You can’t take the Houses of Parliament out of HP Sauces, but will Heinz take HP out of the UK?

The US company’s announcement last week that it is considering proposals to close its facility in Aston, near Birmingham, and move production of the iconic British sauce to the Netherlands has created an uproar in the UK.

With the issue making headline news, politicians calling for a boycott of the table sauce, workers travelling to protest at Heinz’s HQ and the British PM offering support to the effort to save HP jobs, Heinz may have bitten off more than it anticipated. But Nigel Dickie, director of UK government and corporate affairs, is down playing the subject.

Referring to the workers who made their way to Heinz’s head office today (18 May) Dickie said: “Some of the night shift have come down to our head office to support their union representatives.”

Yesterday, Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Parry Barr, asked Tony Blair to back efforts to prevent the plant closure during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Brandishing a bottle of HP Sauce and reminding the House of the connection between HP and British politics (not only did the sauce take its name from the Houses of Parliament but it is also said to be one of former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s favourites), Mahmood asked: “Would my Right Honourable Friend support the workers in Aston by supporting the discussions with Heinz, to save those manufacturing jobs?”

To which Blair replied: “I pay tribute to the Heinz workers in my Right Honourable Friend’s constituency, and of course I will give the support I can to my Right Honourable Friend in his effort to preserve their jobs.”

This is not the first political involvement in the row: immediately after the announcement Labour MP Claire Short joined calls for a boycott of the sauce to pressure Heinz to reconsider the move.

“I think it’s understandable that local MPs will do everything they can, as we want to do everything we can, to look at all options to keep manufacturing going,” Dickie said.

Heinz is currently consulting with workers’ representatives and will meet with Birmingham city officials in the coming weeks, Dickie told just-food.