HE spent three decades putting together iconic Transit vans and is now fighting for the political power to safeguard their future at the Southampton plant.

On the day he walked out the factory, with 550 fellow workers who have been made redundant, grandfather Kevin Hayes, 57, declared he will be standing as a Save the Transit candidate at the upcoming European elections.

The motor giant blamed this wave of job cuts on the recession and a drop in demand but had already announced plans to export the Transit and use the downsized Swaythling factory solely to produce chassis cabs.

These plans were pushed back due to the recession.

Dad-of-two, Kevin, from Bassett, said: “I am standing to continue the campaign that has been running ever since the Daily Echo revealed the plant was under threat all those months ago.

“Just because I’m no longer there it doesn’t mean Ford is not important to me, the remaining workers and the whole area.

“I think Ford bosses are still weighing up the future of the Southampton plant and if we lose the Transit the factory just won’t be able to stay open.

“I hope that my standing on this one issue will make the message more powerful and highlight other problems affecting the motor industry.”

He went on to say it was important to keep fighting to ensure the future of the remaining jobs.

He will be standing for the South East region for the NO2EU – Yes to Democracy coalition.

His political aspirations emerged yesterday as half the Ford workforce – with more than 14,000 years’ experience – handed in their uniforms, shook hands with their managers and walked out the gate for the last time.

It was an emotional day for workers who had taken voluntary redundancy or opted for early retirement and many took some time to have one last look around.

Stefan Jerabek, 56, of Gosport, left after 31 years, and said: “I feel empty inside.”

“It’s not like going on holiday because you are not thinking how you are going to cram lots of things into a small space of time, it is stretching out in front of you with no end.”

Bruce Golding-Coney, 52, of Christchurch, left after 30 years, and said: “I’m one of the lucky ones because I don’t have to work.

“I feel sorry for those who still have to work.”

The Daily Echo exclusively revealed that 500 jobs would be axed in February.

Ford bosses claim they are committed to the future of Southampton plant but only as a site to manufacture chassis cabs.