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