A former Midland Labour MP is urging sacked MG Rover workers to occupy the Longbridge car plant.

Dave Nellist said the 5,000 former employees should break into the factory to prevent administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers from selling off or dismantling production equipment.

The 1970s-style occupation would be the only way to force the Government to nationalise MG Rover and save volumecar production in Birmingham, said Mr Nellist, who was MP for Coventry South-east.

He also wants a workers' candidate to contest Birmingham Northfield in the General Election.

Speaking at a public meeting in Birmingham, Mr Nellist called on the community to make the closure of Longbridge an election issue. He said: "Longbridge can be saved. It's not too late. But it's no good relying on the private sector, all they will be interested in would be the MG badge, not the thousands of Longbridge workers or those at suppliers.

"Hundreds of millions of pounds will be spent on regional aid, lost taxes, the payment of benefits, and other social costs associated with the collapse of the company.

"Far better for that money be spent on keeping the industry alive."

Mr Nellist criticised the two visits to Birmingham by the Prime Minister and Chancellor.

"All the establishment politicians are offering is a wringing of hands and sympathetic apologies for the destruction of thousands of lives.

"Over the next couple of days, Longbridge workers have to take this situation by the scruff of the neck and demand Government action.

"Just as in the 1970s shipyard workers did in Scotland, and motorbike workers did in Meriden, workers at Longbridge should occupy the plant and demand that the Government takes it over and guarantees their jobs."

A workers' election candidate could succeed in the same way that Dr Richard Taylor, the Kidderminster Hospital campaigner, was elected to Parliament in 2001, he said.

Mr Nellist, who was expelled from Labour for links with Militant, is a Socialist Party member of Coventry City Council.