Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: car manufacturing

When BMW reversed out of Rover, everyone ran around the countryside waving their arms in the air and wondering what on earth happened to the British Motor Industry. Indeed, I'm ashamed to say, I may have been party to some of that running and waving.

But then older, cleverer people rose to their gouty feet and with measured tones, pointed out that, actually, more cars were being made in Britain at the time than at any point in history.

Not any more. Honda has said that it will not be making something or other in Swindon, Nissan is about to cease production of Micras in the North and  Vauxhall has said that no more cars will be made at Luton. This came as a surprise to me since I thought they'd stopped making cars there years ago. And started making the Vectra.

There is, however, some good news in all of this. If foreign firms stop coming over here and building factories on flood plains, our traditional autumn rains will have somewhere to go other than the vault in York Minster or Mrs Miggins' tea shop in Telford.

Plus, remember that we have been telling the auto makers for some time that we'd like lower prices, so if the opportunity arises for General Motors to save a few quid by making its cars in Bongo Bongo land, then they'll take it.

These people are US businessmen and see the world not as a planet but as dots and dashes on a balance sheet. It costs £5,000 to make a car in Luton, wherever the hell that is. And £3,000 to make it in Lahore, wherever the hell that is. So they will make it in Lahore.

Yes, a few thousand car workers in Bedfordshire get thrown out of work. But who cares, apart from the man in the local toy shop who sold rather fewer Thunderbird dolls this Christmas than he had been expecting? It's a global village, remember, and a job lost in Luton is a job gained somewhere else.

In the past, GM paid its workers in England and the workers put some of that money in charity boxes. Well now they've cut out the middle man. They have put the whole job in the charity box, and very nice too. You and I get cheaper cars and Mrs Miggins doesn't get raw sewage in her tea bags.

Except, of course, Luton's decimated.

"Yes, I want a cheaper car but could I, in all conscience, buy such a thing if I knew it had brought misery to someone?"

Now, generally speaking, I have little truck with those who throw furniture through the windows at McDonald's, and plant herbs in Parliament Square. I was not in Nice recently sporting dreadlocks and a bandanna. And it was not I who led the charge in Seattle.I've never been able to understand the protesters' grievance. If I'm going to get hit in the face with a policeman's truncheon, I'd like it to be for something more worthwhile than the commonality of hamburgers throughout the world.

Yes, I want a cheaper car but could I, in all conscience, buy such a thing if I knew it had brought misery to someone?

When I wake up in the morning, this comes way, way down on my list of things I must address in the day. It's below fox hunting. It's below the sodomy of 16-year-old boys. It's below everything. I just don't care. In fact, sometimes, when I'm hungry and in a country where the ice cubes can kill, it's good to stroll under that big yellow M and get a tasty Big Mac with fries.

And it's the same with banks. Men in suits lend men with bones through their noses some money and then want it back with some interest. This, it seems to me, is good business practice.

But banks, we are told by those of an anti-global-capitalism nature, have a great deal of money while there are countries in the world that do not. This is unfair, they say. Yes, but Barclays, so far as I can tell, does not run an army and does not spend 90 per cent of its income on shiny new AK47s.

However, I've been forced to question these tweedy, middle-England views this month by the news from Detroit.

Yes, I want a cheaper car but could I, in all conscience, buy such a thing if I knew it had brought misery to someone?

Would you, for instance, buy a jumper, if you knew that it had been knitted by a five-year-old girl in leg irons, who got paid in Rhohypnol?

No. So why should you rush out to buy the next generation of Vectra when you know its low price is a direct result of GM shutting down car production in Luton and putting thousands on the dole. You save £100 and to hell with the poor bastards who are having to feed their children on soil. Or each other.

So I find myself siding with these people who worry about the globalisation of everything. Sure, some kid in Guatemala may benefit from Luton's loss but do you know what? I don't care about some kid in Guatemala. The world is not a village, as anyone who's flown to New Zealand will testify. It's enormous and Guatemala is miles away. In the same way that Luton is bloody miles away from Detroit.

I believe that there must be some reminder for the world's car makers that the blips on their computer screens are lives and children's Christmas presents.

Maybe they should only be allowed to close a factory if the chairman himself walks onto the shop floor, butt naked save for a pair of fluffy slippers, and delivers the news himself.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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