Friday, 11 September 2009

Rover & The Phoenix Four

Who would have thought that it would take four years, 800+ pages and £16million to come up with a report that the Phoenix Four – owners of MG Rover – didn’t do anything illegal; they just acted like big businessmen do ?

Only four years after they brought the business for just £10, the last British-owned car manufacturer closed down and 6,500 jobs were lost. In the process The Four trousered £42million between them and even now they haven’t shared any of the pain arising from the collapse that left a hole in the manufacturing heartland of the West Midlands.

A year on from the Lehman Bothers’ collapse, a distinction is often heard being made, sometimes even on the Left, between evil ‘finance’ capitalists who get huge and undeserved bonuses for doing speculation at no personal risk and honest ‘manufacturing’ capitalists who actually make stuff and employ the people. But the Phoenix Four weren’t Gordon Geckos in red braces – three were engineers by background and one was an accountant. It still didn’t stop them from behaving like greedy cunts who were out for themselves.

The usual moral justification given for capitalism is that it rewards the entrepreneur for taking risks that are for the good of society as a whole – creating jobs and ever-new products and services. Maybe at the time of the industrial revolution this was true to some extent - although if you were employed in a factory or mill from the age of 10 risking life and limb you could be forgiven for not seeing the bigger picture.

But with capitalism these days, rather than inventing something, risking everything to develop it and working hard to produce it, with just a bit of financial sleight-of-hand in the book-keeping, you can still make the money and stick two fingers up at the people who made you rich.

It’s the system you see and it takes a pretty rare individual to buck it.

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