Blair `begs' over Rover

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The Independent Online
GERMANY'S LEADING tabloid launched a scathing attack yesterday on Tony Blair, accusing him of "begging" on behalf of Rover's car factories.

The vitriolic editorial in Bild Zeitung illustrates German rage over the plight of the once-mighty BMW company, which has fallen on hard times since it invested in Britain. "The British Rover plants were scrap-heaps when BMW bought them in January 1994," it states. Since then, the Munich- based company had poured in "senseless billions".

But now Mr Blair has asked Chancellor Gerhard Schroder for his help. "Is the Chancellor supposed to hold a whip-round for the Britons?" Bild asks indignantly, not forgetting to mention that "Blair the Beggar" had proudly presented himself in the past as a standard-bearer for economic modernity in Europe.

BMW's tribulations - as they appear from Germany - have touched a raw nerve.The company lost its two most talented managers. Bernd Pischetsrieder, the chief executive, was sacked, because his British strategy was seen to have failed. His heir apparent, Wolfgang Reitzle, was thwarted by employee representatives on the board, who had been lobbied by British union leaders.

The car-maker now finds itself hunted by predators. Take-over rumours sweeping the markets are quashed by the billionaire Quandt family who own about half the shares. To Germans this all seems very unfair, especially when they hear that the British workers who they feel are responsible for the mayhem have somehow managed to save their skins.

t The BBC has said it will close its German language World Service programmes after 50 years to make more use of the Internet and FM networks. Recent audience research showed that nine out of 10 Berliners listened in English.