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Welcome arrow Articles arrow Personality Profiles arrow Stephen Bradley, British Consul-General
Stephen Bradley, British Consul-General PDF Print E-mail

Stephen BradleyStephen Bradley is a career diplomat, having worked in Paris, Japan, Beijing, as well as a previous posting to Hong Kong.  Appointed to the position of Consul General on the retirement last year of Sir James Hodge, Mr Bradley has some interesting observations.  Mr Bradley was talking to Jeff Heselwood in the rear of the latest, long wheelbase Jaguar XJ8.

“The official car I generally ride in is the ordinary version of this one, but this is significantly more spacious and comfortable. The one thing I worry about is if you’ve got a number of people in the car there is not a great deal of legroom for the person in the back, particularly behind the driver. But this is really very spacious.

“Ours (the British Consulate’s) is very new, so on the details I cannot see a great deal of difference, except of course, this is a lot smarter with all these television (DVD) screens.  But the thing that’s impressive is the distance between the front and rear seats.  It makes it very comfortable to get in and out of.”

Stephen Bradley is hardly a car enthusiast.  His first car was a humble Mini Metro:  “I did not own a car at university.  It was far too expensive and consequently I rode a bicycle.  But then I met my wife – we were university sweethearts if you like – so we got married and we had this Mini Metro.  We lived in Kent and it was wonderful.  It was just so liberating.  I’m not sure that motoring experts would classify it among the great vehicles of all time but we thought it was wonderful”

Mr Bradley is not particularly enamoured with luxury or high-performance cars: “I’m just a civil servant,” he asserts.  But if he could he would choose the dramatically beautiful Aston Martin DB9, but he also has a perhaps hidden desire:

“I must admit I’ve always lusted after a TVR,” he says.  “I don’t know about this latest turn in TVR’s fortunes, but they have produced something that looks quite extraordinary.  At one time there was a TVR called a Cerbera, which was a real ‘city boy’s’ car so I’d really be very embarrassed to own one but I have to say they look absolutely wonderful.”

TVR, although based in Britain, is now Russian owned and MG Rover, the last British-owned volume producer, has now gone into administration.  Mr Bradley believes it is a sad day for the British motor industry.

“Very little of it (the motor industry) is British-owned any more.  Even the most famous marques.  Here we are in a Jaguar, but ultimately that is American-owned by Ford, and Rolls-Royce and Bentley have fallen into the hands of German owners, but they’re still all made in the UK and I think the thing to remember is that if you look at the hi-tech end of the industry, Britain is still extremely strong. From Formula One and all hi-tech engineering, there is still an enormous amount of talent and creativity in Britain.  I believe it is like any other area of industry, in terms of policy and how you handle it. There is no point in hanging onto things that you cannot afford to do.  You’ve got to look at how you can use that talent and I am in no way pessimistic, in that there is still a great deal of successful industry in the UK.

“I was very sad to see MG Rover go down, particularly for the people that work there, but purely on a personal level I really liked the Rover 75.” 

The Chinese automotive giant SAIC, which had been interested in a joint-venture with MG Rover until the black financial hole in its accounts proved insurmountable, has already acquired the intellectual property rights to the Rover 75 and may begin producing the car at one of its plants in Shanghai.

“It would great if that was to happen,” says Mr Bradley.  “I love Shanghai as a city.  I used to be a graduate student there many years ago and the idea of Rover 75s being made in Shanghai is absolutely fine by me. 

“I’ve no idea what the tastes of the Chinese people are, apart from, of course, the nouveau rich who buy the most expensive cars there are, but in terms of driving I found it (the Rover 75) an excellent, solid, reliable vehicle and I hope there will be section of the market that will like it very much.”

Returning to the subject of the Jaguar XJ8, Mr Bradley likes the ride:  “It’s very comfortable;  it’s  not a soft, rolling kind of ride where you can get sick in the back very easily, which is my main memory of riding in taxis when I was a small boy, going back to school.

“This is very comfortable; there’s a firmness about it that I like.  It’s a nice kind of grip to it which I enjoy.”

David Wong, Mr Bradley’s driver, says, “The air suspension on this one is far superior to the normal car.  I can feel the difference immediately.”

Mr Bradley adds, “The fact that we (the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) use Jaguars around the world, means they are pretty favoured. We already have one, but a longer wheelbase version, where there is more space, would be an obvious advantage.”

Almost at the opposite end of the motoring spectrum, Mr Bradley once owned a Citroen 2CV.  He recollects: “My old Citroen Deux Chevaux which I bought secondhand, was bright yellow and it had just two horsepower. I used to drive over to France in it.  It rolled and it was a joke from a keen driver’s point of view.  I just have so many happy memories: the summers with the roof peeled off, almost pedalling along in this thing. “And the nice thing was that if you took the ferry to France, the way you were treated by the French officials was marvellous, because I remember on more than one occasion, being in a long queue of Brits getting off the ferry and they were all waiting to have their papers checked and one of the immigration officials saw me in a long line of Fords or whatever, and he pointed at me and waived at me to pull out and I thought ‘Oh God, what have I done?’ and he pointed to the front of the queue and waived me through.  I showed my papers and I was away.”

Mr Bradley has not owned many cars, but he will one day buy a Series II Land Rover Discovery, which he describes as “ideal”.   That or the DB9 perhaps? 

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