David Parkin on crackpots and conspiracy theories

WHAT a difference a day makes.

On Tuesday I was basking in sunshine sipping an americano outside a Leeds city centre coffee shop as lawyers and accountants waved cheery greetings.

To be fair, most of them were in insolvency which perhaps explains their sunny dispositions.

The city appeared to have regained a little of its bustle and swagger as shoppers and office workers strolled across Briggate at lunchtime.

There was a definite feeling that life was slowly returning to some kind of normality after the six-month hiatus caused by lockdown restrictions.

And then came Boris Johnson’s announcement of tightened rules and warning that we can expect things to remain like this for another six months.

I remember when lockdown was first introduced we all thought that the worst case scenario was that we had to put up with the change in our lives until June.

Then we thought we just had to get through the summer.

Then it was keeping it going through the autumn in the hope we could all enjoy a relatively normal Christmas with family and friends.

Now we are digging in for the winter and spring seems a long way away.

Lockdown was made much more bearable by fine spring and summer weather.

Since Boris’s announcement on Tuesday evening the sun appears to have been switched off and yesterday we endured single digit temperatures and in our neck of the woods torrential rain followed by a raging hail storm.

So how can we cheer ourselves up?

Well, you could do worse things than Googling the name ‘Piers Corbyn’.

I didn’t know much about former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s elder sibling until this week.

I was walking up Briggate when I first heard and then saw a small gathering of people in the middle of the pedestrianised street outside Debenhams.

They were listening to a man in a navy shirt and burgundy tie standing on a small platform behind some makeshift banners.

I recognised him from news reports as Piers Corbyn – a 73-year-old weather forecaster and climate change denier and anti-vaccination campaigner who more recently has been claiming the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax and campaigning against lockdown rules.

I didn’t dally for long to listen to his crackpot ideas, but just long enough to work out that he has the same level of oratorical skills as his brother.

At one point he attempted to reach a climax with a flourish after relating a victory he had achieved for workers at a London council.

He was greeted by silence from the watching throng.

“I think that deserves some applause,” appealed Piers.

There was a rather weak smattering of clapping in response, which to be fair I joined in with.

Not because I agreed with him.

I was applauding a chap with a corn on the cob trolley who had rather niftily swung it around a bollard to secure a better pitch on Briggate than the bloke with the wagon festooned in cheap iPhone covers.

I will always applaud entrepreneurship in all its forms.

If you haven’t seen him before, imagine how the Beano would draw a character described as a “mad professor” and you’ve got Piers Corbyn.

In recent months he has been arrested several times for organising protests against lockdown and earlier this month he was one of the first people to receive a £10,000 fixed penalty fine under new coronavirus laws restricting public gatherings of more than 30 people.

Considering others to have received such fines the same weekend were the organisers of an illegal rave for 3,000 people in the South Wales village of Banwen, four people who organised a house party in the Leeds suburb of Headingley, two DJs at a party that was broken up by police in nearby Burley and four people who held an unlicensed music event in Hackney Wick in London, he was in illustrious company.

I don’t know whether he received another fine for his appearance in Leeds on Tuesday but it and other recent mini-rallies from Sheffield to Truro only were a warm up to his big one scheduled to take place in Trafalgar Square tomorrow.

Headlining is, of course, Piers Corbyn, backed by former BBC broadcaster turned conspiracy theorist David Icke and Gareth Icke.

I’ve never heard of Gareth Icke but a quick bit of internet research informs me that he is David Icke’s 38-year-old son who describes himself as “a singer/songwriter, author, personal trainer & former international beach soccer player based in Derby”.

If you are a conspiracy theorist looking for a bit of peace and quiet and reflection I can highly recommend my home town of Derby.

The locals will definitely give you a wide berth.

Back to Piers.

I remember reading a quote from Jeremy Corbyn’s son Tommy, who, when asked about his uncle, admitted he could be a “nightmare” and said “every family has a Piers”.

Well I’ve had a good look and I’m pleased to say ours doesn’t.

It reminds me of an exchange between Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin on stage at one of the Rat Pack’s legendary Summits in the Copa Room of the Sands Casino in Las Vegas.

Frank:”Haven’t you got a fairy godmother?”

Dean: “No, but we’ve got an uncle we keep a close eye on.”.


FAREWELL then Reg Harrison.

Reg, who died last week aged 97 was the last surviving member of the Derby County team which won the FA Cup in 1946 and the oldest living winner of the famous trophy.

The 22-year-old winger was a member of the Rams team which beat Charlton 4-1 in the first post-war cup final in front of 98,000 people at Wembley Stadium.

He wasn’t expecting to play in the final but an injury to regular outside right Sammy Crooks meant Reg got his chance.

I remember once seeing a photograph of him standing with team mates at Derby station preparing to board the London train.

He was carrying his football boots in a brown paper bag.

I don’t think they sold Louis Vuitton toiletry bags in Bennetts in Derby in those days.

After an 11-year career playing for Derby County, Reg became a painter and decorator and spent much of his time involved in youth football, setting up centres around his home town.

When local businessman Lionel Pickering bought Derby County in the early 1990s one of the first things he did was invite former players as guests in the directors’ box at matches.

They were players that he had grown up watching and Lionel loved to get them involved in talking about football.

Many times I saw him break off from conversations with chairmen and managers of Premier League clubs having asked them if they had ever won an FA Cup.

When they inevitably shook their heads, Lionel would say: “Well this man has. What did you make of that match we’ve just seen Reg?”

Humble, hardworking, loyal and committed with a boyish giggle, Reg Harrison was a winner…and not just at Wembley.


IT was nice to hear from two former Leeds restaurateurs recently.

Phil Richardson, who ran The Foundry, picked me up on my claim that Diana Rigg’s character was the only woman James Bond ever married.

Phil correctly pointed out that 007 also married in You Only Live Twice.

But it was only an undercover ploy to help him disguise himself as a Japanese fisherman.

Hating to admit I was wrong, that was all I needed to reply to Phil that that marriage didn’t count because it wasn’t for love.

I’m a hopeless romantic these days.

It was also nice to hear from Steve Ridealgh, who ran Brasserie 44 on The Calls in Leeds for many years.

He used to offer a service where he picked diners up in his smart racing green Jaguar.

I think I vaguely remember being taken home by him a few times too.

Steve is now operating as a personal driver and will drive your own car so you don’t have to.

For more information you can call Steve on 07740 876701 email jsr59@icloud.com or go to www.steve-ridealgh-personal-driver.co.uk/


I RECEIVED a message from my tailor James Michelsberg this week.

As well as informing me that he had a jacket ready for me to collect, he also provided me with an historical piece of trivia I never knew.

Karl Marx is well known as a philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.

But nobody ever mentions his sister, Onya, who invented the starting pistol.

Have a great weekend.

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