David Prosser: King escapes the unions unscathed

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The Independent Online

Outlook Mervyn King could have been forgiven for feeling a little apprehensive as he entered the lion's den yesterday, but in the event the big cats of the trade union movement kept their claws pulled in. The polite reception the Governor of the Bank of England received from the TUC conference must, in part, have reflected the choice cuts he threw to delegates.

These included an admission that policymakers like him had been responsible for allowing a period of stable employment, low inflation and good growth to "slip" away, some harsh words about bankers, and a promise to steer clear of the political debate about the deficit, particularly the relative roles of tax rises and spending cuts in bringing it down.

Even so, the TUC gave Mr King a remarkably easy ride. Not least because, for all the Governor's conciliatory remarks, he has already made one significant intervention in the political debate. Nick Clegg says it was a briefing from Mr King that prompted him to drop his opposition to the additional spending cuts the Conservative Party advocated during the election campaign. Without that change of heart from the Liberal Democrat leadership, it is difficult to see how the party could have signed the coalition agreement.

In other words, the Governor of the Bank of England played a major role in ensuring that the party to which many trade unions are affiliated was unable to continue in government. As political interventions go, they surely don't come much more significant than that if you're a Labour-supporting trade union member.

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