The confirmation by Honda that the closure of its Swindon plant and the loss of 3500 jobs will go ahead will come as a hammer blow to the town. Whether or not the closure is because of Brexit – spoiler alert: it 100% is – is one thing. What follows next is quite another.
Honda moved to Swindon in 1985, encouraged by Margaret Thatcher’s promise that the company would find it easier to access the markets of the EU. It is not just the number of jobs that will be lost: it is the quality of jobs. We are constantly told that there are record numbers of people in work. So, redundant Honda workers have little to fear, right? Wrong.
There are plenty of jobs in Swindon and surrounding areas but few are in manufacturing. Worse than that, the vast majority are insecure, low paid, minimum wage jobs. It is the same everywhere across the land. Britain is addicted to low pay. Tragically, the multi-skilled workers from Honda are going to be faced with some terrible choices.
Some will stay in the area, accept drastically lower wages and try to make ends meet. Others will sure move away where better paid work remains. But where to go? Car production is about to change dramatically. Never mind the imminent disaster of Brexit. The end of petrol driven cars is nigh. On top of that, the day of the robots nears rapidly. In a decade, the workplace will have changed, particularly in manufacturing, to the extent that workers will only be required to switch the machines on. For Swindon, the loss of Honda comes at the worst, most unimaginably awful time possible.
Swindon is about to suffer what happened to manufacturing in our country years, sometimes decades, ago, where entire towns and cities were wrecked. Coal, steel and now car manufacturing.
This is what happens in a country with no plan, no grand design, no ambitions beyond the political parties winning the next general election. Soon, with the end of free movement, there will be plenty of additional insecure low paid jobs for British workers, including those in Swindon, as well as young people who will lose the right to work abroad.
A grim future awaits many people in our country, none more so than the good folk of Swindon. And I feel very sad for them.