It would be great to think that today’s finance package signals a significant thawing of relations between our government and the car industry.
My feeling is that for the past decade Westminster has taken the industry for granted, assuming its jobs, investment and foreign trade will always be there regardless of how much it was threatened by taxes and anti-car legislation.But the economic recession has proven that is not necessarily the case.
I’d have loved to have been a fly-on-the-wall in Lord Mandelson’s office when Nissan dropped its post-Christmas bombshell that 1200 jobs were heading down the swanee.
Europe’s most efficient plant and the jewel in the British car industry crown dropped a shift fewer than six months after several years planning to add it.
I’m guessing that up to that point, the Westminster concensus viewed the concerns of the car industry as exaggerated.
Another welcome U-turn is that government is about to close the gap in funding of a major widening of the north-eastern part of the M25. My understanding is that the success of the 2012 Olympics has as much do with this project going ahead, but it’s another welcome sign that Westminster recognises the importance of cars and car transport.
Together with Boris Johnson’s sensible decision to axe the western extension of London’s Congestion Charge zone and Manchester’s vote against a huge congestion area, it feels like political opinion has turned in a significantly pro-car direction.