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Balls refuses to rule out SNP deal

Ed Balls has repeatedly refused to rule out Labour striking a post-election coalition deal with the SNP.

The shadow chancellor said the Opposition has "no plans, no need, no desire" for a pact with the SNP.

Mr Balls insisted he did not want to get involved in speculation about post-election deals after appearing to have eight opportunities to rule out a Labour-SNP agreement on the Andrew Marr Show.

Opinion polls suggest the SNP are set to make huge gains north of the border, which could influence the future of a Westminster government.

Speaking on the BBC One programme, Mr Balls said parties who ignore the need to tackle the country's deficit are "completely wrong" and "irresponsible".

He went on: "We have no plans, no need, no desire to have any deal with the SNP.

"This is a party which wants to break up the United Kingdom. They're not going to be able to stand up for the whole of the UK."

Told by Mr Marr to say the words "I rule it out", Mr Balls replied: "Ed Miliband said it's nonsense. It's not part of our plans.

"You know Andrew, you've been covering politics for 30 years, parties, large parties at this stage say we're fighting for a majority and we are. I'm not going to get involved in speculation about post-election deals.

"We're fighting for a majority."

Mr Balls said he did not think the speculation over a potential deal was damaging to Labour's election prospects, as he sought to turn attention on to reports on the potential of a Ukip-Tory pact.

Told there must be a reason he could not rule out an SNP pact, Mr Balls replied: "What I will not do at this stage is say anything other than we're fighting for a majority."

He added the Tories were now vulnerable over the issue of deals, adding: "We don't want any deal with the SNP. It's not part of our plans. It's nonsense. It's not something we want."

Mr Marr encouraged Mr Balls to say "and we won't do it".

The Labour MP repeated he would not get involved in speculation while the party is fighting for a majority.

Told the speculation goes on, Mr Balls said: "I think it's the Tories and Ukip who are doing the deal and it's probably happening in (Conservative Chief Whip Michael Gove's) kitchen."

Asked how many kitchens he has, Mr Balls failed to answer - instead suggesting people around the kitchen tables of the country were debating the dangers of the Tories rather than how many "kitchen tables David Cameron has got".

The question emerged after Labour leader Ed Miliband was filmed drinking tea in a modest kitchen but it later emerged that it was "the small one". Mr Miliband was dubbed "Two Kitchens" by political opponents - a reference to former deputy prime minister John Prescott's nickname of "Two Jags".

Speaking on Murnaghan on Sky News, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "Maybe this is an old-fashioned view but I think it's arrogant for any political right now to start second-guessing the public and be thinking what they're going to decide before they've even voted.

"I'm a football man and I'm in the middle of a match right now and I'm playing to win. In those circumstances, I don't start saying what do we do if we draw.

"We're out there playing to win."

He added: "The message that should go out from all Labour spokespeople now is to say we go out there and we fight to win because the people in places like Leigh need a Labour government and they need one pretty urgently."

Caroline Flint defended Labour's claims that the Conservatives would strip public spending back to 1930s levels.

Asked if the party was scaremongering, the shadow energy secretary told BBC One's Sunday Politics: "I think it is only right to paint the picture of what the offer from the Tories really means."

But Ms Flint was unable to say what spending levels were in the 1930s.

"Well it's a lot less than is being spent today," she said.

Told it was £83 billion in today's money, well short of the £731 billion being spent currently, she said: "The health service we need today and also the education that we need today, the challenges we face but also what we need to keep people healthy, is way different from what it was in the 1930s."

Jack McConnell, a former first minister of Scotland, said he did not believe Labour's current stance on coalition deals was having a direct effect on voters.

The Labour peer told Murnaghan: "I can completely understand why leaders of both main parties have said they will not rule out any options at least, in terms of the outcome after the election.

"I led the election campaign in Scotland in 2003, we were going from one coalition into another likely coalition, and there were two reasons why I wouldn't rule out options.

"One was you want to fight to win so you don't want to admit you're not going to win outright.

"And the other is you have to keep your negotiating hand because no matter who you're planning to work with afterwards you need to keep some pressure on them to make sure you maximise your influence over the final agreement."

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