David Parkin on a clown Carry On

IT says much about Boris Johnson’s two years as Prime Minister that even his closest allies would currently struggle to articulate what his legacy may prove to be.

I mean the positive bits.

The bluster of “Getting Brexit done” might have won him an election but so far it doesn’t seem to have delivered the legion of benefits we were promised by the Tory leader.

The “Partygate” accusations have dominated the headlines for weeks but the Prime Minister stumbles on.

He is a man whose problems appear to all be of his own making – or created by those he has chosen to have around him.

You get the impression that he is more likely to fall from tripping over his own shoelaces than from a well aimed blow landed by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

I don’t know about you but I’d like Boris to get back to the boring job of running the country.

But is he capable of doing that?

I think it was his old boss at The Spectator, Max Hastings, who said, on Boris becoming Prime Minister, that he wants to be Winston Churchill, but he is more like Mr Bean.

I saw a great line on Twitter the other day that paraphrased an old Turkish proverb: “When a clown moves into a palace, he doesn’t become a king. The palace becomes a circus.”

It sums the current state of things up, for me anyway.

What Boris Johnson thought he would achieve by trying to blame Keir Starmer for not prosecuting Jimmy Savile is anyone’s guess.

But it perhaps shows his desperation with the lights turned on him following all the headlines about parties and unlawful gatherings in Downing Street during lockdown.

Forget all that, if you can.

What might well be the most damning legacy of both Boris and the man tipped to be his successor, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, is the Government’s approach to Covid business loans.

Add that to the pile of deeply disturbing deals the Government did for PPE during the pandemic and it raises serious questions of competence.

At the end of last month a minister to the Treasury and Cabinet office resigned over the Covid fraud debacle.

Lord Agnew of Oulton took the decision to step down from his ministerial post citing the Government’s “lamentable” record on tackling Covid business loan fraud.

Speaking in the House of Lords chamber, Lord Agnew said the Treasury “appears to have no knowledge or little interest in the consequences of fraud to our economy or our society”, adding that a mix of “arrogance, indolence and ignorance freezes the government machine”.

More than £47bn was given to small businesses under the bounce back loan scheme and the Government has already written off £4.3bn of this.

“Total fraud loss across government is estimated at £29bn a year,” Lord Agnew added before stating that if the Government took fraud seriously it could afford to cut income tax by a penny in every pound.

I understand that the Government was forced to take some big decisions to protect this country and its economy during an unprecedented period in our recent history.

But unlike most businesses, which when they realise they have made a mistake, do something about it, Government appears to turn a blind eye instead.

It’s easier that way.

Perhaps they hope we won’t notice.

While we are all preoccupied with stories about parties at Number 10 it is future generations that will have to live with the legacy of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

And pay for it.


THE fact that the smartest dressed I’ve been in months was when I went to a football match tells you all about where I haven’t been in recent months.

Where most people don a replica shirt, jeans, anorak and trainers to go and watch the football, I prefer a sharply pressed Michelsberg suit, cutaway collar shirt, silk tie and highly polished brogues.

As I used to say to the Yorkshire Post’s sports desk to wind them up: “Football’s not football, without a nice glass of Chablis.”

You can imagine the responses I used to get to that little bon mot.

And they weren’t in French either.

I was invited to the Huddersfield Town match against Derby County on Wednesday evening by my old Yorkshire Post colleague and friend Jason Taylor.

A pre-match drink, a nice meal, seats in the directors’ box and a chance to catch up with old friends.

It was the perfect night.

Other than the two-nil defeat for my team after one of our defenders was sent off after just three minutes.

Well you can’t have it all.

I felt a little like Kenneth Connor addressing Elke Sommer in Carry on Behind: “I don’t want it all, I just want a bit.”

It was an enjoyable evening and a chance to hear more about Jason’s role with One Community Foundation Kirklees.

It is a unique organisation which supports voluntary and community groups,  not-for-profit organisations, schools and charities based in or undertaking project work in Kirklees.

It is different because it doesn’t just provide grants but also connects skilled professionals who are keen to share their knowledge with good causes in Kirklees.

I’ve offered to share my skills with those who need it.

Jason said he’ll get back to me when he’s worked out how I can help.

I suppose I need to get back to him when I’ve worked out what those skills are.


ONE thing I didn’t include in my tribute to Barry Cryer in last week’s blog was his favourite joke.

But since then I’ve read several articles about the late, great Leeds-born comedy writer and performer that suggest he had more than one.

In his obituary on the BBC website it was said that the master of the comedy sketch and the instant one-liner, was once asked by the Yorkshire Post for his favourite joke.

He recalled one he had told in a student revue in 1955.

“A man drives down a country lane and runs over a cockerel. He knocks at a nearby farmhouse door and a woman answers.

“‘I appear to have killed your cockerel,’ he says. ‘I’d like to replace it.’

The woman replies: ‘Please yourself – the hens are round the back.'”

Given the hundreds, nay thousands of gags he wrote, I don’t think you’ll be surprised to know he had a few favourites.

I read in The Times that Cryer once said his own favourite was the sketch he came up with for Vera Lynn’s appearance on The Morecambe & Wise Show.

When Ernie Wise effusively introduced the Great Dame and asked her what she was going to sing for them, Cryer had her reply: “Sing? I thought I was just a guest?”

A panic-stricken Ernie turned to Eric Morecambe. “Vera doesn’t know we want her to sing. How can we get her to sing?”

“Short of starting another war, I’ve no idea, sunshine,” Eric replied.

And then there was what his son Bob – who had launched a podcast starring his father just a few weeks ago – said was Barry’s last joke which he told a nurse from his hospital bed.

It was about the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The gag was recalled by Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, who knew Cryer well, in a column for The Times.

The Bishop asked Barry if he had any good jokes he could use when in the pulpit at Christmas services.

However, given that he always made sure that any joke he told me couldn’t be used in church without me facing a disciplinary hearing, this is what he said:

A man and his wife are out walking one day when they spot a bloke sitting alone in a bus shelter on the other side of the road.

“That looks like the Archbishop of Canterbury over there,” says the woman.”

 “Go and ask him if he is.”

The husband crosses the road and asks the man if he is indeed the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“F*** off,” says the man.

The husband crosses back to his wife who asks: “What did he say? Is he the Archbishop of Canterbury?”

“He told me to f*** off,” says the husband.

“Oh no,” replies the wife, “now we’ll never know.”

Brilliant in its simplicity and funny because of its daftness.

I got a note last week from former High Sheriff of West Yorkshire Richard Jackson MBE who was well acquainted with his fellow Loiner.

“So sad about Barry Cryer, a brilliant man but very approachable.

“One of his cleverest performances for me, was his eulogy at Richard Whiteley’s funeral, a take off, of Countdown.”

Now that sounds both brilliant and hilarious.

But we’d expect nothing less of the man known as Baz to his friends.

Have a great weekend.

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