Thursday, 30 August 2007

“Oi, Rowan! No!” Or why the Panel of Reference went the way of the C5

One of the most appalling creations of the English comedian Harry Enfield was Frank Doberman, the louder of the two 'Self-Righteous Brothers', who climaxed each sketch with what he would say to the great and the good: “I’d say, ‘Oi! No!’”

Sometimes, however, “Oi! No!” is precisely what they need to hear, when those around them are saying, “Oh yes, what a splendid idea.”

This is surely what must have happened when, in 1985, Sir Clive Sinclair produced the C5 electric-bicycle-thingy. Sinclair was the darling of the British entrepreneurial world, having invented and then marketed the first mass-produced pocket calculator. This was topped by a phenomenally successful series of small personal computers, which for many of us were the first such machines we owned.

It is hard, though, to imagine what possessed Sir Clive to produce the C5. One look at the catalogue, showing a man in a business suit smiling at what may be his wife, whilst seated in what looked like a grey plastic mobility-chair, convinced me this was never going to work. And not just me — only about 15,000 were ever sold. But of course, no one was going to say to the great entrepreneur, “Oi! Sir Clive! No!”

And who was going to say to the Archbishop of Canterbury, when the Panel of Reference was proposed, “Oi, Rowan! No!”? One look at the terms of reference would have told anyone with an ounce of realism it was never going to work: that an unwieldy international committee, led by the retired Archbishop of Perth, was going to bring The Episcopal Church into line and sort out the Anglican Communion.

It was doomed to the dustbin of history from the day it was conceived.

Maybe, out there, the Panel still exists. Maybe it is still taking evidence from witnesses and filing reports. And maybe someone is even reading them. But the thing itself, as a solution to any of the problems rapidly devouring the Anglican Communion, is dead.

It was obvious from the outset. Pity no one was rude enough to say so.

The difference between the Anglican Communion and Sir Clive Sinclair, however, is that Sir Clive never went on to produce another plastic electric bicycle.

Revd John P Richardson
30 August 2007

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1 comment:

  1. "Sir Clive never went on to produce another plastic electric bicycle" is correct. However, Sir Clive did go on to produce another electric bicycle, and another plastic bicycle.

    The "Zike" was an electric bicycle launched in 1992 and was an even greater failure then the C5. It only sold 2,000 units despite anticipated production of 10,000 units per month. It had a top speed of 10mph. An old lady on a shopping bike can do 10mph unaided.

    The "A-bike" is a plastic folding bicycle launched a year or so ago. Product reviews proclaim it to be smaller and lighter than any other folding bicycle on the market, but almost unrideable as a bike.

    Despite the failure of the C5, Sir Clive persisted in his view that what the public want and need is not a pure and unadulterated bicycle, but a compromise between a bicycle and something else, marring the beauty and simplicity of the bicycle with the worst features of whatever else he's trying to combine with it. The parallel with Anglicanism is too obvious to need stating...

    Matt Hornby (London)