Scotland on Sunday has learned that party officials are looking at a second vote, which one MP described as a “very likely scenario”, in the wake of Ed Miliband’s confirmation last week that he would not form a Labour government if it required a deal with SNP MPs. They believe the only way to avoid a second election is if Labour can somehow emerge as the largest party and form a minority government. In order to do this they need to prevent a total wipeout of their 41 seats in Scotland by the SNP.
The political instability caused by the prospect of a second quick-fire election will not be welcomed by the electorate or the financial and money markets because of the widespread volatility it would cause.
With four days to go before the vote on Thursday, the Tories and Labour are neck and neck in the polls UK-wide. But Labour is facing devastating losses north of the Border to the resurgent SNP. A Labour wipeout here could leave David Cameron with most seats but still short of a majority and facing a tranche of up to 50 nationalist MPs, vowing to block a Tory government.
In that situation Cameron could attempt to form a minority government and present a Queen’s Speech, which would be voted down by Labour and the SNP.
The parties would then have 14 days to form an alternative government or call a second general election.
Last night, one Labour MP defending a Scottish seat said: “We are hurtling towards a second general election. It looks almost inevitable.”
Another senior Labour figure told Scotland on Sunday: “We are not planning for a second general election but we are discussing it. The way it will happen is if the Tories are the largest party but David Cameron cannot form a majority government and his Queen’s Speech gets voted down.
“His government will then collapse and there will be
14 days to form an alternative. If that can’t be done, then under the terms of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, the Queen can dissolve parliament and we will have a second election.
“At the moment that seems to be a very likely scenario but there is still a very good chance Labour can be the largest party and then we are home and dry because we can do a deal with the Lib Dems and dare the SNP to join with the Tories to vote us down.”
Labour’s second election discussions came to light as former Labour first minister Lord McConnell warned that Miliband’s party would not be able to form an anti-Tory government if the Conservatives win most seats in next week’s election.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has offered to make Miliband prime minister if there is an “anti-Tory majority” in the House of Commons and help him block the Conservatives from a second term in government.
But Lord McConnell said, even if Cameron fails to win an overall majority, the “public perception will be that he has won” if he emerges from the 7 May election with the largest number of MPs.
The former first minister refused to try to form an administration in Edinburgh after the 2007 Holyrood elections, as the SNP won one more seat that Labour.
He revealed that he had been “under massive pressure” to work with the Lib Dems and Conservatives to “try to put together an anti-SNP coalition”.
But he added: “My view was, even people who hadn’t voted for the SNP felt they had won. If we had tried to do anything that went against the grain we would have been in massive trouble.”
That meant that “even if Cameron was to lose a few seats, if he still has a few seats more than Labour then public perception will be that he has won.”
In those circumstances, McConnell said, the “SNP argument that everybody else could gang up on him will not work”.
He said: “If we get to Friday morning and the sitting prime minister who is in No 10 has won more seats than anyone else, he will automatically get the first go and the public will expect him to do that.”
However, he added: “If Cameron loses, even by only one or two seats, then all the momentum and pressure shifts to Ed Miliband to try to form a government – and so will public opinion.”
Yesterday, the Prime Minister again warned that if Labour did form a government it would only be able to do so with the support of the Scottish Nationalists as it could not gain an overall majority on its own.
Miliband was on the campaign trail in the south-east of England yesterday and insisted that there would be no “special deals” for Scotland under a Labour administration.
He dismissed Tory claims that he would be forced to do deals with the nationalists in order to remain in power as a “deflection” from the real issues facing the country.
“It is a distraction, offered in the final desperate days of the Tory campaign, to divert your attention from the truth of their own record,” he said.
“Under a Labour government, there won’t be any special deals for Scotland. But I will tell you this: if I am prime minister, there won’t be any special deals for bankers or hedge funds or energy companies either.”
Last night Nationalist MP Angus Robertson described the Labour strategy as “silly talk”. “It is very foolish for anyone in the Labour Party to be talking about another general election before people have had the opportunity to vote in this one. We are entirely focused on Thursday’s election, as the best opportunity Scotland has ever had to come together as a nation and elect a big team of SNP MPs to have a decisive position and make Scotland stronger at Westminster,” he said.