Sir Richard Dobson, who said recently that "bribing wogs" is "perfectly respectable," today lost his $39,000 a year part-time job as chairman of British Leyland, the big auto company.
Sir Richard, 63, one of Britain's most respected big business executives, wanted to stay on with the state-owned company, Britain's largest industrial concern. Last night, however, Eric Varley, the industry minister called Dobson in and told him his racist and anti-union remarks meant he must go.
Dobson committed his indiscretions during an after-dinner speech to about 30 other businessmen at a hotel here last month. Unknown to him, someone whose identity has not been established recorded the remarks and a Trotskyist faction, the International Marxist Group, made them public.
In his remarks, Dobson, a classics scholar at Cambridge also accused Prime Minister James Callaghan of cowardice sneered at "blackish" strikers in a long-running London dispute and complained that urban schools are "grossly overburdened" with "immigrant children."
It was his hostile remarks about the unions - among other things he said they were "co-authors of the government's broken promises" - that probably did Dobson the most damage.
Leyland, the lone British auto company, was going bankrupt until the government bought 95 per cent of the shares. Among other things, the company is plagued by frequent strikes.
Dobson's speech provides ammunition for union foes of any change and jeopardizes the company's strategy of trying to replace the present system of multiple labor contracts with a single company-wide pact.
A statement today announcing his resignation also said the recording of Dobson's "lighthearted and unscripted speech" gave "a totally false impression" of his "personal and social attitudes and business ethics."
Dobson's crack about the "respectability" of "bribing wogs," British slang for dark-skinned foreigners, refers to a disclosure by the Daily Mail last spring. The paper then charged that Leyland kept a slush fund to win business abroad. Two days after the disclosure, however, a Leyland accountant admitted to try to tie Trade Minister Varley to the fund. That enabled Dobson to claim that no slush fund existed.
Sir Richard's offense was boasting about bribes and expressing commonly held business attitudes in public.The rule here is do it but keep quiet.