Press Comment : Mandelson’s still spinning after JLR announcement

Jonathan Walker, Birmingham Post, 24th September, 2009

Peter Mandelson is determined to look on the bright side after Jaguar Land Rover announced it was shutting one of its two West Midlands plants. I had the chance to question him at a small press conference, where he was trumpeting the Government’s work supporting the economy in the regions (ie, outside London).

The Business Secretary said how pleased he was that JLR had confirmed it was committed to keeping its Merseyside plant open. I put it to him that while the announcement was good news for Merseyside, it would mean job losses in the West Midlands. In response, he repeatedly insisted that he could not speculate on announcements that JLR had not yet made.

I’m sorry but, while we don’t yet know all the details, it seems to me that closing a major factory (JLR apparently haven’t decided whether it will be the Castle Bromwich or Solihull site) and creating 800 new jobs in Merseyside can only be a disaster for our region.

Those 800 jobs in the north west can only mean 800 jobs will go in the West Midlands – and probably more. The idea, after all, is to save money, not to create new jobs and, while it’s great that JLR have said there will be no compulsory redundancies, this does imply that positions will be lost in other ways, probably by not replacing staff who leave voluntarily.

Lord Mandelson has done a great job representing Labour lately. When he’s on the telly, he sounds confident, knows what he’s talking about and is never at a loss for words. However,  his refusal to accept that JLR’s announcement is another blow for the West Midlands region shows that beneath his new “pussycat” exterior, the great spinner still lurks.

[Source: Birmingham Post]

Clive Goldthorp

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