Of cars and arms
What's the connection between the British General Election, the closure of a car plant in the Midlands and East Asian geopolitics? Well, the answer's not that hard really... arms sales to China.
This month's issue of Socialist Review has a quality analysis of the collapse of Rover cars - with the loss of at least 5000 jobs - by the excellent Walrus. It seems that the strategic considerations of the Bush administration played an important role in bringing an end to over a hundred years of carmaking at Longbridge when the Chinese government got upset at Britain's US-inspired stance against lifting the EU arms embargo.
This is something I've posted on before- but it appears that previous commentary to the effect that the UK was prepared to go against Washington on this one was wrong. Or just possibly this reflects one major point of difference between Tony Blair and chancellor Gordon Brown (among many I'm sure). Of course Blair was always going to go with his Texan buddy, whatever the cost to the UK economy. The complexity and interconnectedness of the political and economic in the capitalist system are certainly mind-boggling at times. But I'm sure this thought is not the one that's keeping the ex-Rover workers awake at night.
Last and by no means least is the geopolitical background to the whole Rover debacle. According to former Labour members of the European Parliament, Ken Coates and Henry McCubbin, New Labour's 'blind allegiance to Washington' is one of the prime reasons for the collapse of the Rover deal. Why? Because, on the say-so of George W Bush, the British government is preventing the European Union from lifting its embargo on arms sales to China. Condoleezza Rice has made it clear to all and sundry that the US regards the Pacific as its backyard and the EU should keep its nose out. As a result, the Chinese are none too happy with this interference. And Labour's moves at EU level appear to have more or less coincided with the Chinese authorities writing to the British government to say that a deal on Rover was now unlikely.
According to the two Labour stalwarts Coates and McCubbin, Blair's role in all of this has enraged the Chinese government, and in a letter to the Financial Times they explained that 'it is no coincidence that by 22 March, the UK Department of Trade and Industry had received the letter from SAIC calling the whole deal into question'. All the rest, they say, 'is an attempt at cover-up and distortion, to hide where the true problem lies'. And where would that be? 'It lies with the relationship between the venal leadership of the Labour Party and the right wing administration in Washington. This disaster is entirely of the making of Mr Blair and Mr Straw and the workers are what they would otherwise call collateral damage.'