David Parkin on Sir Bob Murray, the IoD and the Cabinet

SOMETIMES derided for being aloof and out of touch, our universities have never had the smoothest relationship with the business community.

So it was great to attend the inauguration of Sir Bob Murray as the new chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University this week.

Quietly spoken and charming, former Sunderland football club chairman Sir Bob boasts a business pedigree stretching back 40 years in Yorkshire, co-founding one-time stock market darling Spring RAM, property group Sterling Capitol and kitchens firm Omega.

It was nice to hear that the former school drop-out, who has focused much of his time and money on charity and educational work, actually studied accountancy at Leeds Polytechnic, forerunner of Leeds Met Uni.

In an entertaining and inspiring inauguration ceremony, we got to hear from students and staff and see many of the talents nurtured by the university in arts, education, business and sports.

It was nice to see Sir Bob again, I reminded him that the last time was when he and his former Sterling Capitol colleague Martin Croxen called in to see Ian Briggs and I a few weeks after we launched TheBusinessDesk.com.

We were only a tiny start-up, but he took the time to listen to what we had to say and wished us well. You don’t forget things like that.

Leeds Metropolitan University couldn’t have chosen a better chancellor.

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A GLANCE at the CV of the new chair of the IoD in Yorkshire suggests that the most impressive thing about Suzy Brain England appears to be her name.

Once the preserve of entrepreneurs and company directors, the Institute of Directors has turned to someone to lead it in this region who boasts a background that has been spent mainly in part-time roles in the the public sector.

Suzy Brain England currently runs a “mentoring and counselling” service and is chair of two housing associations, an NHS Trust as well as being an exam marker for the IoD and chair of the Yorkshire deanery for doctor recruitment.

I first met her when she was the chief executive of the ill-fated Earth Centre in Doncaster between 2001 and 2003. She didn’t pull up any trees there.Suzy Brain England

Since then she’s been busy on the public sector non-executive director merry-go-round – enough to get her an OBE for public service in 2009.

Other qualifications include a diploma in hypnosis & hypnotherapy.

I would have thought that when someone is appointed to represent company directors from Yorkshire then their principal experience should be in enterprise and wealth creation.

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IF you want to buttonhole a Cabinet minister can I suggest that you don’t bother forking out the train fare to go to London and stand outside Downing Street.

No, you’ll have a much better chance by staking out two Yorkshire companies – LNT and Surgical Innovations.

In recent months LNT Group has welcomed Business Secretary Vince Cable and Transport Secretary Justine Greening while SI has hosted Deputy PM Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron.Cameron visit

Both of these companies are superb examples of Yorkshire enterprise and innovation but they are no means alone – this region boasts plenty of inspiring businesses.

It seems pretty uninspiring that our politicians visit the same businesses. When I asked a Downing Street insider this week why that was, the answer was simple: “If it worked last time with no problems, then for those advising politicans it is easier to do it again than risk any hitches.”

It is a pity the chinless wonders advising those who govern us can’t employ some of the initiative our business leaders possess in bucket loads.

Have a good weekend.