Ed Miliband wants to rule out any form of post-election deal with the Scottish National Party (SNP), but is being blocked by Labour’s leader in Scotland, party sources indicated yesterday.
Jim Murphy is understood to have argued that making such a firm pledge could backfire for the party on May 7 as it attempts to claw back tens of thousands of former Labour supporters from the SNP.
The issue of Labour’s response to the prospect of Nicola Sturgeon’s party winning dozens of seats in the election has opened deep divisions within Labour ranks.
Labour MPs on both sides of the border have warned that the leadership’s refusal to dismiss the prospect of a deal threatens to cost it support.
The six-party election: key figures
The six-party election: key figures
2/12 Lynton Crosby (Con)
Chief election strategist
4/12 Lucy Powell (Lab)
Vice chair of general election campaign
5/12 Liberal Democrats
6/12 Paddy Ashdown (Lib Dem)
8/12 Suzanne Evans (Ukip)
10/12 Chris Luffingham (Green)
11/12 Scottish National Party
12/12 Angus Robertson (SNP)
General election director
They are being backed by several shadow Cabinet ministers who have pressed Mr Miliband to take a tougher stance.
However, a Scottish Labour source told The Independent: “Ed wants to do it, but Jim is strongly opposed.
“He worries that ruling out any form of deal with the SNP, when they are supported by nearly half the electorate and we are a distant second, would make us look arrogant.”
The Tories have begun campaigning on a claim that a vote for Labour could be a vote for an SNP-Labour power-sharing deal, reinforcing the message in a poster of a tiny Mr Miliband sitting in the pocket of Alex Salmond, the former Scottish First Minister.
Labour MPs are threatening a revolt against any deal in a hung parliament by drawing up plans for a meeting days after the election – at which they would demand a veto on power-sharing arrangements negotiated by the leadership.
One Scottish MP said: “I would rather leave the party than do any sort of deal with the SNP. I’m deadly serious about that.”
Polls suggest the SNP could win up to 50 of the 59 Scottish parliamentary constituencies at the election, including the vast majority of Labour’s seats north of the border.
Even a less spectacular performance could still make it the third largest Westminster party after the May election and in a position to act as “kingmaker”. Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, who is known personally to support ruling out an SNP link-up, repeatedly sidestepped questions on the subject yesterday.
Mr Balls described the prospect as “nonsense” and said it was “not part of our plans”. He added: “I’m not going to get involved in speculation about post-election deals. We are fighting for a majority.”
Later during BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, George Osborne similarly dodged questions over whether the Conservatives would be prepared to strike a deal with Ukip if the election result is indecisive.
Election Analysis: The Key Voters
Election Analysis: The Key Voters
1/6 Settled Silvers
These are the comfortably-off over-60s, still in work or drawing a decent pension – or both – who are enjoying their entitlements such as the Winter Fuel Allowance, free bus passes and free TV licence. They are worried about immigration and Europe. Both the Conservatives – who are pledging to keep benefits for wealthier pensioners – and Ukip want their votes
2/6 Squeezed Semis
Slightly older than the Harassed Hipsters, they are the second key group for Labour’s family-focused election strategy. They are married couples on low to middle incomes who own unpretentious semi-detached homes in suburban areas. In 2001, these were the Pebbledash People sought by the Conservatives. Now the pebbledash is gone and a modest conservatory has been built at the back
3/6 Aldi Woman
In 1997 and 2001 she was Worcester Woman – a middle-class Middle Englander shopping at Marks & Spencer and Waitrose. Today, the age of austerity means she still goes to Waitrose for her basic food shop but cannily switches to Aldi for her luxury bargains such as Parma ham and prosecco. Identified by Caroline Flint, she is a key target of both Labour and the Conservatives
4/6 Glass Ceiling Woman
In her thirties or forties, she has an established career under her belt, perhaps in the “marzipan layer” – one position below the still male-dominated senior executive level. She is now, according to Nick Clegg, forced into making the “heart-breaking choice” between staying at home to bring up her children and going to work and forking out for high-cost, round-the-clock childcare
5/6 Harassed Hipsters
One of the two key groups identified by Labour as crucial to hand Ed Miliband the keys to Downing Street. Well-paid professional couples, often with children, they live in diverse urban and metropolitan areas rather than the suburbs. More comfortably off than most swing voters, they are time poor – struggling to balance raising a young family with busy work schedules
These are mainly first-time voters, though some are in their twenties – students and digital-age generation renters helping to fuel the “Green Surge”. Idealists, but with no tribal loyalty to any party, they are anti-austerity, middle class, living in urban areas. Despite studying at university or recently graduated, they are struggling to find decent jobs and want cheaper housing and a higher minimum wage
The Chancellor also dismissed the idea as “nonsense” and insisted the Conservatives were fighting for an overall majority.
The Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, has said his party would support the Tories after May 7 if they stage a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union by the end of this year.
Mr Osborne said: “Nigel Farage, and indeed Ed Balls, are trying to muddy the waters, but it’s a fundamentally different situation.
“Nigel Farage is not going to win seats in the House of Commons, and even on his own boasts he’s only going to win a small handful. The SNP is likely to win dozens of seats because of the collapse of the Labour party,” he said.
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, yesterday ruled out forming a three-party coalition government with the SNP. In his keynote speech to the party’s spring conference in Liverpool, Mr Clegg said: “So let me be clear: just like we would not put Ukip in charge of Europe, we are not going to put the SNP in charge of Britain – a country they want to rip apart. It’s just not going to happen.”
A majority of people in the UK believe Scotland will become an independent country despite the “No” vote in last year’s referendum, according to a study.
In Scotland, 69 per cent believe there will be a split while 59 per cent of those surveyed in England, 54 per cent in Wales and 59 per cent in Northern Ireland think that Scotland will eventually leave the UK. The findings are from a survey of more than 7,000 voters by researchers at the University of Edinburgh.Reuse content