Unions and Thatcherites pile on coalition pressure

By Ian Dunt

Labour and the Conservatives both came under pressure over talks with the Liberal Democrats today.

The Unite union, Labour’s most important financial backer, wrote to the 100-strong Unite parliamentary group of MPs urging them to back a coalition today.

“As you know Labour are now in formal talks with the Liberal Democrats to see if we can agree a stable government to secure the economic recovery and change our politics,” the letter, signed by the joint general secretaries Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, said.

“Together we can form a progressive coalition, a coalition that would reflect that over 60% of the population rejected the Tories last week.

“We believe that this represents the best option for the future of the country at this difficult time. It is trade union members that would pay with their jobs for a Tory government that would cut immediately and strangle the economic recovery at birth.”

The intervention may serve to convince some sceptical Labour MPs of the wisdom of a Lib-Lab pact. Some Labour backbenchers are concerned about the Lib Dem’s attitude to trade unions, and support from Unite might just tip opinion in favour of a coalition.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives were facing pressure against a deal with the Lib Dems from the Thatcherite wing of the party.

Conservative Way Forward issued a statement today saying “the time for negotiations has come to an end”.

It went on: “We do not believe a formal coalition with the Lib Dems is an appropriate way forward that would produce the necessary stability our country needs.

“It is high time that the voice of the volunteers within the party is heard and listened to. We are not prepared to sit and observe while the daily dramas unfold.”

The emotive statement indicates that patience may be running out among activists, who are increasingly exasperated by the prolonged negotiations taking place in Westminster since last Friday.