Blog: Simon WarburtonOutriders await their comeback

Simon Warburton | 15 July 2010

Having battled through a power failure of most of east London on Monday morning - it had to be a Monday - my mood not helped by commuters draped in Spanish flags (in east London?) after their World Cup win - I finally weaselled my way into Essex - my first ever visit - and Ford's Dunton R&D plant.

The occasion was to celebrate the handing over of some rather large cheques from the UK government and the European Investment Bank (EIB) to Ford for more efficient engine research among other laudable aims.

A collection of Ford's top brass - including Ford of Britain chairman Joe Greenwell, the Minister of State for Business Mark Prisk and EIB vice president Simon Brooks - assembled for the signing ceremony that saw the loan and guarantee formalised.

The lights were barely working however so Joe manfully went through his speech - a lone voice in the gloom - punctuated by the flash of a graph on the screen.

Clarity was restored for Prisk, who, it has to be said, appeared to take a genuine interest in the industry. It helps he was the business shadow for two years previously, but nonetheless he gave an impressive overview of the UK auto sector.

A quick tour of the Dunton plant later - complete with immersion into a -40 degree centigrade cold soak chamber - followed by a searingly hot air equivalent and we were back in the conference room now restored to blinding luminance.

The Minister of State departed - not in some enormous charabanc- but thanks to the new British Prime Minister's Scrooge-like austerity drive - in a pool Prius.

Times is hard but shouldn't someone who's risen to Minister of State be given some sort of limo?

Incidentally, it appears that Cameron's predecessor had insisted on dropping his police outriders in a similar display of Cromwellian rigour but soon reinsated them when he became late for almost every event.

Cameron has equally dropped the outriders but how long before he brings them back as he endures yet another traffic jam? More fun too.


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