Modern Fleet talks EVs, Arsene Wenger and being made a restaurant’s cook overnight, with EVA England’s chief executive James Court
Favourite holiday destination?
In more normal times, we seem to return to Greek Islands for our annual trip (we try to only fly once a year), I’m a simple guy, sun, sea, wine and seafood is just about perfect, throw in Test Match Special and I’m in heaven. Saying that, in the past two years we’ve been very lucky in the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and Wales, the weather wasn’t quite as good, but it was easier to tune into the cricket and much less guilt about the carbon.
What car do you drive?
Kia eNiro, and I absolutely love it. I’m an odd case that I live in London with no driveway and travel home to Devon a few times a year. We have lamppost chargers on our street which is a gamechanger, and the range is good enough to get me down to Devon without charging, or a quick 10 minute boost if I’m having fun with sports mode on!
How and when did you get into this industry?
I got an internship in parliament in 2004 with my local MP, and then got lucky when a friend of a friend had an industry contact that was looking for a young account executive working in public affairs. It’s a hard industry to get into if you haven’t got connections, so a lucky break got my foot in the door. It was a specialist energy agency with a great boss that gave me a solid grounding in both parliament and energy and environment policy.
How can we encourage more people into the industry?
In terms of public affairs, PR and policy, it’s not a career a lot of people know about, I certainly didn’t going through university until a guest lecturer came in and gave a talk. Like a lot of careers, this excludes a lot of people from even considering it. We have to remedy that by opening it out in terms of class and geography which is personal to my experience. Away from that, there is still obviously a long way to go in terms of gender and race. At the REA I experimented with blind CVs, but also in mixing up the interview process. A 50 minute interview doesn’t bring out the best in most people, and isn’t actually reflective of whether they can do the job. We did group exercises, blog writing and presentations, it was fascinating seeing people excel in different areas, and definitely broadened the pool of people we considered and employed.
What are your industry predictions for the next 12 months?
I think we’re going to see more detail on government policy, and we should start seeing the impacts of the chargepoint funding coming through. Unfortunately, lead times for cars are getting worse, especially for EVs, with semiconductor shortages really punishing the supply side. This is hugely frustrating when the demand is there and the appetite from consumers is growing.
What is the strangest or most challenging job you have done?
Growing up I did a lot of things, I was a lifeguard, landscape gardener, shelf stacker at Harvey Nichols, seeing Roger Moore popping in for a pint of milk was odd for a boy from Devon. But the strangest was going from being head waiter to head chef after the old chef ran away with the till. They owner was desperate and figured that my mother and grandfathers were cooks, so genetically I should be fine! It was only a 25 cover restaurant Friday to Sunday and I did it for a 6 months without killing anyone.
If you had your time again would you have followed the same career path?
Yes, I love politics, and climate is the most important issue in my lifetime. I couldn’t do something that wasn’t mission based, so it’s been great, but challenging.
If you had been reincarnated, who or what do you think you were in a past life?
A courtier maybe? I like the idea of trying to influence power through the ages.
If you could invite four people to a dinner party – living or dead – who would they be – and why?
JFK- Probably a cliché but as you’ve probably established I’m a politics nut and that period of history fascinates me. I also think his take on current issues would be uniquely interesting.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez- One of the best political communicators around and the star of her generation.
Arsene Wenger- A total anomaly of a football manager, and a deep thinker on so many issues. Arsenal manager for most of my life and responsible for some of my favourite memories, as well as some of the worst!
JC- My grandad. He was my biggest influence and hero growing up. Introduced me to Arsenal, cricket, the Labour Party, the rules of wearing a suit, and whisky. Plus he’d love the guest list and was great company.
What are your passions outside the workplace?
Well, everything my grandad introduced me to obviously, but I’m also a chair of governors of a primary school. I’d recommend becoming a governor to anyone, its hugely rewarding and you feel like you’re giving back something.
If they made a film about your life who would play you?
Daniel Craig!? Or maybe Kenneth Branagh if I was being slightly less generous to myself.
Describe yourself in five words?
Loyal, reliable, lighthearted, committed and kind.