The workers at the BMW Oxford plant must have felt they were living in a parallel universe on Monday morning, when Business and Trade secretary Kemi Badenoch turned up at Cowley with the media in tow.
Her “big announcement" was a (rather small) £75 million handout from the government to BMW which will now invest an additional £600m to bring 2 electric models to Britain... Apparently brilliant Badenoch has changed BMW's mind - so it won't be building all its EVs in China, after all!
She managed to kill two birds with one stone: firstly, "prove" that her government is stimulating (so-called "green"!) economic growth (one of Sunak’s 5 pledges). And she appears to have pulled one over on the Chinese, which will play well with the anti-Chinese Cold War xenophobes in the Tory Party.
Never mind the workers?
Of course this overblown fanfare was pure political show business for the Tories, in the run up to the next election, due, probably, within a year.
And once more, they're using the Cowley mini plant as a showcase to prove the lie that this country is “reindustrialising”, with investors keen to come here and create useful jobs » a lie which is especially keenly told by those, who like Badenoch herself, argued the virtues of Brexit.
The Cowley workers know different by their own experience. But this time BMW bosses and the government are collaborating in an even more outrageous misrepresentation.
In fact the workers returned from their summer shutdown to hear only bad news; how their lives and livelihoods were about to be turned upside down. And it wasn't because of any kind of positive transformation of the plant into a “green” electric vehicle maker, either...
No! Quite the contrary. The plan was to partially close the plant for 5 months next year to refit the lines for the production of 2 new petrol models!
This had already entailed 400+ job cuts. Now another 450 have been announced. Workers were told they'd go onto a 4-day week, while the 5th day would be available for overtime working... but the rate for overtime was to be cut! Not a story which the media took any interest in reporting, of course.
So what then is the workforce to make of this new plan? Badenoch claimed that the new investment will “save BMW's 4,000 jobs” but in fact there are 5,000 workers in the plant - or were before the job cuts started... And for now, nobody really knows what BMW's true plan is as regards EV and/or petrol car production. Anyway, since this EV production is scheduled only for 2026, a lot of water can flow under the bridge before then. And maybe the workers - currently circulating a petition to strike - will turn their anger against BMW's attacks into forceful collective action... One can only hope so.
It’s only words, not "real” weapons...
After her Cowley appearance, Kemi Badenoch was pulled into TV and radio studios to answer questions on her department's industrial policy and in particular with regard to China. Coincidently, the Sunday Times had just published the name of a Tory party parliamentary worker accused - horror of all horrors - of “spying for the Chinese"! (As if paying British spies to go to China and anywhere else of interest, wasn't something done routinely!)
The person in question was never charged. And given the arrest took place 6 months ago and he was almost immediately released on bail, it's unlikely he ever will be. Nevertheless he has now been obliged to go on record to assert his innocence.
But trust the British press never to miss an opportunity to publish juicy false stories, or destroy a reputation, and all the more so, if it's in the name of good old British nationalism, and these days, anti-Chinese phobia is top of their list.
So it was almost comical to hear Badenoch's answers to media questions like “do you consider China friend or foe”, to which she replied: "they are not a foe, but a challenge"... James Cleverly had already been sent all the way to China to smooth the waters, to explain how the Tory government "had to" say bad things about China's human rights record given how Britain is an upholder of moral values and has a duty to point a finger whenever it sees fault...
Of course, unlike China, Britain has no political prisoners... Julian Assange is a just figment of perverse imaginations! As for all those close friends of the British government which might be said to have human rights records as bad or even worse than China's, for instance persecuting and killing religious and other minorities - and/or the political opposition - like Modi's India, Kigali's Rwanda, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, etc., etc., well at least they aren't "communist"!
Indeed. Xi's capitalist China might justifiably feel a bit hard done by... But never mind: the fact of the matter is that capitalist profits and business will almost always “trump” moral sensibilities, so as long as Xi understands that words are not sticks and stones...