This week’s decision by Honda to relocate their manufacturing from Swindon back to Japan in 2022, with a potential loss of 3500 jobs directly, plus others from the supply chain, is of course deeply regrettable. Many people in North Wiltshire will be very concerned about it, and I will gladly do whatever I can to help with their particular circumstances. I attended the first meeting in Swindon yesterday of the Taskforce set up to deal with the repercussions of the decision. Amongst other things, I reminded the meeting of Dyson’s £200 million investment in electric car Research and Development just 20 miles up the M-4 at Hullavington. Maybe our area could become a national hub for electric car R and D, perhaps even manufacturing. That would be one good way or using what will by then be an empty, but high-quality car plant. Might even be of interest to Sir James?
It is also worth remembering that unemployment in North Wiltshire (and across England) is at an historic low. 800 people are currently registering in this area, which has been the same for several years. Most of those people are transitting between jobs. There is a great deal of expansion and opportunity across the area, and I am hopeful that after the initial shock has passed, the Honda employees will come to realise the opportunities in the area which will now open up for them.
The automotive industry is going through troublous times globally- Nissan’s announcement about its diesel 4x 4, Jaguar Landrover’s difficulties, even Dyson’s decision to move their corporate HQ (albeit only two highly paid top executives, one of whom already works in Singapore) may even be a part of it all. Its about a Global downturn in demand, environmental concerns over diesel emissions, competition from electric cars and much improved public transport in many places.
Brexit, and uncertainty caused by it, cannot have helped. But it is in no sense to blame. 85% of the cars manufactured in Swindon are destined for the US market; a large part of the balance is domestic. Those who have their own political reasons for doing so, will try to blame Brexit, but that really is both misleading and forlorn. There is no evidence at all of any kind of economic downturn as a result of, or in anticipation of Brexit; and it is ruthless and relentless scaremongering to suggest otherwise. These people are playing with workers’ personal concerns for their families, and it is quite wrong.
The split in the Labour Party is perhaps more directly attributable to Brexit, as well as to a general disaffection with their Leadership. I hear that up to 100 Labour MPs are being threatened with deselection by their Momentum-swelled local Labour Associations. One colleague was telling me that his Association has gone from 200 members, each of whom he knew personally for many years to a staggering 8,000 members, none of whom he knows at all. The obvious presumption is that these are communist infiltrators seeking to take over the Labour Party. By any stretch that must be a deeply damaging prospect for democracy in general as well as for Labour.
So I salute the bravery of the magnificent seven, and of those who will follow their lead. They may well be sacrificing their own careers and livelihoods in favour of their beliefs and background. That takes courage politically, and they should be congratulated and supported in their decision.