David Prosser: Mandelson's promises melt away
Thursday 11 February 2010
Outlook: Lord Mandelson professes himself "disappointed" at Kraft's decision to close the Cadbury factory in Keynsham only a week after Irene Rosenfeld, the US company's chairman, told him she planned to invest in the UK. Note that he didn't say he was "surprised" at Kraft's craven U-turn. The assurances Ms Rosenfeld gave him were as worthless as Kraft's pledge to reverse Cadbury's decision to close Keynsham.
The Business Secretary is right to complain about this lack of honesty. But he should have been more honest with Cadbury workers, too. His first intervention in the Cadbury takeover saga gave the chocolate company's supporters hope that he would protect it from Kraft's advances, even though Lord Mandelson knew perfectly well that he was powerless in the matter.
Last week's meeting with Ms Rosenfeld was a second attempt to reassure Cadbury workers and their allies that the Government was fighting their corner. Again, Lord Mandelson knew he was in no position to demand anything of Kraft which could, if it were so minded, shift Cadbury's UK operations to Timbuktu without any fear of comeback.
In fact, you wonder why Kraft felt the need to pretend to Keynsham workers there was a chance of a reprieve. The gesture wasn't necessary to secure the support of the 30 per cent of the Cadbury shareholder register accounted for by hedge funds. Nor was it needed to persuade Cadbury's board to recommend Kraft's offer once the price was right.
Ms Rosenfeld has, as the unions point out, got off to a bad start in her dealings with Kraft's new subsidiary in this country. But if she chooses to go on upsetting the good folk of Cadbury, there will be nothing that the British government can do.
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