HUNDREDS marched with hope in their hearts through Swindon to protest the proposed closure of the town’s Honda plant, waving crimson flags under a baby blue sky.

Plant workers were joined by trade unionists from across the UK, politicians and members of the public on the 1.5-mile route from the County Ground to GWR Park.

And Paddy Brennan, Unite representative at Honda, promised: “We’re going to fight for investment, tooth and nail to keep that factory open, or communities will be decimated.”

Road closures blocked off major routes like County Road and Fleming Way for part of Saturday morning. Buses were diverted and drivers faced some difficulties trying to negotiate town centre streets.

Organised by trade union Unite, the purpose of the march was to show Honda the strength of feeling in the town about proposed plans to close the South Marston plant by 2021.

Addressing crowds before the march walked across the Magic Roundabout and on to the town centre, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “We’ve got no intention of letting them close this plant.

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“If they think we’re just going to roll over, they’ve got another thing coming. Keep optimism and hope in your hearts. We will make sure not a single stone will be unturned.”

John Cooper, chairman of Unite’s automotive committee, said: “This campaign is a fight to save every job and stop Honda ripping the heart out of this town, and even more than that, it’s about drawing a line in the sand that we will not allow any other car company to cross.”

Protesters proved themselves in fine voice, chanting pleas like: “What do we want? Save Honda! When do we want it? Now!”

And the march was carried along by the pomp and circumstance of a union brass band – and the hypnotic rhythm of Indian dhol drums at the rear of the parade.

The march concluded with a rally at GWR Park, which included speeches from Swindon Mayor Junab Ali and Unite’s assistant regional secretary Steve Turner.

Swindon singer-songwriter Josh Kumra performed a set that included his number one hit, aptly titled Don’t Go.

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Terry Dickinson, a trade union convenor with Swindon-based Honda Logistics, said: “I’m so proud of the way the march went, it was unbelievable, we need this support to keep this factory alive.

“Don’t give up, it’s a proposed closure. Let’s not talk about redundancies, let’s keep the factory going.”

Dozens of Honda workers turned out to support the march. They shared their stories of shock at hearing in February the plant would close.

Mitch Harris, who has worked at the plant for 14 years, said: “I was shocked – devastated – when I heard the news. I’m 57 this year and I thought I was going to see out my days there.”

He was joined on the march by one of the youngest protesters, one-year-old grandson Reuben Harris.

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Gary Jones, 53, a shop steward who has worked at Honda for 19 years, said: “It came as a bolt out of the blue. Nobody was expecting that. There was real surprise, then the reality set in. It was a massive shock.”

Simon Davis, 46, from the town centre, said: “My reaction was shock and horror. It’s going to be devastating for Swindon if it closes.”

One man, 42, who said he had worked at Honda for almost 15 years, said: “I think the worst part about it was when It was on the news before we were told.”

His colleague, 50, said he had come along to the march “just to say we’re not going to take it lying down.”

A 58-year-old worker with 18 years under his belt at the Honda plant said: “At the moment everyone’s in limbo.”

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Les Fulcher, 65, from Stratton, worked at Honda when the first cars were being put together in the late 1980s: “They need to sit down, analyse the situation and come up with a strategy.”

Town centre man Brendan Scott, 49, said: “My sister-in-law works for them. My brother-in-law works for them. I’ve got lots of friends who work for them. It would be nice for Honda to have a rethink. I don’t know whether this march is going to change their minds.

“The impact of the closure would be quite destructive for the pubs, the clubs, shops and restaurants – everything.”

Union members and Labour activists came from as far afield as Liverpool and the north east to support the march.

Richie James, a branch officer with Unite in Liverpool, said: “We’ve seen similar happen in our community. Places have closed, people have moved. Communities have been impoverished by employers deciding to move.”

Huw Caunter, 53, had travelled up from Cornwall with his six-month-old cattle herding dog, Petra: “Being a working dog herself, she’s got to show solidarity.”

Rt Rev Dr Lee Rayfield, the bishop of Swindon, said the plant closure would be devastating for the town: “Whether you’re involved indirectly or directly with Honda or in the production of cars, the truth of the matter is that everybody is going to be affected at some level or another.”

Saying Swindon would not be a walkover for car industry bosses, Bazil Solomon, a Liden parish councillor, said: “We’re not doormats. If you want a doormat you should go to B&Q.”

Watching the parade, Robbie Fenton, 70, said: “It’s fantastic. This is about standing up for Honda.”