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Last Updated: Friday, 15 April, 2005, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Rover collapse bad timing for Labour
Analysis
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

Poster outside Rover's Longbridge plant
Workers in 15 constituencies could be hit by Rover closures
The devastating collapse of MG Rover with thousands of redundancies could not have come at a worse time for the government.

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have put economic stability at the heart of their election strategy, and this crisis has undermined a central plank of that campaign.

And with a New Labour government wedded to the free market and the EU banning direct state bail-outs, there appears nothing can now be done to save Longbridge.

The main focus for the government now will be to put together some aid for the workers in Longbridge and ancillaries hit by the closure.

And the opposition parties, for the time being at least, are unlikely to attempt to make much election capital out of a closure they may not have been able to avert themselves.

Anger

It may well be that Midlands voters take out their anger and frustration on the government and turn to the other parties

But there will be despair and anger in the areas affected by the crisis and it is likely the government and Labour will be the target of much of that.

The Midlands has always been a volatile voting area and has previously returned Tory MPs - notably during Margaret Thatcher's heyday.

There are as many as 15 vulnerable seats which could be affected by the closure, with Birmingham Northfield and Yardley - where former minister Estelle Morris is standing down - in the firing line.

Others could include Bromsgrove, Dudley South, Hall Green, Coventry South, Redditch and Stourbridge.

There are more than 6,000 Rover jobs immediately under threat but between 15,000 and 20,000 in support industries are also at risk.

Major impact

That would have a major impact on the local area which has previously suffered from the closure of massive car plants.

It is not merely the job losses, it is the knock-on effects for the local communities that can prove so deeply scarring.

The social effects of such a closure in areas that have been relatively prosperous can be devastating and bring serious local problems.

The Midlands has seen its fair share of this in the past with the gradual demise of the car industry going back to the 1970s.

The political symbolism could not be more graphic and it is certain the plight of the workers at the Longbridge plant will be thrown into the election campaign.

But the effect on a government that has made so much of its economic record and, in particular, stability, remains difficult to predict.

It may well be that Midlands voters take out their anger and frustration on the government and turn to the other parties.

Alternatively, and potentially just as damaging for Labour, some may simply stay at home on 5 May.





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