Peter Hoskin

Harman tries to bind Labour and the unions even closer

Harman tries to bind Labour and the unions even closer
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Progressive coalition. Those two words haven't been tied together too frequently since Gordon Brown scrambled for survival in the aftermath of the election. But Harriet Harman invoked them in her speech to the TUC today, and she wasn't talking about a union between Labour and the Lib Dems:

"We are witnessing an emerging political movement amongst progressives in Britain – beginning to see that the Tory/Lib Dem government has no mandate. They are seeing the difference between what they thought they voted for and what they ended up with.

The Labour movement is their vehicle for progressive change.

We will work together – Labour and the Trade Unions – to fight against poverty, fight for fairness and fight for those who most need our help.

Congress, we are fighting back."

Mostly, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Put a Labour leader in front of some trade unionists, and you'll always get a heavy dose of lefty tub-thumping. But Harman's rhetoric is still quite striking. Remember, it was only a year ago when Brown used his appearance at the TUC to 'fess up to government cuts for the first time. Now, Harman can barely bring herself to admit that cuts will be needed at all.

As George Eaton says over at the New Statesman blog, Labour's next leader will need to decide just how closely they want to bind themselves to the unions. Some of them, no doubt, will be tempted to take the Harman route, and try to co-opt the union machine and its money. But, on today's evidence, they had best remain wary – lest the "Progressive Coalition" becomes the Coalition of the Fiscally Incontinent.