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Shadow chancellor rules out possibility of Labour pact with SNP

John McDonnell spoke out on the issue at an Edinburgh Festival Fringe event on Wednesday.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell (Andrew Milligan/PA)

John McDonnell has ruled out the possibility of a Labour-SNP pact to keep the Tories out of Downing Street.

A report by the Times newspaper on Wednesday suggested a “progressive alliance” could be formed between the two parties if they were able to form a majority after a general election.

Speaking at an Edinburgh Festival Fringe event with journalist Graham Spiers, the shadow chancellor ruled out the possibility of any such deal being agreed.

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Shadow chancellor John McDonnell (right) during an interview with journalist Graham Spiers (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr McDonnell said: “Let’s make it absolutely clear what we’re about – we want a General Election as soon as we can achieve a General Election and I say to Boris Johnson ‘bring it on, let’s have this General Election’.

“I think we’ll go in as a majority Labour Government, I genuinely believe that.

“Before the last General Election we were 24 points behind in the polls and I said then that we’d draw level and that we’d stand a chance of winning and everyone wondered what was I on and that’s exactly what happened.

“I think if we’d had another week of campaigning, we’d be in government now but nevertheless we drew level with the Tories.”

Mr McDonnell stressed Labour would reject any opportunity to form an alliance with the SNP, who he suggested are not progressive.

“We’re a socialist party, they are not,” he said.

“I don’t want to be derogatory in any form but let me try. In my own view, I think they’re Tories, it’s as simple as that and always have thought that.

“I think there is a small section of SNP supporters who I think have been illusioned by them in some way that they’re a progressive party.”

Our view is that another independence referendum is irrelevant, we've got to concentrate on the real issues facing people John McDonnell

At a Fringe event in Edinburgh on Tuesday, Mr McDonnell said he would not block a second Scottish independence referendum.

His comments contradicted Scottish Labour policy in opposing another referendum, while Edinburgh Labour MP Ian Murray called the comments “utterly irresponsible”.

When asked whether his comments could be seen as reversing the party’s policy on another independence referendum, Mr McDonnell reiterated his position that such a request should not be blocked.

“Our view is that another independence referendum is irrelevant, we’ve got to concentrate on the real issues facing people and yes, there will be a debate about the attitude of the UK Parliament and I’ve made my view clear on that,” he said.

“My view is exactly in line with Richard Leonard, which is we concentrate on the real issues, the independence referendum is a complete diversion.

“But I’ve also said continuously, I’m not being set up by Nicola Sturgeon to blame the UK Government for blocking the will of the Scottish people – that’s too trite a political manoeuvre that’s been taken on at the moment.

“In the situation we’re in at the moment, my view is that we will not be blocking a proposal.

“The best way forward in all of this is to elect a Labour government. We’ll demonstrate what we can do and then I think the Scottish people won’t be interested in another referendum.

“But if they ever do come back, my view is you can’t be in a situation where you block it.”

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Shadow chancellor John McDonnell with Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said he spoke to the shadow chancellor on Wednesday morning to outline his position on the issue.

He said: “I met with John this morning and I made clear to him that a second independence referendum is unwanted by the people of Scotland and it is unnecessary.

“The 2014 referendum was a once in a generation vote. There is no economic case for independence, especially with the SNP’s new position of ditching the pound and new policy of turbo-charged austerity to bear down on the deficit.

“On that John McDonnell and I are in firm agreement – what Scotland needs is radical reforming Labour Governments at Holyrood and Westminster.”

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