To be watching the last days of poor old Rover is to intrude on canine grief. A wise vet would have put this dog down long ago. I was asking only last week when Rover would go under: after the election? Some means could surely be found, after all those years on and off life support, to make the patient hold on until Friday 6 May. The Prime Minister must have thought so too. Had he not sent John Prescott and then Gordon Brown all the way to China, to coax Shanghai Automotive into giving the dog a good home? Had he not himself picked up the telephone to exercise his powers of persuasion on China’s President? Could anything have gone wrong in translation? He was on his way to Rome for the Pope’s funeral when, with four Fridays still to go, Rover keeled over. The Chinese, it appeared, had pulled out. Was the Department of Trade and Industry up to its old trick of finding a good day to bury bad news? There was nothing for it but to fly home and rush to Rover’s basket, holding a paw and exuding concern, with Gordon Brown in support, looking grave. All was not lost, we were promised. Time, at least, would be bought. The Chinese could be revisited. The DTI would provide an injection of cash, so that the wages could still be paid, even if no cars were produced, and Rover could live on in a persistent vegetative state until the vets chose to shake their heads and switch the machine off.
Licensed to lose
The trouble with this prognosis is obvious. Shanghai Automotive knew enough about the West to take advice from N.M. Rothschild, and pulled out because Rover looked insolvent. Now we all know that it is. The men from Price Waterhouse are at the wheel.