Whilst James Ruppert was taking the political temperature in Parliament, I found myself at the Retail Motor Industry Federation’s annual dinner last night.

MG Showroom And despite the free-flowing champagne and the upmarket surroundings of the Dorchester Hotel, where it took place, I have to report that optimism was hard to find.

Not surprising: last month’s disastrous car sales proved the industry is already in its most serious slump for decades. Some big dealership bosses I spoke to were, in private at least, deeply concerned about the short-term future.

RMIF chairman Paul Williams used his speech to remind politicians – particularly newly-appointed transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP, who was perched at Table A – that the motor industry is responsible for some 5.5 per cent of Britain’s GDP. So it needs support.

But the number of individuals I spoke with who expect a Northern Rock-style government bailout if things get really ugly, or who want state cash-injection “like the banks get” to shore-up motor industry jobs was depressing.