Can Mr and Mrs Average save Swindon?
In these uncertain times, here's a prediction.
When the first "Made in Swindon" Jazz rolls off the production line at Honda today, they will cheer. For the Swindon workers itself, the move is clearly a massive morale lifter. They've been open for four months since the long shutdown which made the recession real to the town, and this is just what they need. Obviously the work on the new car is welcome, but more than that, this is a huge shout from Tokyo to Swindon:
"We Trust You".
But even more interesting is what it tells us about the rest of Swindon, possibly the world, as we cope with this global recession.
Honda has survived where Nissan and Toyota have gone into the red because it sells inexpensive, sensible, family cars. To cash strapped sensible families. And they're not alone.
Which building society is the only one in the country not to demutualise and chase quick bucks on the world money markets? Nationwide, now advertising themselves as "reassuringly boring", and of course based in Swindon.
So is Swindon the home of Mr Average? Well, one TV documentary thought so. A three month search for Mr A ended, for this reporter, in an estate in Dorcan.
The town has average house prices, average population by most measures (average age, average unemployment levels) and is widely used by companies to test new products.
"Average is the new black", suggests Jeremy Holt. Mr Holt is a pinstriped lawyer in the town, but he's one of those lawyers with an eye for the zeitgeist.
"People trust things that are dull and that work. We're in an era where people don't want to take risks."
This is not to suggest that everything in Swindon is dull. There are clubs, nightlife, and a lot more proper art than outsiders expect. But the money in this town comes from reliable cars, solid mortgages, and mobile phones you use to talk to people.
They cheered. Phew, got that prediction right then.