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You must be in it to influence it

I made a brief appearance on BBC Breakfast on the day the revised driving test was introduced. You may have seen it – but it was fleeting, perhaps a three-minute interview in total.

Not everyone was happy with what I said, and it caused a bit of comment on social media. These are some of the comments on one social media site.

“Very unhappy with John Lepine’s interview on BBC 1. Wish I could cancel my membership of his organisation. Shame I’m not in it!

“Extremely unhappy he accused the examiners of being untruthful. That’s simply not on. Why is it his place to go with DVSA propaganda.

“Never liked the man. That’s why I’m not a member. When he took part in that tv programme a couple of years back, he was introduced as THE top driving instructor in the country. May not have been him saying it but it was said!

“He is only there to serve himself like all the others in the MSA and DIA. They hop on the gravy train and do nothing for us.

“Cancel your membership, I’ve stopped mine for the DIA.

“Sadly, we have no organisation which represents and speaks for us. MSA are just anti-DVSA, DIA just want to make money by running endless courses. ADINJC just want to make money by holding conferences. As far as I’m concerned, we’re on our own.”

Clearly some people spend their entire lives very angry and upset!

Now, I don’t usually get involved in social media rants but on this occasion, I thought I should reply to some of them.

‘I’m very sorry that some of you didn’t like my three-minute interview on BBC Breakfast on Monday 4th December,’ I replied.

Those complaining are not alone in being unhappy with what I said; an MSA GB member emailed to say, “Disappointingly, there was no mention of the fact that trials of the new test showed it did not give any improvement in post-test crash statistics. Even if the presenters didn’t ask about that, John should have ensured that indisputable fact was aired.”

However, another said, “Just watched you on Breakfast. Well said about the new test and brilliantly said about the examiner strike.” ‘

One contributor was extremely unhappy that I accused the examiners of being untruthful. He said, ‘That’s simply not on.’ However, in my opinion the driving examiner strike and work to rule is not about the safety of the new test. The PCS has linked this strike to the new test for publicity reasons, and why wouldn’t they.

Driving examiners are on strike about a long-running dispute with their employers over changes to their contracts concerning their travel time allowances. You can read the PCS media release Driving examiners ballot for strike action over increased hours, which clearly sets out what the ballot was about; it has nothing to do with the new test.

Regarding the safety of the test, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has carried out an independent risk assessment of the changes to the driving test and found all aspects of the new elements of the revised driving test to be low-risk.

I guess I’m between a rock and hard place – damned if I do and damned if I don’t. A contributor online said that ‘MSA are just anti-DVSA’ while another said ‘why is it his place to go with DVSA propaganda?’

I suppose if you’re getting attacked by both sides you must be doing something right!

I’m sorry that another contributor doesn’t like me because of what he perceives someone else said about me. The comment was: ‘When he took part in that tv programme a couple of years back, (Barely Legal Drivers, for those who didn’t see it) he was introduced as THE top driving instructor in the country. May not have been him saying it but it was said!’

No, it wasn’t. The word capitalised was never said!

I suppose I should take comfort from the Oscar Wilde quote: ‘There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.’

Following my post there were a number of responses from those who had leapt to attack/ defend/comment on my contribuition to the debate. These included ‘Thank you for taking the time to reply. The examiners’ motives are their own and either way it shows their concerns are going unaddressed.

Another said: ‘You have every right to give the DVSA your whole-hearted support if you feel they are making good choices.’

Some weren’t quite as forgiving or understanding: ‘That’s a funny essay’, commented one, while another handed me an even worse insult… ‘ Typical politician’s reply, hardly in support of members’ views, but defending his personal status, and not his association.’

So now I’m a politician. How rude!

Just out of interest, unnamed correspondent, what are our members’ views? We have spoken to hundreds of ADIs from across the country and came across a broad swathe of support for the new L-test as well as pockets of fierce resistance to it. So which views do I represent? the majority… or the angriest?

Another said: ’I think the problem is that all the organisations that supposedly represent driving instructors actually seem to do nothing whatsoever.

‘The people running these organisations, you included, look to be earning a nice living from the gravy train but wouldn’t dare do anything to upset anyone important and not get invited to the next DVSA steering committee where they can claim expenses and get a free dinner.’

‘I blew the MSA out years ago. Just don’t like the bloke. As for Edmund King … don’t get me started.

I tried one more time to get some balance into the debate. I wrote: ‘I promise not to write another essay, but I just wanted to comment about representation. It is not my job to represent all ADIs. I am tasked with representing the views of MSA GB members.

‘We go to great efforts through our regional committees (nine around GB) local meetings and direct contact with individual members also our monthly magazine Newslink and through our website and on social media to gather the opinions of members.

‘Regarding the revised test, the views of a wide range of stakeholders was sought by the DVSA: you can read the MSA GB and the NASP response on our website.

‘All ADIs signed up to receive email alerts from DVSA were also invited to comment and the results of the consultation about changes to the car driving test were published last year.

‘If you want to be represented by an organisation you need to join it and interact with it so that your views are considered. If you don’t like MSA GB join DIA or ADI NJC. You must be in an organisation to influence that organisation. You cannot expect any trade organisation to represent you if you are not a member.

One respondent stated:

“you state that ALL ADIs have signed up to emails…. that’s a cop out… not everyone has access to emails and how do you know all ADIs are actually receiving those emails?”

If you just read again what I wrote, you will see, that is not what I said.

You can also see, I hope, why, as a rule, I do not respond to Facebook rants…!


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