Ed Miliband would ‘rather lose than do SNP deal’

Labour leader Ed Miliband takes part in a special BBC Question Time programme last night. Picture: PA
Labour leader Ed Miliband takes part in a special BBC Question Time programme last night. Picture: PA
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Ed Miliband has ruled out a Labour government if he requires SNP MPs to prop it up. Ahead of making a last-ditch appeal to Scottish voters who appear to be on the verge of abandoning Labour for the SNP, Mr Miliband gave his clearest statement yet on rejecting any sort of deal during a leaders’ Question Time programme on the BBC last night.

Under pressure from a forthright audience in Leeds, Mr Miliband made it clear he will not consider doing a deal with a party that wants to break up the UK.

I’m not going to have Labour government if it means deals or coalitions with the SNP.

Ed Miliband

In his toughest statement yet on the SNP, Mr Miliband appeared to be daring Scottish voters to still vote SNP and end up with a Tory government.

But SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon hit back, warning Scots would “never forgive” Mr Miliband if he allowed the Tories back into government rather than work with the SNP.

Without their 41 seats in Scotland, Labour would struggle to be the biggest party and most projections of them being able to hold power suggest they would need the help of an SNP bloc which could, according to recent polls, comprise all 59 seats in Scotland. The Labour leader was asked: “Why is the Labour Party misleading the country about doing a deal with the SNP to get into government?”

He responded: “If the price of having a Labour government is a coalition or a deal with the SNP then it is not going to happen.”

Mr Miliband added that Labour would not “give in to the SNP demands” on independence, the future of the Trident nuclear deterrent or the deficit which under Nicola Sturgeon’s plans require £180 billion more spending. He said: “Let me be plain – we are not going to do a deal with the SNP. We’re not going to have a deal. If it meant that we weren’t going to be in government, not doing a coalition, not doing a deal, then so be it.

“I’m not going to sacrifice the future of our country, the unity of our country, I’m not going to give in to SNP demands around Trident, around the deficit or anything like that.

“I’m not going to have Labour government if it means deals or coalitions with the SNP.

“And I want to say this to voters in Scotland: there is no easy route here to vote SNP and get a Labour government.

“If you want a Labour ­government you need to vote Labour.”

He added: “I’ve been asked about lots of different kinds of deals – coalition, what they call confidence and supply where you have an arrangement – I’m not doing that.

“If the price of having a Labour government was having a deal or a coalition with the SNP – it’s not going to happen.”

The defiant note came after weeks of Tory campaigning in England warning that Labour will do a deal with the SNP, with a poll earlier this week suggesting Mr Miliband’s party will lose 41 seats in Scotland where the Nationalists appear to be poised to win all 59.

But the First Minister said later: “I heard Ed Miliband and he sounded awfully like he was saying – and I hope I’m wrong about this because I think people across Scotland and much of the rest of the UK would be appalled if I’m right – it sounded as if he was saying he would rather have David Cameron back in government than work with the SNP. If he means that, then I don’t think people in Scotland will ever forgive Labour for ­allowing the Conservatives to get back into office.”

And Ms Sturgeon warned: “He won’t get his budget through unless he compromises and ­listens to other parties.”

The five-year fixed term parliaments now in place at Westminster mean governments can be defeated on individual votes without being brought down, the First Minister added.

“If we have a big team of SNP MPs then we can exercise real clout,” she said,

Earlier on Question Time, Prime Minister David Cameron raised the fear of a Labour/ SNP deal when he was first up, taking questions from the Yorkshire audience in a show that saw members of the public subject the three main leaders to a tough grilling.

Mr Cameron himself said his “red line” in any deals would be to have a referendum on EU membership if it comes to negotiations. But he faced aggressive questioning over his welfare and economic policies.

One woman said she did not want to bring up her child in a country where people died because of benefit cuts.

At one point Mr Cameron was pressed on whether his policies had a moral dimension and he was accused of just answering in economic terms.

But Mr Cameron said: “To me, helping someone to get a job has a moral dimension. It gives them the dignity and pride that comes with work. Getting someone an apprenticeship, that has a moral dimension; it gives someone the chance of a career and success.

“Building a house that a young family can afford to buy and own, that has a moral dimension because it gives them a stake in the country they live in. That’s the country I want to build.”

He declined to say who he would be prepared to form a coalition with in a hung parliament, saying: “I am going to spend the next seven days flat-out for victory and if enough people watching this programme and back at home back me, we can have that victory and have the whole of the manifesto rather than have it bartered away in a darkened room”.

He insisted, however, that an in/out EU referendum was an absolute “red line” issue that would have to be accepted by any partner in the event of a hung parliament.

In his section, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was asked if “anybody could trust a word he said” after he broke his promise on tution fees. Mr Clegg had to laugh off an audience member’s quip about whether he had “plans for a new job next week when you become unemployed”.

“Charming,” he said. “No, I don’t.”

The Liberal Democrat leader has insisted opinion polls showing him in danger of losing his Sheffield Hallam seat do not reflect the reality on the ground.