Outside Q Gate, the day passed more in shock than defiance.

Politicians and journalists did their usual line dance, swapping partners after every five-minute exchange of question and soundbite, but none of the scenes that gripped Birmingham five years ago after BMW pulled out were repeated, none of the fervour.

Instead, maybe a hundred or so workers and family members stood on the Cofton Park grass, where 30 years ago loud hailers would have fevered their blood for a fight - now just the sad, impotent sound of honking horns from supportive motorists driving past.

Maybe in the past, the workers would have cheered and waved their thanks in return.

But yesterday, as the unseasonably cold wind chilled them, it looked for all the world like a workforce famous for their habit of surviving crises had finally given up.

To Jeff Ali, a 45-year-old production manager on the MG-TF model and a Long-bridge veteran of 18 years standing, the real story of the current workforce has not been told.

?Don?t ever compare us with what happened 20 years ago,? he said. ?This workforce isn?t British Leyland, don?t leave us behind because of what happened back then.?

Standing on the Cofton Park grass across from the plant?s famous Q Gate with his job gone and shock setting in, here was his opportunity.

?When the heating breaks down in there,? he said pointing to the plant he may never set foot in again, ?we just pull on body warmers and get on with the job.

?That would never have happened 20 years ago. Tools would have been downed and we would all be out here until it was fixed.

?But we wanted success, we badly wanted to make this place succeed. But I am a manager and I didn?t have a clue things were getting this bad.?

For Mr Ali, with a wife and two grown-up children, the future is uncertain.

But, just at that moment, a couple of hours after the Longbridge life-support was finally switched off, the future could wait its turn. Eighteen years of Mr Ali?s life, had just ended.

?I suppose I came here just at the back end of all the nonsense that used to be associated with this place.

?The people I met here just wanted to do their jobs and they appreciated the reasons for doing those jobs.?

Mr Ali admitted supporting the company directors in the past, but that support had turned very quickly to feelings of utter betrayal.

?Genuinely, we did not care that they had paid themselves those enormous salaries as long as we had jobs and they were the ones that were keeping our jobs going.

?But I do now. I believe they knew a lot more than they have told us.?

Mr Ali criticised the lack of communication from senior management and, latterly, the administrators.

?We have had to keep each other?s spirits up all week, but there?s people crying now, in tears because of what has happened here today.

?That shouldn?t be happening in this day and age.

?That?s it. We know that?s it.

But we still can?t believe it. The vultures will now be circling and, unfortunately, we?re the pickings.?

Sarah Kennings, whose husband Richard works on one of the assembly lines, arrived at Q Gate with their five-year-old son Ryan.

?It?s been a living nightmare not knowing where the next penny is going to come from to pay the bills.

?We thought the Government would pay the wages until, at least, May.

?We?ve just been told that from next week there will be no more wages. How are we supposed to live?? Mrs Kennings, who lives near the plant, said her husband had been ?trying to keep busy? after being sent home on full pay earlier this week.

Before everyone began filing away, with nothing left to mourn at Longbridge and plenty to worry about at home, a woman walked down the rows of cars placing cards under the windscreen wipers.

?NEED ANY EXTRA INCOME?? the cards asked, before describing the riches that could be made from... well, they didn?t go into that. Nobody even bothered commenting on the irony - or the twisted opportunism - as they tossed them away aimlessly on to the ground.