In Depth

Tory assault on Labour-SNP deal a sign of desperation

Why is Cameron persevering with this line? It could lose the Tories valuable support from DUP

Columnist Don Brind

The Tories’ perseverance with their ferocious attacks on the idea of a Labour-SNP alliance at Westminster is being seen by Labour as a sign of desperation within the Cameron camp - possibly even an admission that the Tory election campaign is all but lost.

Labour have also picked up on a gaffe made by Boris Johnson on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. He said: “What you’ve got is a Labour government coming in with a manifesto …” before Marr interrupted to say “would have”.  

Mark Ferguson on the activists’ website Labour List said the Mayor of London “appears to have called the election for Labour”.

More serious for David Cameron is a warning from Nigel Dodds, leader of Northern Ireland’s Democrat Unionists, that the Conservatives risk losing the DUP’s support because of their belligerent approach to the SNP.

Current projections suggest Cameron would need the support of the eight DUP MPs to create a Commons majority. 

But in an article for The Guardian, Dodds accuses the Tories of fuelling “nationalist paranoia” in Scotland and says: “The UK not merely needs good and stable government after 7 May, it needs responsible politicians too, whether in office or opposition. At the moment, the current state of the campaign greatly concerns me.”

The Conservatives have also comes under fire from two leading Scottish Liberals, former party leader David Steel and Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander. They say the Tory attacks on the SNP are  “disgraceful” and are endangering the union. Trying to woo Ukip voters by demonising Scottish nationalists will only “backfire”, they say. 

Nor is the electorate impressed, it seems, despite Tory claims that it’s playing well on the doorstep. 

In a special poll for The Times Red Box at the end of last week, YouGov asked whether the parties had been addressing the issues the public really care about. The verdict: “Voters want to hear more about anything but Scotland”

So why are the Tories persevering? 

The logic is explained by Anthony Wells of UK Polling Report. The Conservatives, he says, are targeting a small voter niche - around eight per cent of the electorate – who are not already voting Tory but think a Labour-SNP alliance is likely and would be a bad thing. 

So unless they can find a better campaign issue – and with only ten days to go, they’re leaving it very late - the Tories are unlikely to retreat from their Labour-SNP onslaught, even though Ed Miliband ruled out any “confidence and supply” arrangement with the SNP during his interview with Andrew Marr.

In the meantime, Labour maintain a small lead in this morning’s daily YouGov poll for The Sun. It has: Con 33 (up 1), Lab 34 (unchanged), Lib Dems 9 (down 1), Ukip 14 (u/c), Greens 5 (down 1).

YouGov’s average of recent polls puts Labour ahead by 34 to 32 per cent, which would translate into Ed Miliband having 277 MPs to David Cameron’s 270.

With the SNP fielding a probable 50 MPs, all committed to voting against the Conservatives, Miliband will have a de facto Commons majority.

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