ONE of the most famous faces in British politics visited Swindon yesterday to meet apprentices at Nationwide and hailed the town’s Magic Roundabout a “curious masterpiece”.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who recently announced his intention to return to run as an MP in 2015, also spoke with staff members about the importance of the financial industry.
With the gusto he has become famous for, Mr Johnson took questions from a crowd of 2,000 workers who gathered in the atrium of the company’s headquarters.
Avoiding being pinned down on his future plans in politics, Mr Johnson insisted he was only in Swindon to speak about apprenticeships.
He said: “I am here because I was invited very kindly to talk to Nationwide about their apprenticeship scheme.
“This is a great financial institution which has contributed a great deal to our economy. They are proof that the financial sector is not just centred on the City of London.
“I am a big believer in the importance of apprentices. Just four or five years ago the word apprentice conjured up images of workers in oily rag but that has changed completely because of companies like Nationwide.”
There has been much speculation over his future since Mr Johnson announced he was seeking to become an MP last month.
However, while full of praise for the town and the existing MPs, he denied the trip was part of a wider campaign.
He said: “Swindon is a great economic success story and I can see that with my own eyes. It manufactures cars and contributes to the financial economy.
“There is a strong focus on things which add to the country’s GDP and that is something which needs to be championed.
“There has been a big fall in unemployment in Swindon recently thanks to the hard work of the local MPs Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland and I am delighted to be able to support them.
“I like Swindon a great deal. I drove over the Magic Roundabout on the way here and I like it. It is a curious masterpiece.”
Almost every worker in the Nationwide headquarters came out to hear Boris speak about the importance of the apprenticeship programme.
Alison Robb, Nationwide’s Group Director of People, Customer, Communication and Commercial said: “I’m always delighted when Nationwide receives the recognition it deserves and today’s visit by Boris Johnson has highlighted some real achievements that my colleagues and I are very proud of.
“Giving talented, young people the start they deserve through Nationwide’s highly successful apprenticeship programme is just one of these achievements.”