Editor-At-Large: Calling Burberry protesters: please, it's time to belt up

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The Independent Online

I fully support everyone's right to work - and the right to protest vociferously and energetically if their employer decides to make them redundant. But I'm getting the tiniest bit exasperated with those placard-waving Burberry workers who have filled pages of newsprint since the company announced its plans to shut a factory in Treorchy, South Wales, with the loss of 300 jobs. That is an economic tragedy, but I'm beginning to think that whoever is masterminding the campaign of hate against Burberry wants nothing less than to damage the company globally - and the end result will have serious consequences for even more British workers.

Last November I wrote about the planned closure of the Treorchy plant - closing because it cost £12 to make a polo shirt there and £4 in the Far East. I pointed out that just as Gordon Brown was promoting Britishness - and Burberry is surely one of the most iconic British brands, along with M&S- the economic reality of manufacturing in Gordon's highly taxed, highly regulated Britain means that British firms are moving more and more production overseas.

Last Friday the latest battle in the Burberry war saw it cancel its party for the British Academy nominees, set for 10 February, because it did not want any of the 800 attendees to face an angry picket line organised by those fighting to save Treorchy. Celebrity supporters include Tom Jones (when was he ever in Wales - and if he wants to create jobs, why does he live in the US and not run an office in the Rhondda Valley?), the actor Rhys Ifans, Max Boyce, and opera singer Bryn Terfel. All we need now is Charlotte Church waving a placard alongside Ruth Madoc and they'll have a full house!

Now politicians have got in on the act, demanding Burberry bosses give evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee on globalisation. Protesters recently travelled to London to hand out leaflets outside Burberry stores, and planmore demos from Las Vegas to Paris. All very emotive, until you dig a little deeper into the state of manufacturing in Wales. In January 2005, Sony announced 300 job losses in Bridgend and Pencoed. The next month, St Ives closed a printing plant in Caerphilly; 200 lost their jobs. In May 2006, MFI closed a sofa factory at Llantrisant with 320 job losses, and an automotive plant closed in Ebbw Vale, putting 350 people out of work. In June 2006, 270 were made redundant at an automotive works in Llanelli; then a factory closed in Newport putting 315 on the dole. Since Burberry announced Treorchy would close, Cooper-Standard Automotive has shut its Maesteg plant, losing 250 jobs, and Alcoa closed a Swansea plant, with 300 jobs going. This year, Technicolor has unveiled 350 job losses in Cwmbran, and Tesco has moved 190 jobs from Cardiff to India. Where are all the placards? Has Charlotte Church shredded her Tesco Clubcard?

Set against that tragic litany, is Burberry really the UK's most horrible employer? It is a business, not a charity. Mindful that the ensuing row could damage itsreputation and share price, it has been generous, going through a consultation period, delaying closure by three months to March, improving the redundancy package so that over a third of the workforce will get more than a year's salary, offering training, and donating the factory to the community. It is helping to find work for thejobless and has identified 250 jobs in the area.

The real criminal is the Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, who has not really tried to fight the tide of factory closures by urging Mr Brown to create financial incentives to bring down manufacturing costs in Wales. Burberry has 40 per cent of its global workforce in the UK, with 600 people at factories in Rotherham and Castleford in Yorkshire making their iconic trenchcoat. In spite of union claims, less than 10 per cent of Burberry production is in Asia, and it has increased its UK production staff. I am mystified as to why Burberry has been vilified for making a tough economic decision, while Tesco, Technicolor and Alcoa have not. Is it because Burberry projects a glamorous image - with Kate Moss, surrounded by gorgeous young men, photographed by Mario Testino? Does sour grapes play a part? Burberry sells 90 per cent of its stuff overseas, and while I am very sorry that one factory in South Wales is closing, I don't think that makes Burberry the meanest employer in the UK.

Why Dove won't zap your bingo wings

Dove is launching a range of skincare products for older women with a series of ads featuring women over 50 more or less starkers, and has published a report on attitudes to ageing. Not surprisingly, middle-aged women say they don't feel old but do feel ignored. When the campaign launched in the US, one man found it all a bit much and moaned: "The only time I want to see a thigh that big is in a bucket with breadcrumbs on it!" What will happen here? Gorgeous photography can make anyone look seductive; I know because I'm regularly snapped by magicians who bleach out the suitcases under my eyes and light my sagging chin so it's as firm as Southend Pier. But I still won't buy Dove. It's not going to do anything magical - and it won't delay the inevitable ageing. The best way to look young is to talk a lot - that way the sagging bits are harder to spot.

Yarns to yawns: 'The Archers' is turning into a serial offender

Sadly, 200,000 listeners have stopped tuning in to 'The Archers' since the torrid romance between farmer's wife Ruth and the herdsman Sam. The civil partnership celebrations when Adam tied the knot with Ian are said to have alienated even more regulars. I hope that the programme's editor doesn't start to tone it down - although there are already signs that a new, grim regime has begun. Last week's episode when the cricket team logged on to discover the new season's fixtures was about as interesting as clipping your toenails, and if Ruth doesn't lash out at her horrible husband soon I shall reach for the off button.

Dig this! The darling buds of, um, February

As I write this, I'm looking into my garden where a single beautiful pink rose provides an unlikely splash of winter colour, along with dozens of snowdrops. Climate change, rain and warm weather means the grass needs mowing, the flowerbeds are full of new weeds, the shrubs have sprung into life and the daffodils are sprouting far too early. Now the Royal Horticultural Society has issued guidelines for gardeners, bringing weeding forward to February. I think I'll just turn a blind eye.

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