They pleaded, protested and negotiated for all they were worth, but it was never going to be enough.

And now the factory gates at Longbridge have finally closed on more than 5,000 workers, ending 100 years of motor manufacturing in Birmingham.

All hope of saving MG Rover was lost yesterday morning as it was announced that the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) told the UK Government it did not want to buy any part of the company.

Within hours, union officials and administrators confirmed workers? worst fears by announcing that 5,300 of a workforce of 6,000 would immediately be made redundant.

Minutes later Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Birmingham with Chancellor Gordon Brown and Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt to outline #150m aid package for the workers and industry that remains.

Last night, recriminations began as business and union leaders turned on the Phoenix consortium that bought MG Rover five years ago for #10 and in that time have paid themselves a reported #40m.

CBI director general Sir Digby Jones, described the actions of the directors, John Towers, Peter Beale, John Edwards and Nick Stevenson, as ?appalling? and urged them to give something back to the community.

Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, said his worst fears had been realised.

?Many workers now face a lifetime on the dole. This is the darkest day in the history of the British car industry,? he said.

However, Mr Towers last night said that he had no regrets over the way the company was run.

He said: ?I feel devastated about the fact that we have been stopped at this final hurdle.

?I don?t feel guilty about the process we have been through.

?Wind the clock five years back and I?d have done the same.?

Following talks with the Rover task force, Mr Blair said he wanted to express his ?real sorrow? for the workforce at Longbridge and their families.

?This is a desperate time for the workers at Longbridge and their families,? he said.

The support package will be made up of #60 million to help diversify industry in the area and to support the supply chain.

There will be another #50 million to fund the retraining and re-skilling of workers made redundant and a further #40 million will be ploughed into statutory redundancy payments which will amount to just #280 for every year of service.

The Chancellor said that about #40 million of previously announced money will help with the construction of a new industrial park in the region and the Government will discuss the prospect of additional help with the European Union.

Pension protection arrangements will come into play and the Prime Minister assured workers that the Government was examining the question of Rover cars bought by the company?s employ-ees, in some cases involving finance deals.

Workers have expressed concern that they will be left owing thousands of pounds for cars they have bought through MG Rover which would more than wipe out their redundancy pay. Mr Brown said every Longbridge worker will be interviewed over the next week to be told about opportunities for retraining. They will be given details of the 26,000 job vacancies in the West Midlands.

The end of the road for Rover came quickly after a tortuous week of clinging to hopes that a part-nership deal with SAIC could be revived, even though all the signs from China were negative.

Ian Powell, joint administrator at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said: ?In light of this important development we have concluded that there is no realistic prospect of obtaining sufficient further finance to retain the workforce while the position with other parties is explored.?

Last night more than 80 sup-pliers to MG Rover attended an emergency meeting at Birmingham?s Chamber of Commerce.

Lawyers, insolvency experts and accountants were on hand to offer one-to-one advice to small and medium-sized businesses who will be affected by the car firm?s collapse.

David Draycott, business services director at the Chamber of Commerce, said: ?Many companies will be facing financial difficulty and we are doing all we can to help them understand their position.?

As the workers returned to the factory for the last time yesterday to clear their lockers, production manager Jeff Ali defended his colleagues.

He said: ?We wanted success, we really badly wanted to make this place succeed.

?But I am a manager and I didn?t have a clue things were getting this bad.?