“I FELT I had to do this because shouting at the telly every night didn’t seem to work.”
That’s how businessman Nick Palmer explains his decision to stand as an independent candidate in next week’s by-election in Selby and Ainsty.
The vote was triggered when the constituency’s Conservative MP Nigel Adams, a Boris Johnson loyalist, resigned last month – a day after Johnson – in a row over his removal from the peerages list by the House of Lords Appointments Commission.
It will be one of three by-elections next Thursday in which voters are expected to give Rishi Sunak’s government a good kicking.
Nick Palmer is one of 13 candidates in Selby and Ainsty and, as you might expect from a pragmatic 50-year-old entrepreneur and business consultant, is not expecting a miracle at the ballot box but wants to make a point.
And hopefully get his deposit back at the same time.
I don’t know Nick well but I’ve met him a few times, including once in the atelier of Leeds tailor James Michelsberg.
He admits he isn’t a natural political animal but was coming to the end of a contract, wanted a short-term challenge and so approached standing in the by-election like another business project.
“I have treated it like a job interview,” he says.
Nick is critical of Adams who he says “took his bat home”.
But his ire isn’t focused on one party.
“I’ve never been involved in politics before, I’m one of the millions of people who are frustrated at politics.
“I think the voters of this country are fed-up with the toxic culture in Westminster. I can offer something new.
“There is a huge problem with voter disengagement in the United Kingdom. That problem arises because of the tribal culture within the Westminster system. We desperately need independent thinking in Parliament to give new ideas a chance,” Nick told me when we chatted on the phone yesterday evening as he watched his daughter playing in a cricket match in the village of Sicklinghall.
“I’m a businessman who understands the processes of getting things done.
“Two-party politics doesn’t work and a lot of people in this country have entirely switched off – they are disengaged or politically homeless.
“And as I’ve visited different parts of the constituency I’ve seen these attitudes of disaffection are across social divides – it doesn’t matter how big or small the house or how many cars are in the drive.”
Selby and Ainsty is a duck-shaped constituency which sits between Harrogate, York, Goole and Pontefract in North and West Yorkshire.
It is a constituency of contrasts and includes the former mining area of Selby and upmarket villages of Kirkby Overblow, Weeton and Huby which sit in the expensive commuter belt between Harrogate and Leeds.
Nick, who lives in Kirk Hammerton in the north of the constituency, says he suspects not all of his rival candidates are local.
“One of them called it KirKby Overblow [the second ‘k’ is silent so it is pronounced ‘Kirby’] at a hustings the other night!”
He says that would be fine if the candidates from the major parties showed that they really understood what voters wanted.
“I’ve seen the Tories and Labour squabbling over who is to blame for the bus services in the constituency, rather sorting them out.
“The people in the Westminster bubble just don’t understand. The main parties just don’t seem to get it. I am appalled by the way that democracy is broken,” says Nick.
Like anyone who has spent a career in business, Nick is a realist who is hoping, rather than expecting to win.
His criticism is not reserved just for the major political parties, but the political system itself.
“An MP who has resigned in this manner should be expected to foot the bill for the by-election.
“Instead you’ve got 13 candidates who are allowed to spend up to £100,000 each to campaign in this by-election, which is obscene.
“We should decide it over a pub quiz or how many cream crackers we can eat in two minutes!”
Now that’s an idea.
Nick told me that the reporting of the by-election by broadcasters and local media has been limited.
“Selby and Ainsty was mentioned on Look North and Newsnight last night, the BBC appeared to pitch it as a two-horse race with some other parties.
“They did the bare minimum to highlight the extent of the field but I can’t help feeling they’re missing the point about voter disaffection.”
In a bid to be heard Nick got in touch with the Yorkshire Post’s local democracy reporter, a role funded by the BBC as part of the Local Democracy Reporting Service which pays for the employment of journalists by independent news outlets.
The reporter in question told him they were on a training course and could he email them some information next Wednesday – the day before the by-election.
As we chatted on the phone I realised my shorthand is no longer the 100 words a minute it once was, but I ended our conversation with something else I was taught at journalism college.
I asked Nick if there was anything we hadn’t talked about that he thought might be of interest.
“Well, my late grandfather was an MP. Joseph Hiley was the Conservative MP for Pudsey in Leeds between 1958 and 1974, a period that included the Profumo Scandal.
“He said how appalled he was that somebody could lie to the House. He would be appalled and devastated about what is happening now.
“Let’s not kid ourselves that we have a functioning democracy, because it ain’t working.”
I asked Nick whether he’s at least going to get a good after dinner speech or book from his experience on the campaign trail and he says he’s not sure.
I’m sure his story could be one of those David versus Goliath, plucky upstart against the system tales that we British love – and I’ll write it for him.
All he’s got to do now is win next Thursday.
For more information go to: www.np4mp.uk
TALKING of Nigel Adams, the former MP was a guest on the same table as me at the Ashes Test Match at Headingley last Friday.
I sensibly avoided talking politics with Nigel and so we chatted about mutual friends and contacts and his plans to return to the world of business now he is out of politics.
Our host was Simon Chappell of UK and US-based technology business Assured Data Protection.
It prompted this comment from broadcaster and business coach Jon Hammond: “I’m glad you are with a technological entrepreneur David. If I recall when we sat next to each other at a Test you lost your phone…eventually found swimming gently in your full pint next to your feet.”
I remember that incident Jon, I think we were both guests of the much-missed Welcome to Yorkshire.
And, of course, like any intelligent person, I learn and grow from such an experience.
So rather than taking a pint of beer out to my seat in the stand, I took a rose wine in a small plastic cup.
It ensured that I couldn’t drop my phone in my drink, but did mean I had to regularly return to my host’s table to keep refilling it.
SIMON Chappell’s table at the cricket was a hive of activity all day, attracting former cricketers, entrepreneurs and advisers for conversations that included banter and business deals.
Julian Pitts of insolvency firm Begbies Traynor – who I recently mentioned was the only man wearing a tie in a photograph accompanying a news story about his firm’s recent office move – came up to apologise…for not wearing a tie.
And former Yorkshire County Cricket Club chairmen Steve Denison and Roger Hutton both joined us for interesting chats.
As the conversation flowed a number of items of framed sporting memorabilia were paraded around the rooms for guests to bid on in a silent auction.
As a lady carrying a shirt signed by a sporting great walked by, Roger Hutton said to me:
“Parky, you like a good story don’t you?”
I nodded and Roger asked the lady involved in the silent auction to tell me her story.
“I’ve gone viral,” she told me.
“Don’t you think you should be in quarantine?” I suggested.
“No, viral on the internet and social media,” she explained.
It turns out that the lady, named Donna Suter, made national and international headlines recently.
She was sitting with a friend outside a cafe in Manchester called Two Birds and One Stone when a 531 bus run by Vision Bus in Bolton, pulled up at a bus stop driven by a man she found attractive.
She tried to catch his attention and as the bus drove off her friend chased it in a fruitless attempt to try and get the driver’s number for Donna.
They considered waiting for the bus to return but Donna, who admits she is sick of dating apps, decided to leave a handwritten note on the bus stop saying: ‘HEY FIT BUS DRIVER CALL ME’ along with a phone number.
By this point I was hooked and hanging on Donna’s every word.
I was eager to find out if the story had a happy ending and she had been called by the bus driver and been asked out on a date.
“No, I eventually got a message from him and he’s taken,” Donna told me.
“But I’m sure this will all be good for my career.”
FAREWELL then Barry Gregory.
The chairman and founder of Leeds-based Gregory Property Group died last week at the age of 82 after a short illness.
Barry spent more than 60 years in the property industry in Yorkshire and was a hugely respected figure.
He died peacefully at home surrounded by his family.
In a statement, Gregory Property Group said: “Barry is remembered for his profound commitment to the property industry to which he dedicated more than 60 years.
“Barry was also a great friend and mentor to many of his industry peers. He was highly respected for his expertise but also his sincerity, integrity and kindness.”
I would definitely echo that.
I met and interviewed Barry when I was business editor of the Yorkshire Post and immediately warmed to this tall, imposing, charming man in a pinstripe suit who spoke honestly and openly about not just his successes, but many of the challenges he had faced during his career.
He was a welcome contrast to some of the brash, fly-by-night merchants you sometimes – fortunately not often – come across in the property sector.
I had not seen Barry for several years until I met him again recently at a party thrown by mutual friends.
He hadn’t changed – still warm and charming with a big smile.
He leaves his eponymous property company in good hands, led by experienced former banker John McGhee who spent 41 years with Yorkshire Bank before joining York City Football Club as general manager.
John is supported by a hugely experienced team including Philip Lees, who ran his own architectural practice before joining Gregory Property Group in 2014.
I know both John and Philip and they are exactly the kind of people you would expect Barry to entrust his family business with.
It is in safe hands.
HE’S a man who has enjoyed many highs and some lows in a long and illustrious career in business.
Jonny Hick freely admits that at one stage he never thought he’d make the age of 50, so it was lovely to be able to join him to celebrate his 60th birthday at the weekend.
As the sun shone on Wharfedale Grange, the superb wedding and event venue run by entrepreneur Claire Thomas near Harewood, Jonny, who founded Directorbank and has an enviable contacts book and is now involved in more deals than a Monte Carlo croupier, welcomed many family and friends to his celebration.
Immaculately clad in a bronze velvet dinner jacket and bow tie, Jonny worked the venue like only he can before bringing his family up on stage.
Those who know Jonny remember his extraordinary talent for writing poetry and delivering it in Yorkshire dialect.
He has used it to introduce world leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush at the Yorkshire International Business Convention and written lovely words to celebrate friends’ birthdays and significant life achievements.
He’ not written poetry for many years and so it was lovely to see him deliver heartwarming verses about each member of his family including his talented children Ben and Rebecca.
It was then time to introduce the HUGE party band fronted by his friend Big Ian Donachy.
Clearly Jonny enjoyed the occasion as he’s now planning his 70th.
He definitely has a great story to tell.
But I recommend you ask for it in instalments.
A few years ago a group of us gathered for lunch in the private dining room of William & Victoria’s restaurant in Harrogate to hear Jonny talk about his life and career.
One of the guests had to leave after two-and-a-half hours to catch a train back to London.
At that stage Jonny’s life story had just about reached his 16th birthday.
Have a great weekend.