Kraft, Cadbury and Keynsham : Enter the Pinstriped Policeman.
Will it never end? Will Keynsham's chocolate saga never be laid to rest?
Today, people in this quiet north east Somerset town are all busy reading the Wall St Journal. Keynsham was quoted so often during the Kraft / Cadbury takeover war, you suspect some townspeople took out a subscription. Now, a month after the Americans abandoned their pledges to the town's famous chocolate factory, we read Kraft faces "a City probe".
The Takeover Panel has had a complaint that "employees and investors were misled" by the US firm in its hostile bid for Cadbury. So what's going on? And can it change anything?
Investors are rather baffled. "Sad as it may be about the Somerdale plant," says Ben Yearsley of investment analysts Hargreaves Lansdown, "it does seem strange that the takeover panel are investigating comments Kraft made about potentially keeping it open. Ultimately it would have cost shareholders more to keep the plant open, therefore shareholders haven't lost out by closing it."
He's right of course. When Kraft announced they were closing the factory after all, no investors complained. It was staff who felt gutted, but what concern is that of the City Regulator? How have they got involved?
Like most stories in this battle, it starts with Amoree Radford, the feisty campaigner who's been fighting for two and a half years to keep Keynsham making Crunchies.
"I was out walking my dog," Amoree tells me, "when the phone rang. It was Jacob Rees-Mogg, asking me to countersign a complaint."
Mr Rees-Mogg is the Conservative candidate for the area at the next Parliamentary Election. He's also something of a city-slicker, an investment banker whose father, Lord Rees-Mogg, was Editor of The Times for 14 years and now chairs "The Zurich Club", described as 'a private, international network of trustworthy and knowledgeable investors and entrepreneurs'. You get the picture: connections.
Mr Rees-Mogg explained to Amoree that he had drafted a letter of complaint to the City regulator, itemising the broken promises made to staff at Somerdale. I've seen the letter, and here's the key line:
"The speed with which the closure was announced indicates that the stated intention to keep the factory open was either made without due care or was knowingly inaccurate."
"We realise we can't get the jobs back," Amoree tells me ruefully, "but what else can we do? We just want them to learn their lessons for the future, so it doesn't happen to another company in the future."
You can't argue with that, can you? Yes, the die is cast. Yes, Kraft ain't changing its mind, and Keynsham is closing. But a rap over the knuckles from a pinstriped policeman can't harm can it?
"I think this is a distraction, and the town doesn't need it." There is a man arguing with it, and he's the town's Labour MP, Dan Norris. "It can't bring the jobs back, and worse than that, it will drag everyone back through the heartache they've already endured twice."
Mr Norris thinks Keynsham has had it with raised hopes. Being led up the chocolate coated garden path by Kraft execs was bad enough. Leave it there, he says. If nothing can be done, it's time to move on and create some new jobs to replace the old.
It's certainly true that the regulator has few teeth to bite Kraft's global chocolate empire. And already that Polish production line has started making mini eggs and 'Crunchskis', are they are now known round here. So is this latest investigation a weary waste of effort, or a reasonable attempt for a little financial justice?
Your call, as ever.
Update 17:15 Monday.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has just been on Ben Prater's show on BBC Radio Bristol. He told us that the "bowler hatted bobbie" does have teeth after all. Yes, just the reputation impact, but Cadbury / Kraft have such serious debts they will need the City, and therefore a good name. "A man's word should be his bond," Mr Rees-Mogg told us, "and Kraft's word turned out to be his bond for only a week."
Also, rather honestly I thought, he admitted he'd been caught out by their change of heart. He had originally believed the Kraft pledge, calling it proof that "capitalism can be a force for good". "I am rather embarassed to admit that I was taken in," he told us on the air.