… was Harold Macmillan’s celebrated answer to a journalist’s question about what can most easily steer a government off course. The extraordinary events of this evening concerning the fate of Rover, the last British-owned volume car manufacturer, provide a vivid illustration of Mac’s adage. First, Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, announces at a press conference that the company is going into receivership. This is immediately denied by the Board, which says that they have merely asked their accountants to advise them. But even if the company wasn’t going to the wall before Hewitt’s statement, it certainly didn’t seem to have much of a future afterwards! Would you buy a used (or even a new) car from such an outfit?
What’s funny about this (and what reminded me of Macmillan) was that this came on the day after the damaging internal feud between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown seemed to have been settled. It looked as though this last lingering credibility problem for Labour had been laid to rest. And then along comes Rover (which has always been an economic basket-case) and upsets the apple-cart.