John Swinney suggests Labour would do a deal with the SNP in a hung parliament after a general election

Experts believe that the council results this week suggest that Labour will have the largest number of seats but no overall majority after a general election

David Maddox
Political Editor
Sunday 05 May 2024 16:53 BST
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The SNP “leader-in-waiting” John Swinney has said he believes Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer would do a deal with his party after the next general election.

The remarks come as polling expert Professor Michael Thrasher told Sky News that the country is heading for a hung parliament after the next general election, based on the results at the polls this week.

Sir Trevor Phillips challenged both Mr Swinney and Labour’s campaign chief Pat McFadden over the potential for a Labour/SNP pact on Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips.

Mr McFadden, who started his career in Scottish politics, made it clear that he was opposed to the idea, telling Sir Trevor: “No!”

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer after the regional mayoral elections
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer after the regional mayoral elections (PA)

But appearing shortly afterwards, Mr Swinney suggested that he believes that if the results indicate a hung parliament, then conversations will be had and an agreement could be reached.

With just 24 hours to go to see if he will be challenged in a leadership contest to replace Humza Yousaf, Mr Swinney said he would much prefer a Labour government to the “awful, disastrous, terrible” Tories in Westminster.

When Mr McFadden’s answer was put to him, Mr Swinney said: “I know Pat well. Pat and I are old university buddies from the University of Edinburgh a lifetime ago. So I don’t think Pat’s public line to you is something he would sustain in a decent conversation with me or with others.”

Mr Swinney’s remarks come as Labour and the SNP fight over seats that, before the 2014 independence referendum, were safe Labour heartlands in Scotland.

John Swinney at the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh after he became the first candidate to declare his bid to become SNP leader
John Swinney at the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh after he became the first candidate to declare his bid to become SNP leader (PA)

The allegations against Nicola Sturgeon and the collapse of Mr Yousaf’s government have buoyed Labour’s hopes that it can make serious gains north of the border. However, there is an ongoing debate over whether Labour should be less unionist and more sympathetic to asking for another independence referendum.

But the prospect of a Labour/SNP deal appears to be strengthened by expert claims that the UK is heading for a hung parliament after the general election.

Professor Thrasher warned that Labour will fall short of an overall majority even though the local elections “confirm that the Conservatives are in a very bad place”.

He said: “The Conservatives are on track to lose the election, [but] it is not wholly clear to me that Labour is on course to win a majority.”

He noted that the vote share for Labour was 34 per cent while the Tories were at 27 per cent – a difference of seven points, which is much lower than the national polls suggest. The projection has suggested that Labour would be 32 seats short of a majority, which means they would need to make a deal with another party.

“The only thing that [the Conservatives] can hang on to is that Labour’s performance wasn’t stellar. They went backwards compared to last year,” said Prof Thrasher, adding: “The gap is only seven points; it needs to be double that for Labour to win.”

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