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  • Lawrence Bailey

Driving car-making into the ground

I’ve been reluctant to comment on the recent bad news at Ford Bridgend but the claptrap spouted to me yesterday by a third-rate (nameless) politico has changed that.

As someone with nearly 40 years spent in the auto-industry, I’ve had a belly-full of the simplistic arguments back and forth as to whether Brexit is behind the job losses.

In my opinion, the factors involved go deeper and are longer term.

The whirlwind we’re reaping today was sewn decades ago by successive British governments and financial institutions who opted to abandon the premise shared by other European partners that a well-supported, nationally-owned manufacturing base is a good idea.

Instead, they flogged off crucial interests to overseas firms to the extent that there hasn’t been anything resembling an actual UK motor industry for some considerable time.

What we have today is a motor industry with a UK postal address. This is not semantics but a simple statement of fact which underlines how decisions that affect thousands of British jobs are made in Tokyo, Detroit, Mumbai, Munich and Seoul.

Added to all that is a marked trait within the car-making business of erratic boardroom policy-making. With this kind of corporate drag, you can understand how building anything from scratch – hybrid or otherwise - is virtually unaffordable. Model inter-changeability, mergers and joint ventures are the global norm.

Industry analysts insist that Ford is now playing catch-up with its competitors after taking several past wrong turns. Bridgend, among others, is paying the price.

No-one can truly say if Brexit is a direct factor. What we definitely know however is that the uncertainty is strangling investment.

Total spending in the UK auto-manufacture sector has almost halved in the last two years. This in understandable; if you were an overseas car producer, would you risk putting money into the UK right now?

After nearly a decade of austerity and a manufacturing sector that is looking increasingly fragile, it’s frightening to see so-called senior politicians prepared to take their hands off the wheel and allow Britain to crash out of the EU.

Especially when they know the effect will be to drive UK car-making further into the ground.


And another thing ….

I don’t usually make this kind of observation (well, not often) but I have to register some real concerns about the possibility of the our next PM being the guy who once said “Screw Business” - or words to that effect.

I’m equally dismayed by most television presenters who chuckle indulgently to each other at Boris Johnson’s latest verbiage but fail to subject him to any kind of meaningful scrutiny.

I can’t work out if they feel bounden by spurious public broadcasting ‘guidelines’ or commercial interests. Either way, they come across as pretty gutless and nowhere near the standard of serious journos such as Robert Peston or the Channel Four team. I also have to ask who at the BBC thinks it’s ‘balanced’ to host a leadership debate in which only the membership of one party can actually vote?

Yep. The next prime minister is going to be chosen by 0.003% of the electorate. If that’s a mandate then I’m a banana.

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