Magazine article The Spectator

A Bad Hair Day for Tony Blair at the Chocolate Factory

Magazine article The Spectator

A Bad Hair Day for Tony Blair at the Chocolate Factory

Article excerpt

Rivers of fudge are to be expected from corporate PR people, but the Cadbury factory at Bourneville has an unusually impressive one -- an endless six-feet-wide flow of the soft, brown confection, about to be sliced into ribbons, then chopped into tiny rectangles, coated in chocolate and popped into Milk Tray boxes. Even more seductive is the assembly line for chocolate Creme Eggs -- made in halves with the yolk in one half only, then neatly flipped together, sealed, wrapped and sent bobbing along the conveyors. But it was one of the robots in the packing section that earned a spontaneous round of applause from our tour party: simultaneously stacking tins of Roses on one pallet and boxes of Milk Tray on another, it paused as though momentarily confused before darting sideways to finish the job with a slightly camp shimmy of the hips.

Everyone should visit factories, to have an inkling of the organisation, logistics and science required to make something so familiar as a branded bar of chocolate. I can particularly recommend visiting factories where you can eat as much as you like of the product as it passes along the line. 'Funny how you can sense the culture of the place so quickly, ' someone whispered, as we were greeted outside a half-timbered reception building by the genial former chairman, Sir Adrian Cadbury -- grandson of one of the Quaker brothers who built the factory, with its model village for workers -- and shown round by jocular Brummies who had worked there all their lives. This is one of Britain's oldest working factories, and certainly its most Arcadian, with its cricket pitch and swimming baths and parish church and Meeting House.

It has not all been sweetness and paternalism at Bourneville in recent years, however:

the workforce has been reduced -- by voluntary redundancies -- from 16,000 to 1,200.

But that process, combined with continual investment in equipment such as our mincing, dithering robot, means that there would now be no significant saving to be made by moving production to Eastern Europe or elsewhere -- as the American owners of Terrys of York, another historic Quaker business, have just done to the poor old Chocolate Orange. Bourneville's river of fudge is going to keep on rolling, even if the number of people required to operate it continues to shrink, and even though 'Bourneville' itself, the dark chocolate brand, is now -- devotees will be disappointed to learn -- made in France.

Incidentally, everyone at Bourneville, including visitors, wears an obligatory white coat and hairnet, for obvious reasons of factory hygiene, but one recent VIP visitor huffily refused to be photographed in the garb.

Who was this vain Willy Wonka? You've guessed: yes, it was Tony Blair.

The collapse last week of the misfeasance claim pursued for 12 years against the Bank of England by Deloittes, the liquidators of the fraud-ridden Bank of Credit and Commerce International, does not quite bring to an end the most overextended financial scandal of the era -- since the Bank of England will now seek vengeance, in the form of £70 million in legal costs, from Deloittes. The criminal allegations against Bank of England officials seem to have been pursued by Deloittes to the 256th day in court only in the hope of forcing an out-ofcourt settlement, which the Bank repeatedly refused to offer. …

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