In Brief

Labour-SNP pact? Pressure mounts on Miliband to say No

New Tory ‘Spitting Image’ poster picks up on growing fears that Labour could do a deal with the SNP

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Ed Miliband is under mounting pressure to confirm in advance that Labour will not enter a coalition with the Scottish Nationalists if his party wins more seats than the Tories on 7 May but not enough to enjoy a Commons majority. 

The Scottish Nationalists are expected to hold the balance of power at Westminster if, as the polls predict, they can win 50-plus seats in Scotland.

So far, Miliband is refusing to rule out a pact with a party whose raison d’etre is to break up the United Kingdom. No one is accusing him of wanting such a coalition: the fear is that he might agree to enter into a pact if it enables him to become Prime Minister. 

Two of his senior lieutenants, Caroline Flint and Harriet Harman, spent Sunday dodging the question on the TV politics shows: No, of course Labour had no plans to enter such a coalition. Could they guarantee it wouldn’t happen? Er, no…

To ramp up the pressure on Labour, the Tories have launched a new poster (see above), showing a tiny Miliband appearing in Alex Salmond’s top pocket. (Salmond, in some people’s nightmare scenario, could even become deputy prime minister.)

The poster evokes the early 1980s image of Liberal leader David Steel living inside the pocket of Social Democratic Party leader David Owen, as depicted by TV's Spitting Image show. The two parties were in alliance at Westminster, and Steel was mercilessly lampooned as Owen’s adoring sidekick.

At the weekend, a senior Tory from the Thatcher era, Kenneth Baker, raised the stakes by saying he was so worried about a Labour-SNP pact that he would rather see a ‘grand coalition’ of Labour and the Conservatives. 

Baker, who served Thatcher in various senior roles, including education secretary, told The Independent that this could be the only way to avoid a constitutional crisis if a minority government – be it Tory or Labour – became dependent on SNP votes to get English legislation on to the statute book. This would “stretch the constitution of our country to breaking point”, he said.

Baker argued: “What is at risk is the continuing unity of the United Kingdom. In order to preserve that unity, another way should be found. This could be a joint government of the Labour and Conservative parties: quite unthinkable at the moment, and at this time likely to be rejected by both of them – but this is what has happened in Germany.

“The prime minister would be the party leader with the most seats… and both parties would have cabinet seats. Such a coalition should only last two years, which means that the fixed five-year-term Parliament Act would be repealed, leading to a general election in 2017.”

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