David Parkin on Trump and Farage and Cannon and Ball

LET’S start with some good news.

It was announced this week that the former chairman and chief executive of technology giant 3M has been named as the new chancellor of my alma mater the University of Huddersfield.

Sir George Buckley gained a BSc in electrical and electronic engineering from the university in 1972 and went on to acquire a PhD in engineering in 1976.

Given he is one of a fairly small group of Brits who have succeeded at the highest level running businesses in the US and he’s a multi-millionaire I didn’t think I would have much in common with Sir George.

But it sounds like we both like to talk about going to the University of Huddersfield when it was actually Huddersfield Poly.

He appears to have used it to his advantage a bit more than I have.

Our only other link is that I have compered an event at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre in an impressive building neighbouring the university campus.

It is home to student start-ups and small and medium sized businesses who have access to innovation and enterprise support…and presumably plentiful supplies of Post-it Notes and Scotch Tape.

Come on, keep up.

3M makes those products.

I should know that if I have to explain my gags then I shouldn’t bother using them.

Pardon?

I don’t want to know.

This is my blog.

I have a feeling that Sir George Buckley may achieve a little bit more and add more value than his predecessor as Chancellor.

But given that was the Duke of York, that isn’t so much a pretty safe bet as a racing certainty.

If you aren’t familiar with Sir George, he has had a fascinating career and certainly doesn’t come from the traditional background you might expect of a successful business executive.

He left school at 15 with no qualifications, for an apprenticeship at the tool-maker Stanley.

He went off to Huddersfield Polytechnic, where he gained a degree in engineering, followed by a PhD at Southampton paid for by a Sheffield steel company that offered him a job at £2,200 a year.

The chance to double his salary saw him move to the Central Electricity Generating Board, before he was recruited by General Motors and moved to the US.

In 2000 he became chairman of the Brunswick Corporation and in 2005 was appointed chairman, president and chief executive of 3M, which has a portfolio of brands including Scotch Tape and Post-it notes.

Sir George was knighted in 2011 and currently holds posts that include the chairmanship of UK manufacturer and FTSE-100 company Smiths Group and tool giant Stanley Black & Decker and sitting on the board of Hitachi.

In 2013, the university’s new business and innovation centre was named the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre and Sir George said that the company would sponsor a 3M chair of innovation.

Announcing the appointment, Professor Bob Cryan, vice-chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, said: “Sir George has been tremendously generous in his support for the University over the years and he has been a regular visitor, giving numerous presentations to both students and staff.

“He is a truly inspirational individual that ran one of the most innovative companies in the world, and his advice is highly sought after by both governments and major corporations. Sir George is a proud Huddersfield graduate and a fantastic role model for our students, and I do not doubt that he will be an amazing Chancellor.”

I totally agree. Bob Cryan is an enterprising academic who has done a great job at Huddersfield and he will be delighted to have such a knowledgeable and influential new Chancellor.

I didn’t know a great deal about Sir George before I read a fascinating profile of him recently by the Sunday Times business editor Oliver Shah.

The 73-year-old freely admits he was born “a very sickly child…in an unheated room in Sheffield in the worst winter in 200 years” and then abandoned by his parents at four months old.

His grandmother gave him away to two of her lodgers who also fostered a young man 20 years his senior.

Buckley remembers: “He was a paedophile, and he did what paedophiles do, so it was a rough-and-tumble upbringing.”

It is a staggeringly stoic response to an unimaginably tragic childhood experience.

He grew up suffering from chronic bronchitis and pernicious anaemia and walked with a limp and was sent to a school for children with disabilities.

Picked on by children from other schools, Buckley remembers: “I don’t think I was ever bitter. I spent a lot of my childhood on my own, entertaining myself, and while that might seem in some ways horrible, the positive outcome was I had a Meccano set, I had a fort with soldiers, I had a Bayko building set, and I spent much of my time making stuff — an innocent, creative process.”

This phlegmatic approach to life is one that still shapes Sir George Buckley.

With an estimated worth of over $100m and homes in Chicago, Florida and Minneapolis, he spent lockdown running two global companies via Zoom video calls from his UK home, a former vicarage in the Peak District.

And it isn’t Meccano he now messes about with in his spare time, he’s been rebuilding a 1960 BMW motorbike and trimming the bonsai trees in his Japanese-style garden.

He is a quite incredible individual who will add so much for so many in his new role at Huddersfield.

:::

AT one of the many rallies he has been holding this week, Donald Trump unveiled his secret weapon in his bid to secure four more years in the White House.

Joining him on stage in Arizona was former UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

I’m not sure how many Americans actually recognise him, but Trump eulogises Nige as the man who has delivered Brexit.

Whether that counts to an audience who are focused on domestic issues is a moot point.

Over this side of the pond we haven’t heard much from Nigel Farage for some time.

But it is no secret to most that he’s certainly a weapon.

:::

IN a week when former Mayor of New York and Donald Trump’s legal advisor Rudy Giuliani has been involved in a trouser-dropping controversy, I have news that that also happened to legendary Leeds United manager Don Revie.

Don’t worry Whites fans, I’m not going to sully the reputation of one of the club’s greatest names.

But Revie and his slacks were mentioned this week when tributes were paid to former journalist John Wilford, who has died at the age of 80.

He was the man responsible for setting up the infamous televised confrontation between former Leeds manager Revie and Brian Clough, on the day Old Big ‘Ead was sacked after just 44 days at Elland Road.

John Wilford brought these two Middlesbrough-born footballing titans together in the Yorkshire Television studios in 1974.

The interview was later reenacted in the 2009 film The Damned United.

That was mesmerising viewing – until you watch the compelling original footage on YouTube.

A former newspaper reporter, John Wilford moved into television at ATV in Birmingham before joining Yorkshire TV as news editor, then becoming head of local programmes and later head of corporate affairs.

Robert Charles recalled in an obituary for the Sports Journalists’ Association how John Wilford set up the confrontation between Clough and Revie.

He wrote: “Wilford brought the two together after commandeering a slot on the channel after News at Ten to produce a piece of TV crackling with all the animosity of a verbal fistfight. Wilford recounted with great relish how, before the interview, Revie asked for his fee in cash.

“Away from prying eyes John escorted him to the nearest gents’ lavatories in the YTV building, Revie undid and dropped his trousers, crammed a crisp wad of notes into a money belt and the interview went ahead.”

They don’t make TV like they used to.

Just ask Rudy Giuliani.

But let him do his zip up first.

:::

FAREWELL then Bobby Ball.

The more manic half of TV double act Cannon and Ball died this week aged 76, another victim of the coronavirus pandemic.

BBC Radio 4’s World At One played a short tribute to him at the end of yesterday’s programme.

It must have been put together by a young, well meaning member of staff who had clearly never heard of him.

There wasn’t a clip of Bobby exclaiming: “Rock on, Tommy!”

I won’t say that’s all he said, but he said it quite a lot.

When I was growing up Cannon and Ball were massive names with their own TV show which attracted up to 15 million viewers.

They even made a film: Boys In Blue.

But now I look back I realise they weren’t very funny.

They were fortunate that in the early 1980s TV companies were looking for a successor to Morecambe and Wise.

We now realise with hindsight that, just like Tommy Cooper, Eric and Ernie were so unique, talented and naturally funny that they were irreplaceable.

But Cannon and Ball had a go.

The only time I found one of their routines really, uproariously funny, was when Bobby walked off stage with a flea in his ear when he learned Tommy was going to sing with a female guest star.

They perched on a wall surrounded by flowers and launched into a duet of a love song.

Suddenly Bobby pulled Tommy back off the wall and clambered over to replace him doing the duet.

Tommy reciprocated and this was repeated several times before the female star was yanked off the wall and the two comics finished the song together.

I remember thinking what a great routine it was.

Until I later watched a Morecambe and Wise highlights show and realised they had originally done the sketch more than a decade previously.

:::

IN these uncertain times we are all looking for reassurance.

I’m sure concerns over health, finances and what the future will bring bother many of us.

Some of it we have a degree of control over, but much of it we don’t.

So that’s why in these troubling times, where nice guys get washed away like the snow and the rain, I take inspiration from the wise words of a great sage to keep me on the right path.

“There’s been a load of compromisin’ on the road to my horizon.

“But I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me.”

You can learn a lot from Glen Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy.

Have a great weekend.

1 comment

  1. Malcolm Cowing

    Presume you ducked the big story coming out of the USA about the Biden Crime Family revelations for fear of being censored by Facebook?

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