It’s fair to say that I wouldn’t number myself as one of Tony Woodley’s biggest fans.
He’s the joint leader of the Unite trade union, which represents tens of thousands of workers at British car plants, and I’ve always regarded him as a sort of ‘70s throwback – never happier than when he gets to criticise ‘management’ for any perceived slights.
But, credit where credit’s due – at least he’s trying to do something to save car manufacturing in the UK. He and Unite co-leader Derek Simpson have had a face-to-face meeting with the chancellor, Alistair Darling, where they warned him that Britain is in imminent danger of losing at least one of its major car factories.
It’s a message that needed to be delivered – and one that the motor industry itself has significantly failed to do.
When it comes to protecting car in Blighty, the Government’s indecision appears to be final.
Last month’s clumsy, bureaucratic ‘loan guarantee’ scheme seems to be mostly hot air, and any company relying on it for salvation is more likely to drown in red tape than to receive a cash infusion.
Similarly, proposals for the introduction of a ‘scrappage’ scheme for older vehicles are struggling to achieve political traction too.
But this isn’t a problem that’s going to fix itself. What happens next is simple: somebody scrapes together the political will to do something radical, or a major British car factory – possibly even a major British car manufacturer – goes to the wall.
We might still quibble with Woodley’s maths. The odds of the Government handing over the £13bn ‘Interim Relief Fund’ that he’s lobbying for look slight, to say the least.
But at least somebody is prepared to stand up and make the case for the urgent action the industry needs.