At the end of the recent AM100 dinner in Birmingham, I was reminded just how brutally refreshing the motor retail sector can be.
I was washing my hands when a large crowd arrived in the toilets, all bitterly complaining about the views expressed by the speaker at the event – Jo Johnson, MP and brother to Boris. The language was such that I don’t think I should repeat it in this article.
As I drove home with the comments ringing in my head, I was left to reflect on the disparity between the speaker and the audience he had been addressing. The first part of his speech was a reasonable analysis of how we had got to the position we are in with Brexit and the farce that had been taking place at Westminster.
However, Johnson made the point that this had been brought about because the “elite stand accused of being out of touch”.
His reference to the elite annoyed me intensely. That he was using the term to refer to the people in Government who are mismanaging the politics and economics of our country in such a way that it is irreparably damaging the UK car industry was wrong.
‘Elite’ should refer to someone who has done something exceptional, not a group of people who have been to Oxbridge and have subsequently got into positions of power and authority. At Loughborough, we refer to ‘elite athletes’ as those students who train hard to perform at world or national level.
Johnson, like his brother, went to school at Eton then on to Balliol College, Oxford, where he was a member of the infamous Bullingdon Club.
What he should have said was that the situation had been caused by privileged and entitled white males who had lost any sense of connection with the real world, where people work hard to achieve success. This success is often achieved by having to overcome misguided and ill-informed policies produced by people financially insulated by privilege against the problems facing the ‘non-elite’ in the real world.
The majority of people in our sector do not come from privileged backgrounds. Many have worked their way up from the sales floor or through working in aftersales.
Our industry is based on people being judged by their performance. Some of the measures of that performance may be questioned and some of the behaviours seen over the years can be challenged, but compared with and despite the actions of the privileged ‘elite’, our sector does its best to survive and flourish in tough times.
Whatever the political views of the speaker or the views expressed in the hotel toilets, the AM100 dinner represented real-world achievement by hard-working and talented people.