GOING into politics was my biggest mistake, but it fitted in with my ideals of service. After having lived amid the burgeoning economies of Asia, I thought what was needed in our country was concentration on wealth creation, when all the political talk seemed to be about distribution. I believed I could make a serious and significant contribution to changing that agenda.
After all, for four years I had been responsible for Hong Kong's international trade. I ran offices in London, New York, Frankfurt, Tokyo and elsewhere. I had spent a year at the World Bank. I also had an understanding of the need for close liason between government and industry. These links existed in Hong Kong despite its being a free- market haven.
So I returned to the UK and I became an active member of my local Conservative Association. After fighting Barrow-in-Furness in 1970, I was adopted as Conservative candidate for Bromsgrove and Redditch and I later won the seat in the 1974 Election.
In due course, however, I found that I had an inadequate appreciation of the political process in the party and in Parliament. I failed to establish close contacts in the Commons, partly because I made the mistake of accepting appointment as a member of the UK delegation to the Council of Europe and the Western European Union immediately after my election, and my frequent travels to Europe meant I was away from the Commons too much at the beginning of my political career. Nor had I understood the need for alliances. I didn't belong to any faction and I had been absent in Hong Kong for 13 years.
Coming from a Civil Service background, I mistakenly assumed there would be a system for promotion based on merit and experience, but I couldn't bring my experience in world trade and the UN to bear in the House of Commons - to get on the right committees or make my mark with party leaders.
Then when a Conservative Government was elected in 1979, I became PPS to Francis Pym (now Lord Pym) both as Secretary of State for Defence and then as Leader of the House. He was a lovely man to work for and I felt I was making a contribution, but I resigned in 1981 over the nationalised British Steel being given subsidies and putting a string of private steel companies in the West Midlands out of business.
Now you don't resign from any Government post without having to do 'porridge' - so I was out in the political cold for several years before I was given a second chance by John Selwyn Gummer, then chairman of the party. I was later appointed vice-chairman and was responsible for political organisation and for campaigning. I enjoyed the work and and the action. After the 1987 election I hoped my hard work would bear fruit and that ministerial office would come my way. It didn't, which was a great disappointment but I realised it must have been a failure on my part to operate the political system. So I turned my attention to industry once more.
One of my interests was the motor industry, with the Longbridge car factory and thousands of car workers in my constituency. I had established the All-Party Motor Industry Group in Parliament and I was joint chairman for 15 years.
I am not bitter about politics, nor am I disillusioned with the process. Now that I am chief executive of the SMMT, I can apply some of the lessons I have learned.
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