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Miliband 'in denial' over SNP aid

Published 01/05/2015

David Cameron takes part in the special BBC Question Time programme, hosted by David Dimbleby
David Cameron takes part in the special BBC Question Time programme, hosted by David Dimbleby

Ed Miliband is "in denial" about Labour's reliance on Scottish National Party votes in a hung Parliament, Nicola Sturgeon has claimed.

Mr Miliband told Thursday's Question Time election special that he would not forge any pact with the SNP, even if it meant giving up the chance of power, and today repeated that there would be "no deals or coalitions".

But David Cameron said that the Labour leader's declaration "changes nothing", as a minority Miliband administration would still need SNP votes to get its agenda through the Commons if no party has an overall majority.

Tories highlighted comments from Labour frontbenchers which suggested that the party would be ready to engage in dialogue with the SNP on a vote-by-vote basis. And Conservative activists wearing Sturgeon masks and wearing SNP T-shirts raised a banner at Westminster reading: "Next Friday, we'll make Ed Miliband PM."

During a whistle-stop tour of cities in England, Wales and Scotland, Mr Miliband said: "I'm not going to have deals with the SNP or coalitions. I'm not willing to pay that price, because I have fundamental disagreements with the SNP about breaking up the country.

"I'm going to fight the Conservatives every step of the way, but I want to be clear - it will be a Labour programme and a Labour Queen's Speech that I will be putting forward if I am the Prime Minister of the country."

Asked whether he might rely on SNP votes as the leader of a minority government, Mr Miliband said: "It will always be a matter for the House of Commons how they vote - on the Queen's Speech, for example - but what I want to indicate very clearly to the British people is that the Conservatives are perpetuating a falsehood which is that somehow there's going to be a coalition or deal between us and the SNP. I am fighting the SNP. That's not going to happen."

Campaigning in Dundee, Ms Sturgeon told Sky News Mr Miliband was "increasingly sounding as if he is a man in denial".

If he tried to lead a minority government without doing deals with other parties, he would put the SNP in " a strong position to win changes and exert influence" on an issue-by-issue basis, she said.

And the SNP leader added: "He sounds as if he might be saying he would rather let David Cameron back into Downing Street than do any kind of arrangement with the SNP. If he is saying that, then Labour have lost the plot."

Mr Miliband would " never be forgiven" if he allowed the Conservatives back into power when there was an "anti-Tory majority" in the Commons, said Ms Sturgeon.

"If that is his position then he is hammering the final nail in the coffin of Scottish Labour, but I suspect he will be doing real damage to Labour in other parts of the UK as well," she said.

Answering questions from workers at Asda's HQ in Leeds, Mr Cameron said: "What Ed Miliband said last night changes nothing.

"Is he really saying 'If Labour don't get a majority, but Labour and the Scottish National Party is a majority, I won't be prime minister'? Of course he is not saying that.

"So the threat today is the same as the threat yesterday - Ed Miliband propped up by the SNP, not governing on behalf of the whole of the country."

Conservatives pointed to shadow health secretary Andy Burnham's response when asked if there would be "dialogue" with the SNP as a minority Labour administration tried to get its policies through the House of Commons.

"Of course," Mr Burnham told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Parties talk in the House of Commons about government business, that's what happens, all parties talk."

Mr Clegg said Mr Miliband's apparent refusal to compromise on his manifesto in the event of a hung Parliament was "ludicrous".

He told ITV News that any coalition negotiations would have to involve "give and take".

Speaking at a golf club in the marginal Manchester Withington seat, he said: "Ed Miliband will have to eat his words. It's just a democratic fact. It's such a silly thing to say."

With polls suggesting his party is facing a wipeout north of the border amid a post-independence referendum surge of support for the SNP, Mr Miliband was due to use a visit to Glasgow to urge Scots to reconnect with their Labour-supporting history and consider who their parents and grandparents would want to lead the country.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister sought to boost Tories in the north of England by highlighting plans for investment in the region.

But Labour claimed Mr Cameron was thinking only of his own prospects, as he described the May 7 election as a "career-defining" moment, before swiftly correcting himself to "country-defining".

After Conservatives chalked up a five-point lead in one poll yesterday, the party fell back into second place in two new surveys.

YouGov's daily poll for The Sun had Labour in the lead by one point on 35%, to Tories' 34%, with Ukip on 12%, Liberal Democrats on 8% and Greens on 5%.

Meanwhile, internet-based researchers Panelbase had Labour on 34%, Tories on 32%, Ukip on 17%, Lib Dems on 8% and Greens 4%.

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