The Prime Minister came under pressure yesterday to hold a referendum on the euro next year – the leader of Britain's seven million trade unionists warned failure would mean Mr Blair was "bottling it".
John Monks, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, indicated he believed the British economy was ready for entry. "The consequences of not holding the referendum is how you look politically – you look as if you've ducked it. If it's not right now, what things have to change?"
Mr Monks said Tony Blair should rise to the challenge. "What are you in politics for if you do not take these big decisions?" He said it would be odd for Mr Blair not to address the issue in his speech to the TUC conference in Blackpool on Tuesday. He would be "hammered" by pro-euro allies for "bottling it", Mr Monks said.
The TUC leader said trade unionists did not want another lecture on the theme "modernise or die", in a reference to a passage on union attitudes in Mr Blair's speech to the congress after the general election landslide in 1997.
Mr Monks made clear Mr Blair would face a hostile audience over his support for an American attack on Iraq. Delegates are expected to endorse a motion that will insist the US accept Saddam Hussein's offer to allow UN arms inspectors into the country. The resolution, to be finalised today, will say that President George Bush needs to publish concrete evidence that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction and that any military action must be backed by the UN.
While the TUC reflects grassroots Labour Party opinion on the Middle East, it is likely to have more influence over the government decision on the single European currency.
The TUC is expected to pass its most pro-euro resolution yet, despite the misgivings of Bill Morris, the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union.
Mr Morris, a close ally of Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, argues the Government should delay the referendum until its third term and says to meet the criteria for entry Britain would have to cut public spending.
* Labour's 28 MEPs have elected a long-standing euro supporter to replace the group leader who quit last week, saying the demands of the job were incompatible with family life. Gary Titley, 52, a former teacher and specialist in foreign affairs, defeated his rival, Linda McAvan, by 17 votes to 11.
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