Yesterday’s Sunday Times carried a treat for those of us who are Liberal Democrats and petrolheads. Jeremy Clarkson being “away” is seen by some as a treat in itself, but his replacement for this week was our Vince Cable.
Vince took an £150,000 Aston Martin Rapide S for a test drive during which he reached 160 mph. His criticism was as follows:
The car was more capable and felt quicker than my favourite Aston — the DB9 — although I was disappointed that it didn’t have a manual gearbox. I ignored the paddles on the wheel that allow you to change gears. It’s not the same as an old-fangled stick where there is a real joy in going up and down the gears.
He reckons a gear stick is “good discipline” because you have to “think the whole time about the balance between speed and gear selection.”
He goes on to talk about the good points of the British car industry:
The whole point about the car industry is that it isn’t just about mass manufacturers. McLaren, Aston Martin, Morgan, Ginetta — these wonderful bespoke-type companies have unique brands; they have quality, and Britain is very good at this sort of thing.
The one thing that British companies seem to have that others don’t is design capability. You have a fusion of engineering and design skills that seems to work extraordinarily well in the UK and we are supporting good projects with funding.
He added that his department had been instrumental in saving jobs at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant and had this to say on how foreign investment had transformed Britain for the better, reflecting on his time as a Labour Special Adviser in the 70s:
We took the view that we had to be rational and welcome inward investors. Of course, the Japanese transformed the industry, Nissan particularly, and we’ve seen it and the other two big Japanese companies, Toyota and Honda, introducing better management methods and good products and taking a very long-term view of the industry. Together with other investors such as Ford and Vauxhall, as well as Jaguar Land Rover, it has brought about an extraordinary renaissance that is really good for Britain. That experience still influences me today.
Liberal Democrats prioritise the environment, so sometimes people wonder how so many of us can love the motor car, too. Vince says he has “a foot in both camps” and went on to discuss the next stage in car development:
There are areas where we do have to make a jump, and a good example is the electric car. We do know it is coming but it won’t happen unless the basic technology is right, hence the commitment to the charging infrastructure and why the government has invested in battery development at Warwick University. But we don’t know whether the future lies with electric cars or hybrids or improved internal combustion engines, so we are supporting all of those.
There some funny anecdotes – he hit a rhino while driving his first car, a Volkswagen Beetle, in Africa. Then there was the time he tried to get into a plush Buckingham Palace occasion in a battered mini.
He let slip that he wanted to do the Top Gear’s “Star in a reasonably priced car” feature.
You can read the whole article behind the Times paywall here.
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