David Parkin waves farewell to a good man, tries to get his head around Peston and sees a nerd alert

THERE have been plenty of cliches trotted out over the last three months.

As lockdown restrictions start to ease we are all wondering what life will look like on the other side of the virtual domestic bubble we’ve been living in since March.

One of the phrases you hear said the most is “the new normal”.

I’m sure there are a thousand Zoom webinars you can go on where “experts” will tell you how things are going to be on the other side.

They don’t know.

In fact they have even less knowledge of what it is going to look like than the politicians – and that’s saying something.

What we all can probably agree on is that life – whether socially, in business or the way we travel – is going to be very different to how it was before.

One organisation attempting to get to grips with the rapidly changing environment is Welcome to Yorkshire.

When you consider the seismic effect of Covid-19 on the tourism and leisure sector following on from last year’s challenges when chief executive Sir Gary Verity resigned following questions over his expenses and bullying of staff, there can’t have been many organisations that have endured such a challenging 18 months.

The one consistent and calm figure throughout that period has been Peter Dodd, Welcome to Yorkshire’s commercial director.

Peter took the decision to leave Welcome to Yorkshire this week after 11 years.

I can’t work out whether I was surprised or not by the news.

On the one hand Welcome to Yorkshire is now a very different organisation to the one where Peter worked alongside Sir Gary to put Yorkshire on the world stage – hosting the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, five Tour de Yorkshires, the RHS Chelsea Flower Shows and the UCI Road World Championships.

On the other, Peter has held that organisation and its people together over the last 18 months following the departure of Sir Gary, chairman Ron McMillan and seemingly constant criticism from the media.

There is no disputing that he has earned the right to decide when he goes.

And after spending the past few weeks on furlough back at the family home in the North West (you see you don’t need to be from Yorkshire to be passionate about the place) he told me it had proved valuable time to reflect on what he would like to do in the future.

In the meantime his garden is probably Chelsea Flower Show standard and he has time to devote to help support his wife’s business and his son’s new venture, a tree surgery business.

Over the last 11 years I’ve got to know Peter well, first as a business contact, then as a friend and, over the last few years as a colleague when I became an ambassador for Welcome to Yorkshire.

That role came to an end in March and it was Peter who rang me to deliver the news with his customary charm and empathy.

How Welcome to Yorkshire adapts to the “new normal” is yet to be seen but those of us with a passion to see the region thrive will want to see it succeed.

It is almost certainly not going to involve the kind of events that Peter and Sir Gary helped deliver.

But different times involve different approaches.

Peter Dodd is yet to decide on his next adventure.

But a man with so much experience, so many high level contacts and relationships in the public and private sector will be a prized asset as a non-executive director or advisor.

He’s a good man and there will be a long queue of people like me who wish him well.


Parky’s video clip of the week



Reasons to be cheerful

The author Robert C Gallagher once said: “Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.”

Thanks to Jason Zickerman, president and CEO of international business advisory and coaching organisation The Alternative Board (TAB) for highlighting that great quote.

I first met Jason thanks to Martin Allison the ex-banker turned entrepreneur who acquired the UK franchise to TAB.

Jason was part of a panel of business leaders who I interviewed on stage in front of an audience of 1,500 people in Harrogate at Mike Firth’s Yorkshire International Business Convention a few years ago.

It is certainly the biggest audience I’ve appeared in front of and so as I walked on stage – a stage trodden in previous years by Bill Clinton, George H W Bush. Mikhail Gorbachev, Colin Powell…and Cannon and Ball – I attempted to inject some humour into my introduction.

I told the audience of high level business leaders and decision makers that speakers at the business convention had arrived via private jet, limousine and helicopter.

I said that Mike Firth had paid my bus fare from Leeds.

I think there was a vague titter from one person at the back.

Or it could have been a cough.


WHAT is it about Robert Peston?

I know in some quarters he is seen as the ‘thinking woman’s crumpet’.

His recent appearances at the Downing Street press briefings have been awkward and stumbling and haven’t really challenged those in government that he has been questioning.

I remember at the time he moved from the Sunday Telegraph to succeed Jeff Randall as the BBC’s Business Editor, I welcomed the appointment of an experienced newspaper journalist to the role but highlighted the differences between print and broadcast news reporting.

You certainly get less time to get your teeth into a subject on TV news and you are often judged by how you look and how you sound before viewers have listened to anything you have actually said.

I put Peston’s halting, staccato style of delivery at the time down to the transition you might expect from a long-serving newspaperman stepping in front of a camera for the first time.

But 15 years on he’s now ITV’s political editor and he’s still like that.

And let’s face it, it’s not like he hasn’t had time to prepare a question for these briefings, which take place daily at the same time.

With his floppy hair and slightly rumpled appearance he must be aiming for the university professor chic look (well it worked for Michael Caine in Educating Rita).

Forget his appearance, for me as a viewer, his rumpled and floppy approach to asking questions makes for uncomfortable watching.

I’m not going to eulogise about his opposite number at the BBC, Laura Kuenssberg, either.

In fact, during this whole coronavirus crisis I’ve been more impressed by the supporting cast of BBC political journalists.

People like assistant political editor Norman Smith and chief political correspondent Vicki Young.

Both are no-nonsense presenters, they don’t grandstand, they tell you the facts and they both appear unflappable.

When Dominic Cummings was more than half an hour late for his press conference in the garden of No 10 Downing Street on bank holiday Monday, Vicki Young was stationed outside the famous black front door of the Prime Minister’s residence.

She filled the majority of that time taking countless questions from the presenter in the studio and never once sounding like she was repeating herself or struggling to fill the gaping air-time.


What I’m looking forward to this week

YOU know I like a good headline or a good quote.

My eye was drawn to a small corner at the bottom of page two of the Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago.

All that was there was a few words promoting an interview in the newspaper’s Money section.

The interview was with maths teacher and University Challenge quiz whizz turned TV presenter Bobby Seagull who it said “has become an unlikely hero”.

It was headlined: “Nerd Immunity”.

Have a great weekend.

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