Labour pours cold water on idea of electoral pact with SNP

Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: PA
Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: PA
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Calls for an electoral pact between Labour and the SNP to stave off electoral oblivion across the UK have been dismissed by Jeremy Corbyn and Kezia Dugdale.

A report from the Fabian Society warned that Labour could return as few as 150 MPs at the next general election unless its poll ratings improve, and said a “progressive alliance” between Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats was the only way for Mr Corbyn to win power.

But party figures in Edinburgh and London dismissed the findings, with Scottish Labour insisting that the SNP was “not a progressive party”.

Fabian Society director Andrew Harrop called on the party to “become the party of this cultural ‘middle’” rather than seek to fight Ukip over the anti-immigration vote in the wake of the European Union referendum result.

Mr Harrop, whose organisation has become associated with the Blairite New Labour movement, warned there was no prospect of a Labour recovery in Scotland and said the Liberal Democrats would seek to draw away the roughly five million Labour voters who voted to remain in the EU.

The proposals drew a sharp response from Scottish Labour MSP Anas Sarwar, who warned party colleagues across the UK not to be seduced by Nicola Sturgeon’s “grandstanding” over the EU.

Mr Sarwar said: “Repeated talk of a ‘progressive alliance’ is laughable. The SNP is not a progressive party.

“Under the SNP we have seen the worst reports on our NHS and education system since devolution. Just last month the SNP and the Tories joined forces to defeat a Labour proposal for a progressive tax system.

“Under the SNP, Tory austerity is simply being passed on in Scotland, with the Nationalists planning a £327 million cut to valued local services in 2017. That is not progressive – it is a budget a Tory chancellor would be proud of.”

Mr Sarwar added that the SNP wanted to see the “destruction” of the Labour Party to further its goal of independence.

He added: “There is also nothing progressive about seeking to break away from the rest of the UK – our biggest trading partner.

“People across the UK should spend less time focusing on Nicola Sturgeon’s grandstanding and look at what is actually happening in Scotland and the SNP’s record in government.”

However, a Scottish Labour spokesman earlier did not rule out the party accepting SNP support in order to oust the Tories from power.

He said: “If Labour is privileged enough to be in a position to put a programme for government in front of MPs in the future, SNP MPs will have to choose to support a Labour or a Tory government.”

The SNP MP Pete Wishart posted on Twitter that Labour’s rejection of an alliance with the SNP would be “disastrous”.

Responding to the Fabian Society report, a spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: “Rebuilding Labour support after its fragmentation at the 2015 election was always going to be a challenge.

“But Labour under Jeremy Corbyn will be taking its case to every part of Britain in the coming months with a radical policy platform, offering the only genuine alternative to a failed parliament political establishment and the fake anti-elitists of the hard right.”

The shadow Westminster housing minister John Healy said the report was a “serious warning” to Labour, but said a pact with a “ragbag of other parties” was not the answer to Labour’s problems.

Latest polls put Labour at its lowest level for 34 years, trailing 15 points behind the Conservatives.

Fabian Society analysis suggests Labour could get as little as 20 per cent of the vote at the next general election.