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 Barron who represents Rother Valley for Labour, Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake of Thirsk and Malton and Philip Davies, his Tory colleague who represents Shipley, all spoke well and, when asked a question about Yorkshire devolution by Leeds accountant Colin Glass, appeared to be more or less in agreement.

Pressed on that by James Mitchinson, the editor of the Yorkshire Post, their joint resolve about how to devolve splintered somewhat to the point where they resembled cats in a sack.

The distance between local and national politicians on the Yorkshire devolution saga looks wider than ever.

Philip Davies, never a man to hold back from telling you his views, said he didn’t really care about anywhere else, his only concern was Shipley.

Given he is the son of the former mayor of Doncaster and his mother was a bookmaker in the town, he sounds like he’d be great company to have a pint with but probably not the right man to unify Yorkshire’s warring factions.

After the discussion, thanks to former Minister for Sport and Bradford MP Gerry Sutcliffe, we called into Strangers’ Bar, where visitors can meet politicians in Parliament for a drink and a chat.

The guest beer was from Stoke-on-Trent and called Titanic. “That goes down well,” said Gerry.

We moved out onto the House of Commons terrace and enjoyed views of the London Eye and The Shard across the River Thames.

I was sitting next to Philip Jordan, partner with law firm Ward Hadaway in Leeds.

Hull-born Phil is always good company and he said he is taking a table at the next Harrogate Business Lunch because the speaker is one of his heroes.

Now I thought he told me it was Simon Cowell who would be speaking but apparently it is the distinguished Shakespearean actor and director Simon Callow.

I didn’t tell Phil I would have preferred it to be Simon Cowell, I could have asked him what he really thought of Honey G.

From there a small group of us including the Bradford-based Pakistani Consul General, Ahmed Amjad Ali, Caroline Pullich and Karen Swainston of Barclays and Richard Larking of Progeny Corporate Law, decided to head off to eat and Langan’s Brasserie, a Mayfair institution for more than 40 years, was chosen, which I was pleased about as I have never been.

My sister and friends in business and the media visit it a lot and said it was always full of celebrities such as Michael Caine or Rod Stewart.

Martin Pickles, who used to own the Flying Pizza, was manager at Langan’s for some years and he once told me that Christopher Reeves, when he was playing Superman, was sitting in a booth in the window of the restaurant.

Four builders in hard hats and hi-viz jackets walked past and clearly seeing Reeve dining inside, walked back staring in the window.

They reappeared moments later with three of the burly workmen holding their colleague above their heads in the famous Superman flying pose.

Anyway, suffice to say we didn’t see a Hollywood star in Langan’s.

The closest we got was nightclub impresario Peter Stringfellow celebrating his 77th birthday on the next table.

Given his lively past, Peter has settled down somewhat, marrying his wife Bella Wright when he was 68 and she was 26. They now have two children.

Hearing we were from Yorkshire, Sheffield-born Peter came over for a chat and, in a moment of largesse, I gave him my yellow Welcome to Yorkshire Y badge, instantly creating another ambassador for the county in London.

Whether he’s wanted as an ambassador, I’m yet to find out.

ONE of the great attractions of London is the number and quality of places to eat and drink.

The morning after the House of Commons event I was meeting a couple of lawyers in the City and we had breakfast at The Ned, a new hotel on Poultry.

Created by the team behind the Soho House group of clubs and hotels, they have transformed the disused former Midland Bank building into a spectacular destination.

The hotel is named after the building’s architect, Sir Edwin ‘Ned’ Lutyens, who I had heard of because he had designed the one-time home of an old family friend, the late Lionel Pickering, the free newspaper pioneer and former Derby County owner, who lived at Ednaston Manor in Derbyshire, which Lutyens had designed for the Player cigarette family.

Breakfast was impressive and it was good to catch up with Stephen Laud, an old friend from Derbyshire and Stuart Frith, who I know from his time working at Brooke North in Leeds.

Both work at City firm Stephenson Harwood and Stuart has been commuting between Yorkshire and London since 2009.

Next year he will become president of R3, the association of business recovery professionals.

Leaving the Ned, I walked past the Bank of England, only to hear a shout of: “David Parkin!”

I turned to see Edward Ziff, chairman and chief executive of Leeds-based quoted property group Town Centre Securities.

Edward was in the City seeing some of the firm’s institutional shareholders, but the previous day had been at Buckingham Palace to be presented with his OBE.

The day was particularly memorable as he’d been able to get tickets for his wife and children to attend the investiture by the Princess Royal and he was standing next in line to comedian David Walliams, who was also receiving an OBE.

“The queue was so long we were on first name terms by the time we got to Princess Anne!” laughed Edward.

After the ceremony he was joined by his family and 88-year-old mother Marjorie for lunch at the Connaught Hotel, which was particularly special as that is where his late father Arnold took his family for lunch after he received his OBE.

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BEFORE heading back to Yorkshire, I met an old friend from journalism college days for lunch at another impressive venue, the German Gymnasium restaurant behind King’s Cross Station.

Created in what was the exercise hall of England’s first purpose-built gymnasium in 1865 funded solely by the capital’s German community, the venue is stunning with a nice line in Teutonic cuisine.

My friend Tim Luckett is another former journalist – he was crime correspondent of the Sunday Mirror – who has moved into communications and now global head of crisis communications at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, advising global boards, executives and sports stars on media strategy and training.

Walking into King’s Cross Station I bumped into another former journalism colleague, Duncan Hamilton, who was deputy editor of the Yorkshire Post and is now a successful author and two-time winner of the prestigious William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.

I always thought his first book, Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years With Brian Clough, was the best observation and analysis of the flawed footballing genius I have ever read.

Duncan has worked with England and Yorkshire cricketer Jonny Bairstow on his new autobiography and was in London for the launch party.

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LAST week’s comment that Karen Swainston and Caroline Pullich of Barclays are the Cagney and Lacey of regional banking went down well – with them.

Apparently they bounded into the Yorkshire Awards last Friday night and told the event host, TV presenter Harry Gration, about my observation.

“If you two are Cagney and Lacey, then he’s Kojak,” said Harry.

Charming.

Younger readers should not bother Googling Kojak.

I like to think of myself as much more like Steve McQueen in Bullitt or Michael Caine in Get Carter.

I don’t even like lollipops.

Who loves ya, baby.

Have a great weekend.

 

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