JUDGE AND JURY: Ford gives Merseyside a reason to feel more upbeat - Ford has to be congratulated for helping to change people’s perceptions of Merseyside and espec ially its Halewood plant by stressing the economic reasons behind its decision to

Thank God Ford stressed that cost-benefit analysis was key to the decision to base the manufacture of the new ’compact Jaguar’, codenamed the X400, at the Ford plant in Halewood on Merseyside.

Thank God Ford stressed that cost-benefit analysis was key to the

decision to base the manufacture of the new ’compact Jaguar’, codenamed

the X400, at the Ford plant in Halewood on Merseyside.



I hope this is the beginning of the end of ’special pleading’ for this

region. Over the past decade Merseyside has worked hard to shed its image

as militant, strife and strike-bound. but it has been a difficult brief

for the urban regenerators charged with promoting the area as a good place

to live and work. The challenge was always to adjust perception and bring

it closer to the more positive reality - without appearing to announce

proudly that Merseyside has metaphorically ’stopped beating its wife’.



The news of Jaguar’s investment came at 6.30 am on Radio 4’s Today

programme.



This early morning ’hit’ resulted from an overnight briefing for motoring

journalists at the Detroit Motor Show on the Monday, followed the next day

by additional Ford and Jaguar briefings, giving the UK daily press enough

time to assimilate and develop the story.



On Tuesday, and for several days, stories appeared in the broadsheets and

tabloids and the flavour of most of the coverage was that it was good news

for Merseyside. While many reports touched on the negatives, few

journalists majored on Halewood’s historically poor industrial relations

record and last year’s threat of closure. There were few ’shock!

horror!



quality car manufacturer opts for Merseyside, what were they thinking of?’

stories.



The added dimension of the UK beating off competition from Ford plants in

Europe and the US to build the Jaguar might have been perceived as an

emotional one. Yet the marketing departments fully understand that ’Made

in Britain’ and the Jaguar brand are synonymous and must go together to

make headway in the US - the X400’s biggest export market.



No special pleading, no romance. Positive coverage of this hard-nosed

commercial decision does much to put Merseyside on equal terms with other

regions competing for inward investment - exactly where it should be.



And just think how much more positive we can feel towards Merseyside

now, just a few short weeks after the end of Hotel, the BBC’s

fly-on-the-wall documentary on Liverpool’s Adelphi Hotel



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