David Parkin on Northern Powerhouse, MIPIM and Budget tittle tattle

PERHAPS it is because I wasn’t invited, but the news coming out of the MIPIM international property exhibition and conference in Cannes this week appears to have been rather muted.

It has long been derided as a champagne-fuelled jolly – mainly by those who don’t get to go – but it is fair to say there are worse places to spend a few days in mid March.

Although when it is scheduled the same week as the Cheltenham Festival there are a few faces missing, almost certainly Leeds-based property developer Phil Taylor, the man behind the glitzy Firecracker Ball which has raised a million quid for charity over the years.

I once saw Phil boarding a plane to Nice at Leeds Bradford Airport, bound for MIPIM.

He was pulling a heavy case.

I asked if it contained his promotional material to hand out to potential investors and clients he might meet along the Croisette in Cannes.

“No, it’s got 15kg of bacon and sausages in, you just can’t trust that foreign food,” he replied.

The international event, which has attracted more than 20,000 property professionals to the Cote d’Azur this week, has seen cities and regions from across the UK promoting themselves at events that run from dawn until dusk, and beyond.

I bet the Leeds City Region delegation hoped that they would have a devolution deal to talk about this year.

Instead of being able to talk about investing in huge infrastructure projects and having more powers to attract major inward investors, they were unveiling images of a planned new motorway services on the M1 near Leeds.

I quite liked the design of the services with grass over its curved roofing.

But then I’ve always been a fan of the Teletubbies.

The week started with news that the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership was urging business leaders to lobby the Government to get a devolution deal sorted.

It might have been Budget week, but there was no news forthcoming from Chancellor George Osborne.

To put things into context, Leeds is the largest Northern city region not to have agreed a devolution of powers with central Government.

Manchester signed its deal in November 2014, followed by Sheffield and the North East last October and Liverpool in November. Birmingham, as part of the West Midlands, also agreed a deal in November.

You can imagine the frustration of Leeds LEP chairman Roger Marsh.

I don’t have to imagine, every time I bump into him near his Wellington Street offices, he gives me a snapshot of a process that sounds like it has become the political equivalent of wading through treacle.

The argument that is causing the delay appears to be over what territory the devolved powers will apply to: the Leeds City Region or a Greater Yorkshire that will include North and East Yorkshire.

As you might imagine, it isn’t business people who are arguing over the devolution deal – it is the politicians.

How can you have a Northern Powerhouse if one of the largest regions within it can’t get itself sorted after 18 months of discussions?

In a bid to encourage progress, the LEP coordinated an open letter signed by leading business people from the city region, aimed at putting pressure on the Treasury in a week when Mr Osborne further outlined his strategies to grown and rebalance the economy.

Georgie Boy might talk a good game when it comes to the Northern Powerhouse but his announcement of investment in so-called HS3 to improve rail journey times to 30 minutes between Leeds and Manchester and a plan to look into a possible tunnel under the Pennines to better link Sheffield and Manchester was woefully short of real commitment to timing and funding.

At the same time he approved funding for the Crossrail 2 project linking North London with areas south of the capital, something that will receive many more billions in investment than anything north of Watford.

Northern Powerhouse?

It’s more like a Northern talking shop so far.

It reminds me of the tittle tattle between Les Dawson’s classic comic creations, Cissy and Ada.

When they met in one sketch in the dining room of a Blackpool B&B (£20 a week with full use of cruet), Cissy asks Ada why she arrived late.

“Well, we would have got here earlier but we had a puncture at Knutsford,” says Ada, hitching up her frock and puckering her lips in that memorable gurn.

It sounds a bit like the Northern Powerhouse.

Politicians can by all means come up with catchy phrases but just chucking the germ of an idea at regional politicians and business people and expecting them to make it work is not strategic.

It’s daft.


POPULAR BBC broadcasters Harry “Thinking Woman’s Crumpet” Gration and Paul “The Chirpy Weatherman” Hudson are currently taking part in a marathon three-legged challenge across Yorkshire to raise money for Sport Relief.

It’s commendable stuff but not particularly exciting TV to watch two blokes who like each other hopping across the county.

It made me think that a much more watchable challenge would be strapping two people together who don’t get on.

Paul Hudson never looked like he was best mates with Harry’s former presenting partner Christa Ackroyd.

I remember when one of the news items on Look North was about an eight foot python that had escaped from a house in Bradford.

“Is it called Christa?” said Paul, as they turned to him for the evening weather report.

I wonder who Roger Marsh would detest being strapped to?

Probably any politician from North or East Yorkshire.

George Osborne? Well he would hate spending a few days dashing about the Dales attached to anyone who asked him to explain what the Northern Powerhouse is all about.

Geoffrey Boycott?

Who wouldn’t he want to spend time with?

Well, anyone really.


I was at a meeting earlier this week and given a cup of tea in a mug which had a cartoon on it of two cows in a field.

One says to the other: “Are you worried about Mad Cow Disease?”

The other replies: “No…I’m a penguin.”

Have a great weekend.

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