Talk of a Labour-Tory coalition is just boosting the SNP vote, say senior Labour figures

Senior Labour figures criticised Lord Baker of Dorking, who called for a grand coalition to prevent the SNP calling the shots in the event of a hung parliament

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Labour has accused the Conservatives of talking up a “grand coalition” of the two biggest parties in order to boost the Scottish National Party’s prospects.

Senior Labour figures criticised Lord Baker of Dorking, the former Conservative chairman, who called in The Independent on Saturday for a grand coalition to prevent the SNP calling the shots in the event of a hung parliament after the May election.

Lord Baker insisted his move was designed to head off a constitutional crisis. But yesterday Labour claimed it was part of a Tory plan to undermine Labour’s prospects in Scotland and make it more likely that David Cameron would remain prime minister.

One senior Labour source said: “This is designed to convince Scottish voters there is no real difference between the Conservatives and Labour – when the gap is bigger than for a generation. The Tories are playing a dangerous and cynical game with the Union. On the one hand, they claim to care about it passionately. On the other, they are doing everything in their power to boost the SNP, because the SNP is the only way David Cameron can cling on in Downing Street. They care much more about that than the Union.”

Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, told Sky News: “If we had fewer seats because we have lost Labour seats to the SNP, then the only result of that will not be a Labour government in majority or even in coalition with anybody, it will be a Tory government.”

But the Tories replied that Labour’s repeated refusal to rule out a post-election deal with the SNP showed that this was “Ed Miliband’s only route into Downing Street.”

Senior Labour figures said the chances of a grand coalition were “zero”, while the Tory officials said the idea was “ludicrous.” However, it does have the support of some Tory and Labour MPs.  On Monday more than 20 MPs will call for parliament to be recalled on Saturday May 9--two days after the election—so they can discuss any proposed deal between the parties. Gisela Stuart, a Labour MP who has raised the prospect of a Lab-Con coalition, is among MPs backing an early recall.

Graham Allen, Labour chairman of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee, said: “If the result of the general election is not clear cut, then the days immediately after it should not be characterised by a private fix between the party leaders.” His committee will take evidence about the recall plan on Monday from the leaders of Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat backbenchers.