I was a scholarship boy from County Durham. If I'd failed the exams, I would have gone down the pit - there wasn't anything else. When I was 16 I planned to be a great politician, but it didn't happen. My worst subject was chemistry - and I became the head of a base chemical company!
I stayed with BP for 36 years. I'm surprised I didn't move because I fully intended to, but it was awfully interesting. I think I chose well. I got on the board in '91 and we had a big crisis then. You get so comfortable that you don't change, but the world changes around you and suddenly the competitive advantage you had 10 years ago is gone and you're in trouble.
We certainly got that way in BP and had to generate our own internal crisis to sort it out and take the necessary measures. There is one job I wished I'd done - head of corporate planning at BP. I'd have been very good. I can't understand why they didn't give me it.
I loved being a director of BP. It's immensely powerful. You're sitting there with a turnover of dollars 150 billion - almost a small country. I'm interested in the use of power, whether it's money or politics. It was endlessly fascinating for me. That's pretty hard to beat. I don't regret moving to the Learning and Skills Council. There are a lot of levers you can pull in the private sector that you can't in the public sector, and I have been learning a lot. It's been very rewarding.