Marcus Stead

Freelance Journalist Marcus Stead

Twenty Minute Topic Episode 5: Personal Responsibility

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Episode 5: Personal Responsibility

Greg Lance-Watkins and I discuss the subject of personal responsibility. At what point does it become the responsibility of the individual and the family, rather than the welfare state, to provide for our needs? The discussion then turns to the subject of gambling, both in the high street and online, which often has a devastating impact on people living in socially deprived areas.

The podcast is also available via the Talk Podcasts website, on iTunes, and by clicking on the SoundCloud link below.

A second podcast on personal responsibility will be released in two weeks’ time, where Greg and I will look into how the welfare state in its current form is unsustainable.


Written by Marcus Stead

July 21, 2019 at 12:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Twenty Minute Topic Episode 4: Can the NHS Survive?

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Greg Lance-Watkins 1

Greg Lance-Watkins


In the latest of our ‘Twenty Minute Topic’ podcasts, I’m joined by veteran campaigner and blogger Greg Lance-Watkins as we debate whether the NHS has a future. If so, what form it will take? What changes need to be made if it is to survive and provide world-class healthcare?

The podcast is also available via the Talk Podcasts website, on iTunes, and by clicking on the link below:


Written by Marcus Stead

July 14, 2019 at 2:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Bilderberg – What’s It All About?

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IN LATE May and early June, a group of Europe and North America’s leading politicians, elder statesmen, bankers, businessmen and academics, met for a four-day conference at the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace Hotel, Switzerland.

There were no journalists present, no TV cameras, no reports on mainstream news bulletins or in newspapers. So what was it all about, and why the secrecy?

The occasion was the annual Bilderberg Meeting, named after the venue of the first conference at the Hotel de Bilderberg in Oosterbeek, Netherlands. In a free and open society, a gathering of such high-profile and influential people would command significant media coverage and scrutiny, as is the case of meetings of the UN General Assembly or the G8 Summits, but with Bilderberg, there is secrecy and silence.

An official agenda of items is published on the Bilderberg website, but we have absolutely no way of verifying what was discussed, nor are minutes of the meetings taken. It is hard to believe that such a group have met up to discuss the weather and their holiday plans.

Henry Kissinger, US Secretary of State 1973-77

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger turned 96 shortly before this year’s meeting. He hasn’t missed a Bilderberg Meeting for decades. But why? In theory, at least, he hasn’t been a major political figure for around 40 years. The same applied to the late former Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington, who continued to attend Bilderberg for decades after he ceased to be a frontline political figure.

The British delegation was, to put it mildly, eclectic. There was Lord Andrew Adonis, a Secretary of State for Transport during the Labour government of Gordon Brown. Adonis, who has never been elected by anybody, was a once-brilliant mind who has in recent years become wildly obsessive about stopping Brexit. He is given a wide berth by most journalists these days (a view I know veteran newscaster Alastair Stewart shares with me), and has a habit of blocking anyone who challenges him on Twitter. Why on earth would he be at Bilderberg?

Next up was Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, who has been a pivotal figure in the ‘Project Fear’ campaign, both before and after the Brexit referendum.

Also present were some less well-known names, Jeremy Fleming, director of the British Government Communication Headquarters (did you even know such a body existed?), and Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies at Oxford University.

Among the delegates was Helge Lund, chairman of BP Plc and Novo Nordisk AS, Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist magazine. John Sawers, the executive chairman of Newbridge Advisory (any ideas?) and Minouche Shafik, director of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The list gets even more bizarre. Mustafa Suleyman, the co-founder of artificial intelligence company Deepmind, the Conservative backbench MP Tom Tugendhat, and Martin H. Wolf, chief economics commentator of the Financial Times.

Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy, 2014-16

Non-British delegates included former Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi. There was James Baker, the former US Secretary of State who left office more than 25 years ago and is now aged 89, as well as Jared Kushner, a senior advisor and son-in-law to President Donald Trump.

The list goes on and on, but a few other notable people include HSBC chairman Mark Tucker, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, and controversial Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary.

Of all the MPs who could have been invited, why Tom Tugendhat? He is chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, but has only been in Parliament four years and can hardly be described as (on the surface, at least) a major figure in British politics.

Perhaps a clue can be found by looking at the guest lists of previous years. In 2011, a relatively unknown young and ambitious Conservative MP called Rory Stewart attended Bilderberg. That’s the same Rory Stewart who became the mainstream broadcast media’s preferred candidate of choice in the ongoing Conservative Party leadership race, despite having no substantial leadership qualities. His campaign came unstuck during a particularly poor performance during the BBC leadership debate, but in the preceding days, he was wildly overpraised by political reporters on all the main news networks, and by several national newspapers. Why?

Rory Stewart MP

The only other UK political figures to attend Bilderberg that year were then-Chancellor and now-London Evening Standard editor George Osborne, Lord Peter Mandelson, former Blairite henchman, Cabinet minister and EU Commissioner, and Lord John Kerr, then-deputy chairman of Royal Dutch Shell Plc. Why was Rory Stewart invited to be a part of such company?

Clues to the mainstream media’s compliance with the secrecy can be found in the guest lists of most years, including 2019, which saw, among others Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief, John Micklethwait in attendance. In 2015, Rona Fairhead, then-chairman of the BBC Trust, was in attendance.

I try and avoid swivel-eyed conspiracy theories. The 2019 guest list can be seen in full, below. What could this wide-ranging but influential group of people possibly be discussing? Why the secrecy? Why weren’t there press conferences and listed conclusions published afterwards? Why is the occasional little-known but ambitious MP invited to attend?

Sensible answers are welcome……

Castries, Henri de (FRA), Chairman, Steering Committee; Chairman, Institut Montaigne
Kravis, Marie-Josée (USA), President, American Friends of Bilderberg Inc.; Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
Halberstadt, Victor (NLD), Chairman Foundation Bilderberg Meetings; Professor of Economics, Leiden University
Achleitner, Paul M. (DEU), Treasurer Foundation Bilderberg Meetings; Chairman Supervisory Board, Deutsche Bank AG

Abrams, Stacey (USA), Founder and Chair, Fair Fight
Adonis, Andrew (GBR), Member, House of Lords
Albers, Isabel (BEL), Editorial Director, De Tijd / L’Echo
Altman, Roger C. (USA), Founder and Senior Chairman, Evercore
Arbour, Louise (CAN), Senior Counsel, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
Arrimadas, Inés (ESP), Party Leader, Ciudadanos
Azoulay, Audrey (INT), Director-General, UNESCO
Baker, James H. (USA), Director, Office of Net Assessment, Office of the Secretary of Defense
Balta, Evren (TUR), Associate Professor of Political Science, Özyegin University
Barbizet, Patricia (FRA), Chairwoman and CEO, Temaris & Associés
Barbot, Estela (PRT), Member of the Board and Audit Committee, REN (Redes Energéticas Nacionais)
Barroso, José Manuel (PRT), Chairman, Goldman Sachs International; Former President, European Commission
Barton, Dominic (CAN), Senior Partner and former Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company
Beaune, Clément (FRA), Adviser Europe and G20, Office of the President of the Republic of France
Boos, Hans-Christian (DEU), CEO and Founder, Arago GmbH
Bostrom, Nick (UK), Director, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University
Botín, Ana P. (ESP), Group Executive Chair, Banco Santander
Brandtzæg, Svein Richard (NOR), Chairman, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Brende, Børge (NOR), President, World Economic Forum
Buberl, Thomas (FRA), CEO, AXA
Buitenweg, Kathalijne (NLD), MP, Green Party
Caine, Patrice (FRA), Chairman and CEO, Thales Group
Carney, Mark J. (GBR), Governor, Bank of England
Casado, Pablo (ESP), President, Partido Popular
Ceviköz, Ahmet Ünal (TUR), MP, Republican People’s Party (CHP)
Cohen, Jared (USA), Founder and CEO, Jigsaw, Alphabet Inc.
Croiset van Uchelen, Arnold (NLD), Partner, Allen & Overy LLP
Daniels, Matthew (USA), New space and technology projects, Office of the Secretary of Defense
Demiralp, Selva (TUR), Professor of Economics, Koç University
Donohoe, Paschal (IRL), Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform
Döpfner, Mathias (DEU), Chairman and CEO, Axel Springer SE
Ellis, James O. (USA), Chairman, Users’ Advisory Group, National Space Council
Feltri, Stefano (ITA), Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Il Fatto Quotidiano
Ferguson, Niall (USA), Milbank Family Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Findsen, Lars (DNK), Director, Danish Defence Intelligence Service
Fleming, Jeremy (GBR), Director, British Government Communications Headquarters
Garton Ash, Timothy (GBR), Professor of European Studies, Oxford University
Gnodde, Richard J. (IRL), CEO, Goldman Sachs International
Godement, François (FRA), Senior Adviser for Asia, Institut Montaigne
Grant, Adam M. (USA), Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
Gruber, Lilli (ITA), Editor-in-Chief and Anchor “Otto e mezzo”, La7 TV
Hanappi-Egger, Edeltraud (AUT), Rector, Vienna University of Economics and Business
Hedegaard, Connie (DNK), Chair, KR Foundation; Former European Commissioner
Henry, Mary Kay (USA), International President, Service Employees International Union
Hirayama, Martina (CHE), State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation
Hobson, Mellody (USA), President, Ariel Investments LLC
Hoffman, Reid (USA), Co-Founder, LinkedIn; Partner, Greylock Partners
Hoffmann, André (CHE), Vice-Chairman, Roche Holding Ltd.
Jordan, Jr., Vernon E. (USA), Senior Managing Director, Lazard Frères & Co. LLC
Jost, Sonja (DEU), CEO, DexLeChem
Kaag, Sigrid (NLD), Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation
Karp, Alex (USA), CEO, Palantir Technologies
Kerameus, Niki K. (GRC), MP; Partner, Kerameus & Partners
Kissinger, Henry A. (USA), Chairman, Kissinger Associates Inc.
Koç, Ömer (TUR), Chairman, Koç Holding A.S.
Kotkin, Stephen (USA), Professor in History and International Affairs, Princeton University
Krastev, Ivan (BUL), Chairman, Centre for Liberal Strategies
Kravis, Henry R. (USA), Co-Chairman and Co-CEO, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
Kristersson, Ulf (SWE), Leader of the Moderate Party
Kudelski, André (CHE), Chairman and CEO, Kudelski Group
Kushner, Jared (USA), Senior Advisor to the President, The White House
Le Maire, Bruno (FRA), Minister of Finance
Leyen, Ursula von der (DEU), Federal Minster of Defence
Leysen, Thomas (BEL), Chairman, KBC Group and Umicore
Liikanen, Erkki (FIN), Chairman, IFRS Trustees; Helsinki Graduate School of Economics
Lund, Helge (GBR), Chairman, BP plc; Chairman, Novo Nordisk AS
Maurer, Ueli (CHE), President of the Swiss Federation and Federal Councillor of Finance
Mazur, Sara (SWE), Director, Investor AB
McArdle, Megan (USA), Columnist, The Washington Post
McCaskill, Claire (USA), Former Senator; Analyst, NBC News
Medina, Fernando (PRT), Mayor of Lisbon
Micklethwait, John (USA), Editor-in-Chief, Bloomberg LP
Minton Beddoes, Zanny (GBR), Editor-in-Chief, The Economist
Monzón, Javier (ESP), Chairman, PRISA
Mundie, Craig J. (USA), President, Mundie & Associates
Nadella, Satya (USA), CEO, Microsoft
Netherlands, His Majesty the King of the (NLD)
Nora, Dominique (FRA), Managing Editor, L’Obs
O’Leary, Michael (IRL), CEO, Ryanair D.A.C.
Pagoulatos, George (GRC), Vice-President of ELIAMEP, Professor; Athens University of Economics
Papalexopoulos, Dimitri (GRC), CEO, TITAN Cement Company S.A.
Petraeus, David H. (USA), Chairman, KKR Global Institute
Pienkowska, Jolanta (POL), Anchor woman, journalist
Pottinger, Matthew (USA), Senior Director, National Security Council
Pouyanné, Patrick (FRA), Chairman and CEO, Total S.A.
Ratas, Jüri (EST), Prime Minister
Renzi, Matteo (ITA), Former Prime Minister; Senator, Senate of the Italian Republic
Rockström, Johan (SWE), Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Rubin, Robert E. (USA), Co-Chairman Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Treasury Secretary
Rutte, Mark (NLD), Prime Minister
Sabia, Michael (CAN), President and CEO, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec
Sarts, Janis (INT), Director, NATO StratCom Centre of Excellence
Sawers, John (GBR), Executive Chairman, Newbridge Advisory
Schadlow, Nadia (USA), Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
Schmidt, Eric E. (USA), Technical Advisor, Alphabet Inc.
Scholten, Rudolf (AUT), President, Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue
Seres, Silvija (NOR), Independent Investor
Shafik, Minouche (GBR), Director, The London School of Economics and Political Science
Sikorski, Radoslaw (POL), MP, European Parliament
Singer, Peter Warren (USA), Strategist, New America
Sitti, Metin (TUR), Professor, Koç University; Director, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems
Snyder, Timothy (USA), Richard C. Levin Professor of History, Yale University
Solhjell, Bård Vegar (NOR), CEO, WWF – Norway
Stoltenberg, Jens (INT), Secretary General, NATO
Suleyman, Mustafa (GBR), Co-Founder, Deepmind
Supino, Pietro (CHE), Publisher and Chairman, Tamedia Group
Teuteberg, Linda (DEU), General Secretary, Free Democratic Party
Thiam, Tidjane (CHE), CEO, Credit Suisse Group AG
Thiel, Peter (USA), President, Thiel Capital
Trzaskowski, Rafal (POL), Mayor of Warsaw
Tucker, Mark (GBR), Group Chairman, HSBC Holding plc
Tugendhat, Tom (GBR), MP, Conservative Party
Turpin, Matthew (USA), Director for China, National Security Council
Uhl, Jessica (NLD), CFO and Executive Director, Royal Dutch Shell plc
Vestergaard Knudsen, Ulrik (DNK), Deputy Secretary-General, OECD
Walker, Darren (USA), President, Ford Foundation
Wallenberg, Marcus (SWE), Chairman, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB
Wolf, Martin H. (GBR), Chief Economics Commentator, Financial Times
Zeiler, Gerhard (AUT), Chief Revenue Officer, WarnerMedia
Zetsche, Dieter (DEU), Former Chairman, Daimler AG

Written by Marcus Stead

July 7, 2019 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Opinion, Politics, Review

Twenty Minute Topic Episode 3: Remembering Christopher Booker

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Christopher Booker

Christopher Booker

On Wednesday 3 July 2019, Christopher Booker, one of Britain’s very best journalists, died at the age of 81.

Greg Lance-Watkins knew Christopher for more than 50 years. He reflects on Christopher’s remarkable life in conversation with me.

Christopher led an extraordinary life – he was an integral part of the satire boom of the 1960s, as part of David Frost’s team on That Was The Week That Was, and he was the first editor of the magazine Private Eye. Christopher wrote about a broad range of topics, from jazz to cricket, but he was perhaps best-known for his investigative work, and for his deep understanding of the inner-workings of the European Union.

Christopher’s final column in the Sunday Telegraph on 29 March was a masterpiece, where he reflected on his eventful life and provided a sad, but all-too-accurate analysis of the state Britain is currently in. It was republished with permission on Greg’s blog here.

You can also listen to the podcast on YouTube here, or on SoundCloud by clicking below.

Written by Marcus Stead

July 7, 2019 at 2:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Twenty Minute Topic Episode 2: Shaping the economy and equipping young people for the future

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The latest edition of the ‘Twenty Minute Topic’ podcast is available now, titled ‘Shaping the economy and equipping young people for the future’.

Greg Lance-Watkins 1

Greg Lance-Watkins

Greg Lance-Watkins and I address some big, often uncomfortable questions about the future of the British economy and workplace:

  • Does the minimum wage have a future?
  • Do we live in a corporatist, rather than a capitalist society?
  • The ‘elephant in the room’ – why has Britain got such a large productivity problem? Is it time to industrialise?
  • Is the long period of uncertainty over Brexit doing more harm than anything else to British business?
  • Is it time to de-industrialise?
  • Is a ‘climate change’ policy based on wobbly science doing immense, unnecessary damage to the economy?
  • How can young people build a career in the modern world?

You can listen to the podcast via the Talk Podcasts website by clicking here, by searching for it on iTunes, or by clicking on the audio below.

Written by Marcus Stead

July 1, 2019 at 11:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NEW PODCAST: Twenty Minute Topic

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Greg Lance-Watkins 1

Greg Lance-Watkins

Greg Lance-Watkins has been a friend of mine for the last 13 years. He’s over 70 (I won’t disclose his actual age and I can’t remember it anyway!) and has led a full and active life as an international businessman, blogger and campaigner.

Earlier this year, Greg appeared as a guest on my regular ‘Brexit Briefing’ podcast, and our wide-ranging discussion went on for nearly two hours!

We received some interesting feedback, and decided it had potential to become a regular podcast series in its own right. Greg and I agreed that we couldn’t expect to hold people’s attention for two hours on a regular basis, so we decided to create a podcast lasting 20 minutes where we focused on a specific topic in each edition. The ‘Twenty Minute Topic’ podcast was born.

In the first edition, available now, Greg and I discuss how workplaces will be transformed by technology in the next five to ten years. Issued raised include: Are university degrees still worth it? Are the millennial generation equipped for the workplace? Is the UK education system fit for purpose? Does manufacturing in the UK have a future? How will 5G technology transform all our lives?

Talk Podcasts seventh logoYou can listen to the podcast via the Talk Podcasts website here, and it’s also available by searching for it on iTunes.


You can also listen by clicking here:

We’d welcome your feedback.

A second episode will be released next weekend……

Written by Marcus Stead

June 23, 2019 at 5:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Parkinson: The Bits Piers Morgan Missed

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AN HOUR spent in a doctor’s waiting room feels like an eternity. An hour spent in a pub with a good friend flies by. An hour spent in the company of Sir Michael Parkinson will barely give you enough time to scratch the surface of his rich and interesting life. ‘Piers Morgan’s Life Stories’ did its best with the time available, but inevitably, some of the most interesting episodes in Parky’s life weren’t mentioned at all.

I know through my own experiences as a radio and podcast interviewer how quickly a planned one-hour chat flies by, and ends up going on for far longer. Piers and Parky will have filmed around three hours’ worth of footage, which will have been edited down to around 45 minutes, allowing time in the hour-long programme slot for adverts and short video segments from other contributors.

Piers Morgan

Piers Morgan

Piers is a Marmite figure, but as Parky himself acknowledged. He is very often, indeed mostly, a clever, shrewd and probing interviewer, with about 10% ‘attention-seeking prat’ thrown in. But that’s what makes him what he is. Those same qualities are what makes the first 15 minutes of Good Morning Britain unmissable when he’s on. In theory, not much is scheduled to happen between 6-6:15am. It’s just a chance for Piers to wind up Susanna Reid, to give us his thoughts on what’s in the day’s papers, and to tell us which celebrities he’s fallen out with in the last 24 hours. It’s strangely gripping.

But back to Parky. First thing’s first – credit to Piers for the bits that did make it to air. You’d have a heart of stone not to have been moved by Parky’s tears as he talked about the grief he suffered when his father died more than 40 years ago. We also learnt a lot about his early life, his short, but unhappy spell with TV-am, and his recent, ultimately successful battles with serious illness. Yet so much was left out that was worthy of comment. Did the footage end up on the proverbial ‘cutting room floor’, or did Piers completely miss out some important chapters in his subject’s eventful life?

It’s worth reflecting on the extent to which the original run of Parkinson (1971-82) differed from its 1990s and 2000s revival. For most of the 1970s, Parkinson occupied a cosy late-night corner in the Saturday night schedules of BBC One, starting at 11pm after Match of the Day. The Michael Parkinson of the 1970s was a prominent socialist, and there were occasions where this led to ideological rows with guests during an era of trade union might, including this memorable encounter with Kenneth Williams. The studio set itself was far smaller (or at least appeared to be smaller) which allowed a greater sense of intimacy with the guests and rapport with the audience. And the calibre of the guests themselves was, shall we say, more distinguished. This very edition saw Williams follow on from poet Sir John Betjeman and actress Maggie Smith. Some of the programme’s finest moments came when the studio lights were dimmed and poetry was read, such as this moving example from the late actor Richard Harris.

The revival of the 1990s, and especially the 2000s, was a very different programme. The lineup often consisted of reality TV stars promoting their latest projects. Discussion of the political issues of the day was virtually non-existent. Poets did not appear, let alone read their work on the programme. The studio set itself appeared far larger, which cost the programme its sense of intimacy. Parky was keen to keep the series filmed in 4:3 format, long after pretty much everything else had switched to 16:9 widescreen, as he felt it helped create an ‘close up’ feel, but he soon dropped his objection when ITV poached in him 2004, which went along with the show moving to an even larger studio.

Parky himself had also changed by the time of the revival. He had become something of a grouch in character, a sycophant towards his interviewees, and every new series seemed to be preceded by a somewhat bitter newspaper or magazine interview in which he would criticise people being given chat shows who weren’t ‘proper journalists’. It was a dig at the likes of former footballer Ian Wright, who hosted a chat show for ITV, but by Parky’s logic, David Frost and Terry Wogan wouldn’t have been given chat shows, but Johnny Vaughan (yes, he’s a trained journalist) would. In September 2002, he lambasted what he saw as the trend to give ‘minor celebrities’ their own chat shows, yet that’s exactly what he was when the BBC gave him his own prime time chat show in 1971.

By the time the programme was axed by ITV boss Michael Grade in 2007, it often felt like a vehicle for ITV to cross-promote its own prime time programming, especially its talent show contests. Yet Parky’s interviewing skills were letting him down years before that. On his first ITV show in 2004, actor Tom Cruise made a series of outlandish claims about scientology, to which Parky replied ‘Fascinating’, before moving on to talk about something else.

Piers failed to mention some of the most prominent incidents in Parkinson’s long run, including an incident where Tommy Cooper forgot to set the safety catch on the guillotine illusion into which he had cajoled Parky, and only a last-minute intervention from the floor manager saved him from serious injury or worse.

Other aspects of the programme were not discussed. A parallel version of Parkinson was made for Australian TV between 1979-82, but this went completely unmentioned. The fact that his wife, Mary, presented episodes of the British series on occasions didn’t crop up. Nothing was anything said about the additional midweek edition that ran for the final three years of its original run. Nor was it mentioned that one of the reasons for the cancellation of the original run in 1982 was the BBC’s refusal of Parky’s request to let the programme run five nights a week, replicating the format of well-known American talk shows like those hosted by Johnny Carson and David Letterman.

But the biggest omission from Piers’s probing was the lack of discussion about what Parky did between the end of his doomed spell at TV-am in 1984 and the return of Parkinson in 1998. These were in many ways his wilderness years. He didn’t exactly ‘disappear’ from our TV screens, but he was much less prominent, in an era where Terry Wogan and Des O’Connor were the omnipresent chat show kings. It was as though TV executives didn’t quite know what to do with Parky. He was frequently a guest on other people’s programmes, but lacked a platform from which to showcase his talents.

Parky’s most prominent TV project of those ‘wilderness years’ was the Thames Television game show Give Us a Clue (essentially celebrities playing charades), where he succeeded Michael Aspel as host in 1984 and remained until its cancellation in 1992. Parky was a jovial, good-humoured chairman, but his role required very much a ‘light touch’ approach and he couldn’t allow himself to become the focal point of the show. From 1989 onwards, the programme was taken out of prime time and became part of the ITV daytime schedule.

Other TV work during those years was sporadic. He temporarily filled in for Barry Norman on the BBC’s Film programme in 1985. In 1987/88, he briefly revived his talk show career as host of Parkinson One to One, which was made by Yorkshire Television for the ITV network. The programme consisted of 15 episodes, each featuring one guest, with a duration of 40 minutes. It may have been worth Piers pursuing why this programme didn’t last beyond those 15 episodes.


Mike Smith, Sarah Greene and Michael Parkinson on ‘Ghostwatch’

One huge omission from Piers’s questioning was the spoof Ghostwatch programme that Parky anchored for BBC One on Halloween 1992, that detailed a supposedly ‘live’ investigation into the strange goings-on at a family home in north-west London. Despite having been recorded weeks in advance, the narrative was presented as live television. The show attracted a considerable furore, with 30,000 calls to the BBC switchboard in a single hour, three women were said to have gone into labour, and one distressed viewer, and 18-year-old with learning difficulties, tragically took his own life five days later. A 1994 study in the British Medical Journal reported several cases of post-traumatic stress in children who had watched the programme.

Parky’s radio career was overlooked completely. There were numerous series for BBC Radio 2, most notably Parkinson’s Sunday Supplement. He presented Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 for three years from 1986 following the death of long-running host Roy Plomley.

From the spring of 1990, he hosted the mid-morning show on the then-troubled LBC station that had just been rebranded LBC Newstalk 97.3. In those days, the station could only be heard inside London. Steve Allen, an LBC presenter then and now, tells an LBC Newstalk 97.3anecdote about Michael Parkinson and Angela Rippon being ‘big name’ signings for the station during a difficult period, and of Parky’s face appearing on London buses inviting commuters to tune in at mid-mornings. The only snag was that Parky had prior commitments to cover the Ashes cricket tour in Australia and would not be starting his LBC show for some weeks after the new schedule launch had kicked in, which kind of defeated the object of the advertising campaign! He ended up staying with the station until 1992.

The numerous books (many cricket-based) and newspaper columns also went unmentioned.

There was also no mention of how his talk show career was revived, five years after Parkinson ended, with the Sky Arts series Parkinson: Masterclass, which debuted in 2012. It featured just one guest in each episode, and they would perform, as well as be interviewed, and there was an element of audience participation in the programme.

It would’ve been good to round off the interview by asking Parky about his current life. Good journalists don’t tend to ‘retire’. They work less, and on their own terms, but they’ve usually got a project of some sort on the go. Parky has bounced back from serious health scares and appears alert and active for a man of 84. It would have been great to learn more about his current lifestyle.

Piers covered a lot of ground with the time available. We live in an era where talk show hosts usually fight to be the centre of attention, at the expense of their guests. Parky never did that, and, credit where it’s due, in his own way, Piers has also mastered the art of the celebrity interview.

Written by Marcus Stead

June 7, 2019 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Opinion, Review