyclist. Fortunately Big V’s old pal Christian Proudhomme, who runs the Tour de France, was...
David Parkin starts feeling festive, misses an invite from a Legend and sees Yorkshire food and drink take off

David Parkin starts feeling festive, misses an invite from a Legend and sees Yorkshire food and drink take off

IF you are anything like me you’ll have been trying to avoid Christmas for the past month. Much to the annoyance of retailers, who now switch to festive sales mode as soon as Halloween has gone. While a near two month window of opportunity to push their goods is great for shops, it does leave many of the rest of us feeling a bit jaded by the time we reach Christmas Eve. So I spent November avoiding tuning to the Christmas channels on the radio and not thinking about presents or decorations. But something’s got to give and so I decided that the Michelsberg Tailoring Christmas Party last night would be the perfect time to start getting festive. James Michelsberg is a warm and generous host, serving drinks and nibbles, including mulled wine and mince pies, outside his showroom in the Victoria Quarter. And what a way to feel festive, surrounded by the impressive Christmas decorations in the historic arcade while the Tingley Brass Band played carols. And while I, and I’m sure many other guests, were wearing our Michelsberg suits, they were muffled under overcoats and scarves given the plunging temperatures outside. And the Victoria Quarter doesn’t have underfloor heating so guests hopped from one foot to another on the ice cold mosaic flooring. Two of his customers took the sensible option and were wearing parka coats with huge fur-lined hoods. “Don’t they remind you of East 17,” said lawyer Richard Larking as he sipped a Hellfire pale ale, resplendent in his new Michelsberg blazer. He had opted for mother-of-pearl buttons on the jacket rather than brass, despite...
David Parkin on the changing face of the media, a Trump card in the Middle East and crisp thinking

David Parkin on the changing face of the media, a Trump card in the Middle East and crisp thinking

A TWEET earlier this week from my former colleague Ian Briggs reminded me it was 10 years to the day since we launched TheBusinessDesk.com. I knew it was a decade since I took that leap into the dark from the Yorkshire Post to launch the first regional business news service in the UK but I couldn’t remember the exact date. Well I was never very good with figures. The photograph above was taken when Ian left the Yorkshire Post to become the second member of the team and such was his commitment that his first day at work was Christmas Eve. We’d had a taxi decorated in our branding and decided it would be a good idea to pose with it for the publicity shots announcing Ian’s arrival. It was a snowy day and the two of us thought we were the bees knees…until someone told us we looked like Del and Rodney. Well, I did keep saying to him: “Next year we’ll be millionaires.” Ten years on and we’re both doing something different, a bit thinner on top but still with our unique verve, swagger and zest for life (well that’s what I tell them in job interviews). I was apparently described as a “digital disruptor” by Alex Turner of TheBusinessDesk.com at an event earlier this year. I’m happy with that, but at the time we were just seen as a pain in the arse by other media. Business is about relationships and that helped us attract some launch advertisers that gave us serious credibility, despite being a start-up. Neil McLean at DLA Piper, the biggest law firm...
David Parkin tries to find a business barometer in a bar

David Parkin tries to find a business barometer in a bar

WITH the twin aims of researching how the economy is fairing and building up stamina for the Christmas season, I headed off to two drinks parties last night. First it was to AECOM’s annual ‘Winter Warmer’ at Crafthouse in the Trinity centre in Leeds. I didn’t know much about the business but a glance at its website revealed it is a quoted US company with $18bn of revenue last year which delivers “innovative solutions to the world’s most complex challenges”. “Delivering clean water and energy. Building iconic skyscrapers. Planning new cities. Restoring damaged environments. Connecting people and economies with roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems. Designing parks where children play. Helping governments maintain stability and security.” Not bad. Perhaps we should ask it to sort out Brexit, or help deliver the Northern Powerhouse? They would both be a good warm up for the even more daunting challenge we face today. Getting everyone to agree on a devolution deal for Yorkshire. What is interesting is that the property professionals and architects I spoke to last night appear to be having similar experiences to a corporate financier I bumped into yesterday. They are finding there is a lot of work out there but they can’t quite explain why, don’t know how long it will be around and so can’t plan too far ahead. Brexit doesn’t appear to be an issue. Yet. It seems there is so much uncertainty about what it will look like that companies are just getting on with things. Other than businesses who have been hit by currency fluctuations post the vote for Britain to leave the European...
David Parkin on the farce of Fifa, a pioneering sports lawyer and the tale of a tailor

David Parkin on the farce of Fifa, a pioneering sports lawyer and the tale of a tailor

IN a world where news is delivered via 280-character Tweets, video clips and soundbites, David Conn is something of an oddity. He is a sports journalist who can take weeks, months or even years to produce his work. Conn started to write about the Hillsborough disaster 20 years ago and attended much of the two-year inquest into the 96 deaths, the longest case ever heard by a jury in British legal history, which in April 2016 overturned the original inquest verdict of accidental death and concluded that the people who died at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest were unlawfully killed. His report in the Guardian after the jury delivered their verdict ran to 6,500 words, a very long article for any newspaper to publish, but significantly shorter than the original one of 22,000 words that he had written. Driving past the imposing gates of the Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL), I’d noticed a banner promoting a talk by David Conn about his latest book, The Fall of the House of Fifa. I’ve admired his work as a journalist and writer for years, so when Leeds lawyer Richard Cramer, whose firm Front Row Legal were sponsoring the event, invited me to attend as his guest, I jumped at the chance. I’ve never met David but we did once have a chat over the phone when he was looking into the finances behind Ken Bates’ ownership of Leeds United. It prompted Bates to brand Conn “an international enemy of Leeds United”, which puzzled him as he lived in Yorkshire. Conn trained as a lawyer and so...
David Parkin on a Big Night Out, all change at Asda and the ultimate insult

David Parkin on a Big Night Out, all change at Asda and the ultimate insult

FROM the service you get at Bridlington Tourist Information Centre to the performances at Hull Truck Theatre to the food and drink at The Pheasant Hotel in Harome and the Bay Tree pub at Stillington. The White Rose Awards are a yearly celebration of Yorkshire’s burgeoning tourism industry and my chance to note down plenty of places to visit over the next 12 months. Monday night’s shindig, Welcome to Yorkshire’s Big Night Out at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, was attended by almost 1,000 people, the UK’s largest celebration of tourism. Yorkshire’s sports stars also made an appearance with rugby league teams Leeds Rhinos, Castleford Tigers, Hull FC and the Bradford Bulls’ women there to share the celebrations and show off their trophies. Champion featherweight boxer Josh Warrington was among the guests, fresh from his latest win against Dennis Ceylan the previous weekend. The Leeds-born fighter is now aiming for a showdown with Welsh world champion Lee Selby and would dearly love the bout to be outdoors at Elland Road, home of his beloved Leeds United. Interviewed by BBC correspondent Danni Hewson, fresh faced Josh doesn’t look like your typical professional boxer. Asked about his recent win at Leeds Arena, he told Danni: “I love fighting at this Arena, mainly because it is only 10 minutes from my house.” Retired cricketer Ryan Sidebottom was also honoured at the awards as he was made a Yorkshire Patron alongside Leeds Rhinos great Rob Burrow, who has also retired. It was nice to see Ryan, who has played for England and Yorkshire and has taken over 1,000 career wickets and is...
David Parkin on a company that lacks vision, the Domino effect and becoming a dealmaker

David Parkin on a company that lacks vision, the Domino effect and becoming a dealmaker

YOU may have missed it, but there is currently a battle raging around the future direction of regional newspaper publisher Johnston Press. The group, which owns the Yorkshire Post and the Scotsman, is the second largest publisher of local newspapers in the UK. And it is valued on the stock market at less than £14m. But should you be tempted to spend your Euromillions win on acquiring your own newspaper group then you will also be responsible for the £220m in debts that it currently owes. They are a legacy of previous management teams whose ambition was undimmed by the oncoming cloud of the internet which saw newspapers’ traditional revenue streams from car, property, display and classified advertising disappear onto the worldwide web. In response to this JP recruited Ashley Highfield as its chief executive six years ago. He was seen as something of a digital visionary having worked at the BBC and Microsoft. But working for a publicly subsidised broadcaster and a multi-national computer corporation didn’t equip Highfield with the skills to tackle the challenges that a 200-year-old publisher faced and he has resorted to doing what every other UK newspaper group has done in the face of falling sales – cut costs to try to keep margins up. Since 2013 Johnston Press has paid its board of directors £6.4m during a period when the company’s valuation has dropped from £100m to £14m. You think it would be enough for shareholders to perhaps look for someone to take the business in a new direction. But no, like a football team heading for relegation and its manager refusing to...
David Parkin goes to London to meet the great and good of Yorkshire

David Parkin goes to London to meet the great and good of Yorkshire

ONE of the best perks I ever had was a press pass to the Houses of Parliament. The weight of history combined with knowing that you were here in the “Mother of Parliaments” was genuinely awe-inspiring. And the subsidised press bar and restaurant was nice too. I used to take guests for a short tour, pointing out where Winston Churchill lay in state in Westminster Hall and where Charles I was sentenced to death. After a G&T in the wood panelled bar we’d walk up to the press restaurant for a meal accompanied by some fine House of Commons claret and attempt to listen into the conversation between a cabinet minister and a journalist at a neighbouring table. My guests felt as privileged as I did, except one, a fellow journalist, who instead of gazing out at Big Ben and the River Thames, spent the entire meal texting some girl he’d just met. Philistine. But then he’s now the editor of the Daily Telegraph and I’m… Whenever I have the opportunity to return to the Houses of Parliament I’m still as awe-struck and excited as I was the first day I went. This week the CBI in Yorkshire held its annual reception and lunch for MPs. Supported by Barclays, the CBI brings together MPs and business people from the region to discuss the issues of the day. A small panel of MPs answered questions in the Churchill Room of the House of Commons. The discussion was held under Chatham House rules, which effectively means it was off the record. Rachel Reeves, the Labour MP for Leeds West, Sir Kevin...
David Parkin on a devolution dead parrot and the event that sells out quicker than Take That

David Parkin on a devolution dead parrot and the event that sells out quicker than Take That

THE stand off between the Government and a majority of Yorkshire councils over regional devolution is starting to resemble Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch. You remember the one – where customer John Cleese has bought a parrot which is dead but pet shop owner Michael Palin is trying to convince him it is alive. It strikes me that’s how the debate over devolving more powers to Yorkshire is going. The Government has said it wants ‘devo’ deals centred around city regions and has committed to backing one for Sheffield. The only problem is that after squabbling between themselves for years, 17 Yorkshire councils have now decided they all want to work together and have drawn back from a deal based around the Leeds City Region and have proposed a ‘One Yorkshire’ plan. Barnsley and Doncaster councils have walked away from a Sheffield city region devolution deal to join the One Yorkshire “coalition of the willing”, leaving Sheffield and Rotherham councils standing like worried party hosts, wondering whether anyone will turn up to join them. The Government has indicated it will still back the plans for South Yorkshire and is currently resisting the One Yorkshire proposal. It prompted Keighley Labour MP John Grogan to table a debate in the House of Commons the other night calling for the Government to change its stance. He said it was time for Yorkshire to receive long-awaited devolved powers and a £150m annual budget as well as an elected mayor. Mr Grogan said a so-called One Yorkshire deal would create the second most powerful mayor in the UK after Sadiq Khan in London. John...
David Parkin on America’s biggest danger, language differences and fame at last

David Parkin on America’s biggest danger, language differences and fame at last

WITH his sombre tone and measured words, Donald Trump struck a strangely presidential figure as he reacted to the Las Vegas massacre, the kind of scene we have rarely seen since the President took office in January. Similar words on his Twitter feed looked oddly out of place, juxtaposed as they were coming closely after his insults about North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un who he has taken to calling “Little Rocket Man” in Twitter taunts. I wonder if Trump would have remained so measured if the biggest mass murder in America in modern history been committed by a Muslim? The sense is that Trump’s immediate reaction would almost certainly not have been to try to unite the nation or articulate its grief, it would have been to propose further measures to restrict Muslims travelling to or in the USA. The reality is that this carnage was caused by an American, somebody born in America, who had lived there all his life and had a professional job and who, as far as we are aware up to this point, was a law abiding citizen. But under those laws to which Stephen Paddock abided, he was able to legally amass an arsenal of dozens of automatic and semi-automatic weapons which ultimately enabled him to kill 58 people and wound almost 500 more in America’s entertainment capital in a way that Isis can probably only dream about. America’s problem is that this evil was not caused by a shadowy radical Islamic terrorist group thousands of miles from its shores, it stemmed from the right that the Second Amendment of its Constitution gives...