Derek Simpson, co-chief of Unite – Britain’s biggest union – told an audience today that the UK is heading towards a big Conservative victory in the general election.
“We are eight months away from a Tory government, probably with a landslide facing us and all the havoc they will wreak on our movement,” he said. “It is the time to wake up and smell the coffee….and minimise the loss.”
A few minutes later Simpson appeared to contradict himself, saying: “I think the next election can be won for Labour”. But it would require a shift to the left to overturn “the wave of disillusionment”, he warned.
Simpson signalled last Friday (in his Mirror interview) that he saw Ed Miliband as the favoured one to take over from Gordon Brown. As Miliband said on Sunday morning (the Marr show), that could be a curse rather than a blessing.
The mood at the TUC conference in Liverpool is hard to gauge on day one. No one is expecting Labour to win next year. Fear of the Tories is palpable. But there is no rallying behind Gordon Brown, at least not in an emphatic or convincing way.
To quote Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB: “Frankly, for the people of this country, a poor Labour government is a hell of a lot better than a poor Tory government.”
A fulsome endorsement indeed.
As for Richard Balfe, the Tory “union envoy” whose role is to bridge the gulf between David Cameron and the brothers. Is he even here? I’m not sure.
I tried to get an interview or coffee with him and was told: “Richard is unavailable to do anything”.