THE Conservatives are to step up their attack on a potential SNP/Labour Westminster deal in an attempt to dissuade English voters from supporting Ed Miliband.
The Scotland Office minister David Mundell said the Conservatives would put the prospect of a pact “under the spotlight” right up until the election, amid signs that the tactic is helping to solidify the right-wing vote in English marginal seats.
“The nature of a Labour administration will be under the spotlight right up until polling day,” Mundell said. “I think it has been quite right to set out for people in England, who don’t have the opportunity to vote for the SNP, what it would mean if the SNP were in Government. Because the policies they are advocating are not being advocated by Labour in England.
“People have to understand, and Nicola has made her terms very clear, and it is a move significantly to the left. I think it is quite right that people understand that if they vote Labour in England, this is a likely outcome.
“If these SNP left-wing policies were popular in England, then Ed Miliband would be advocating them. And he’s not. He’s not advocating them because they are not popular with mainstream voters in England, who don’t want more taxes, more spending and more borrowing.”
There has been concern in Tory circles that focusing on the SNP has overshadowed its attempts to sell its message that the Conservative-led government has presided over the economic recovery.
But according to reports yesterday, Labour strategists are admitting that talking up the risks of a deal with the SNP is encouraging those flirting with Ukip to return to the Tory fold.
While it has helped shore up the right, those working for Miliband are hopeful that talk of a deal will persuade traditional Labour voters to come back from the SNP.
Meanwhile, Nick Clegg yesterday said he had ruled out a Labour/Lib Dem deal that relied on “life support” from the SNP.
The Lib Dem leader said he would not join a Labour coalition that had to rely on the SNP to survive.
“I totally rule out any arrangements with the SNP – in the same way that I rule out any arrangements with Ukip – because there is no meeting point for me with one party that basically wants to pull our country to bits and another party that wants to pull out of the EU,” said Clegg.
His comments were welcomed by Mundell at a time when it looks as though the Conservatives might have to rely on the Lib Dems to retain power in the event of a hung parliament.
Mundell said: “I welcome Nick Clegg’s clarity. He is very clear. He is not going to do a deal with the SNP. Ed Miliband has failed to do that.
“I think it has put Labour under pressure and neither north nor south of the Border have they responded well to that.”