British PM ‘curries’ favour with union bosses


London : British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has tried to curry favour with the nation’s grumpy trade union bosses over the prickly issue of public spending cuts – by serving them an Indian meal.

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Brown dished up a curry lunch at his country residence in Chequers Friday for a summit with powerful union chiefs who are hot under the collar over plans to cut spending ahead of the next general elections.

Giving up the tried and tested menu of beer and sandwiches for such lunches, Brown served chicken curry and other Indian dishes for his 15 invited guests, the Daily Mail reported Sunday.

Brown is attempting to stem a threatened union revolt that could damage Labour prospects at the next general election due by June 3, 2010.

Some unions, angered by prospects of further job losses in recession-hit Britain, have reportedly threatened to cut donations to the ruling party. Last year, unions gave 11.4 million pounds – accounting for 60 percent of the party’s income.

At the curry summit, Brown is said to have promised the unions he will not slash frontline school and hospital jobs in order to balance Britain’s books despite a trillion pound debt.

“While the prime minister made it clear that there will be tough choices on public spending in future years, he reiterated his commitment to the role of public services and manufacturing in Britain’s future growth,” a No. 10 Downing Street spokesman said.

Officials said the summit did not mark a return to “beer and sandwiches at No. 10”, a phrase synonymous with union influence in the Seventies.

Among those invited was vegetarian Derek Simpson, the leader of Britain’s biggest trade union, Unite, which gave the Labour Party 15 million pounds last year.

Simpson told The Independent in comments published Sunday, “What are the consequences of us not giving Labour money? That will really impair, fatally damage, any chance of Labour winning a general election. We give money to allow the Labour Party to function.”

On Tuesday, Chancellor (finance minister) Alistair Darling warned that “hard choices on public spending” were necessary once Britain had recovered from the financial crisis.

He said the government ‘won’t flinch from difficult decisions’ but stopped short of announcing what services were likely to be cut.