The man in the Mini is a Rolls-Royce speaker

BUNHILL

DO you know who the most requested after-dinner speaker in Britain is? Sir John Harvey-Jones (no surprise). Do you know who runs him close? Tony Ball (surprise). Mr Ball, MBE, FCIM, ACI Arb, speaks about three times a week and can, I am assured, have almost any gathering in stitches.

Mr Ball, who used to be head of sales for British Leyland, is a marketing man to his bootstraps - which explains, I suppose, why he likes talking so much. He has 480 anecdotes and thousands of one-liners, which he mixes and matches - he always keeps a notebook and scribbles down anything fun he hears. Strangely, he prefers big audiences, because people in small groups are more nervous about laughing. He won't say how much he is paid, "but I could live just off my speeches". Which is appropriate, because his career was kicked off by a speech.

When he was 20, in 1955, he was named apprentice of the year at the Austin factory in Birmingham. He was asked to make a speech at the company's annual dinner and did it so well that he was immediately made a fast-track trainee manager. Three years later, he was shown a funny little new car called the Mini, and was asked to organise its launch.

He dressed up as a wizard and "pulled" the car out of a giant top hat. Each time he waved his wand, something new emerged from the Mini: three big men, two women (including his wife), his three-month-old baby, two Afghan hounds and a huge pile of luggage. The audience went wild. He did not make it on to the board until he was 31, and then left shortly afterwards to run Barlow Rand's car dealership operations in South Africa. That was where he met Michael Edwardes, who had been appointed chairman of British Leyland and invited him back to face the riotous industrial relations music.

Although he was head of sales, his most useful skill was his oratory. He had to talk to mass meetings to try to stop strikes - because he was recognised as a guy who used to be on the shopfloor, he avoided the abuse the "real" bosses got. His most important speech, he says, was at Wembley in 1979, where he dissuaded British Leyland dealers from defecting en masse. His secret, he says, was that he could put himself in the head of the people listening - he made fun of the dealers to workers, and vice- versa; and he always made fun of himself.

Now he runs his own company arranging things - the Motor Show, the relaunch of the London Zoo, that sort of thing. And he will keep on talking, by the sound of it, until he drops.

RED TAPE corner. The editor of A Quarterly Review of Latin America has been nosing around in the World Bank's internal directory, and has come upon the following: "Coffee service (For Official Meetings). To access order form in ALL-IN-1, select RS, COF or submit Form 998 (Request for Official Coffee Service) . . . Coffee Service Orders must be received three working days in advance." Three days to boil a kettle? Whatever happened to instant coffee?

Who gives an 'x'?

AS I READ about the troubles of Rexam (nee Bowater) this week, I wondered where such a strange name came from. I knew the etymology: take a place in Wales where Bowater had a plant, and keep losing letters until you have a new name for the company. But the choice seems to have relied largely on the fact that it has an "x" in the middle of it, which is regarded as somehow dynamic and thrusting.

Businesses seem to be obsessed with "x's". I suppose Oxo started it, but we now have Exxon, Xerox, Axa, Next, neXt (an American computer company) . . . And even where they just happen to have an "x", as in Halifax, the marketing men have to make an Xtra loud noise about it. Which I think is perverse - when I was at school an "x" by something meant it was wrong. Doesn't it still?

ROBERT CAWTHORN, the chairman of Rhole-Poulenc Rorer, which wants to buy Fisons, introduced his chief executive thus: "He's French." There was only one thing the offending Michel de Rosen could say to this, and he did: "Sorry."

Bored in Brussels

OH DEAR, the Eurocrats are trying to pretend they're human. An advertisement in the Financial Times for an Ombudsman (Grade A3) sits alongside a sad little logo. Underneath a picture of three 'crats is the slogan, "Europe? Sure, that's where I work every day". Beneath this is a circle of stars with "Be one of Europe's rising stars" inside it. This strikes me as about as implausible as "Rave on actuary".

Honesty should surely be the touchstone for Brussels. I suggest: "You'll be bored stupid, but the beer and expenses aren't bad." Maybe you can think of a better recruitment slogan either for the EU or for some other equally worthy organisation? Bottle of Bunhill's fizziest for the best one.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas