‘No love in’ as unions meet with PM

By Liz Stephens

The prime minister will meet with trade union leaders for lunch in Chequers today ahead of next week’s TUC conference and the forthcoming Labour party conference.

The meeting, which would be, according to one Downing Street source, “no love-in”, takes place in an atmosphere of fear over potential public sector cuts and redundancies.

The government is currently consulting over ways to halve the budget deficit – widely anticipated to be £175 billion this year.

Earlier today Derek Simpson, the general secretary of Unite, told the Mirror that Gordon Brown “behaved like a rabbit in the headlights, suffering a paralysis for fear his colleagues are going to whip the knives out and stab him.”

“Labour has got to be more clear that it is on the side of working people, rather than give the impression it backs big business,” he said.

Mr Simpson later clarified the statement, stressing Gordon Brown had his full support and that he was “the only choice to lead the party in the next election”.

Yesterday the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Institute of Directors claimed the government could shave £50 billion off the deficit by cuts in the civil service and ending child benefit, and freezing public sector pay.

These recommendations have infuriated the unions – who have warned the government that cuts will come at a price.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “We should be grateful to the Institute of Directors and Taxpayers’ Alliance for spelling out exactly who the victims of public expenditure cuts will be.

“They explode the idea that cuts can be just painless efficiency savings and reveal that the victims will be pensioners, children, students, the poor and parents.

“Particularly striking is the absence of any cuts in the welfare state for the super-rich such as tax relief on the huge pensions that top directors pay themselves.”

Unions invited to the prime minister’s country home today include the TUC, Unite, Unison and the GMB.

The union leaders will also be seeking to feed into Labour’s draft general election manifesto during the Chequers meeting.