David Parkin on deja vu all over again

YOU might not thank me for saying this.

Happy New Year.

I’m a cup half full type of person.

But just when we hoped to have put the excesses of 2020 behind us – record numbers of coronavirus deaths and cases and national lockdowns, haphazard and apparently knee-jerk decision-making by those running the country and America teetering on the brink of chaos thanks to an unhinged President – 2021 has kicked off with a vengeance.

I won’t fill you with false hope like a politician might, but surely with the vaccine programme currently being rolled out this year has to end up being better than last year, doesn’t it?


THE National Health Service is one of the greatest British institutions.

Dedicated, hardworking and often underpaid staff deliver incredible service which many of us only truly appreciate when we or our families have a need to use the NHS.

Unfortunately, it has taken a pandemic for the wider population to also appreciate what it does.

Like any vast organisation, there are inefficiencies but those on the frontline are delivering day in, day out amid huge pressures.

But away from the ICUs, A&E, paramedics and oncology wards, a dramatic amount of money has been thrown at the digital capability of the NHS which has delivered, from what I can see, very little benefit.

What could the billions wasted on the failed Test & Trace service have done if put into the NHS directly?

And NHS Digital.

Rather than upgrading the digital capacity and ability of our health service, it appears to have been more a scheme to enable a rag-tag bunch of digital agencies to do a half-arsed job while charging exorbitant fees.


THERE is nothing like a dame.

That’s according to Rodgers and Hammerstein – and Morecambe and Wise.

And if pantomimes were allowed, we’d still, just about, be in panto season.

So it was nice to see that Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds City Council has been selected as a Labour Party peer in the House of Lords.

Sadly, according to Wikipedia anyway, she won’t be addressed as Dame Judith – but I’m not changing my intro, it was a decent line and I don’t come up with many of them – more likely Baroness Blake or Lady Blake.

I first met Judith several years ago before she was council leader when both of us were invited to join a trip to Israel organised by Leeds Zionist Federation.

It was a fascinating experience learning about a country I had never visited before and the group I was part of was an interesting bunch too.

We were joined by the Rector of Leeds Parish Church Graham Smith, who later became Dean of Norwich but who I particularly remember was the spitting image of Father Ted.

Also on the trip were Judith’s fellow Leeds city councillor Mohammed Rafique, the MP for Leeds North East Fabian Hamilton and Neil Hodgkinson, who was then the editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Our host was the charming Philip Margolis of Leeds Zionist Federation.

It was a memorable few days in which we stayed in Tel Aviv and visited Jerusalem and the West Bank.

We lunched with the British Consul General in Jerusalem and had dinner in the hills in a Druze community – the Arabic-speaking citizens of Israel.

We talked to Arabs and Israelis and returned home better informed than when we had left.

Whenever I bump into one of the others on the trip we laugh and swap stories about the experience.

I also like to think that the journalistic mickey-taking that Neil and I subjected Judith and the other politicians to while we all sat in the back of a minibus travelling around Israel will stand her in good stead when she arrives at the upper chamber.


I HAVE a growing pile of books on my bedside table that need reading.

Will a new lockdown enable that to happen?

I hope so, given that in a couple of cases, I have actually met the authors.

In fact, I am featured in one of the books.

Well an article I wrote in the Yorkshire Post is.

‘How Geography Changed The World – And My Small Part In It’, is by Martin Clarke, the former University of Leeds geography professor who founded successful university spin-out company GMAP.

Martin isn’t like any other academic I’ve met.

Given he became a very successful entrepreneur, that’s probably why.

His book is an entertaining personal recollection of events telling the story of the evolution of GMAP from the University of Leeds’ school of geography to its acquisition by Skipton Building Society in 2001 to form part of the Skipton Information Group and later Callcredit which was acquired by US giant TransUnion in 2018.

The story I wrote about GMAP’s acquisition by Skipton Building Society features in the book.

Martin includes a story about John Goodfellow, the late chief executive of Skipton, which he told me at the time but which couldn’t be repeated in a family newspaper.

When Goodfellow, a gruff, tough, heavy smoking Scotsman, turned up at the smart Leeds office of law firm Addleshaw Booth (as it was known then) to sign the deal, the first thing he did was to light a cigarette.

The firm’s head of facilities approached the building society boss and said apologetically: “I’m only doing my job Mr Goodfellow but this is a no smoking office.”

To which John replied: “I know you are only doing your effing job, but I pay your effing wages so eff off.”

Needless to say he smoked all night until the deal was signed.

What I like about Martin’s book is not just the humour but the fact that he sees the bigger picture.

It isn’t just a personal vanity project recounting his achievements, it addresses some of the challenges that face universities in commercially exploiting innovation on campuses around the country.

As Martin freely admits, the issues that GMAP faced were not unique and the book doesn’t just identify and explain then, but provides an outline of ways to get around them.

The key point that emerges is that the fundamental issue for university spin-outs is the same as for any business – people being motivated and determined to succeed.

In the case of spin-outs, Martin says that those involved have to “be prepared to leave their laboratories and enter into corporate boardrooms and advisors’ offices of the world. This does not come naturally to a lot of academics!”

Thank goodness it did for Martin.

It is a great story which he tells in a very interesting and entertaining way.


BACK when the first lockdown started last March I pledged to do several things.

One was to keep up people’s morale by penning an entertaining weekly blog.

And the other was to finish reading Andrew Roberts’ epic biography of Winston Churchill.

But I’m barely half way through the tome and Winston hasn’t even become Prime Minister yet.

Well, one out two isn’t bad.


That’s not nice.

As my mother used to tell me: “If you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

But then again, if I did take that approach then I’d never fill this blog.

Have a great weekend.

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