During the BBC Question Time debate last Thursday the Labour leader made it very clear that he would not enter a coalition with the SNP. “If the price of having a Labour government was a coalition or a deal with Scottish National Party, is not going to happen,” Miliband said.
Miliband added that the reason why he rejects the SNP is not only because they are Labour’s die-hard opponent but also because they want to break up the country: “Nicola Sturgeon is opening the door to another referendum in the next five years. That’s why I’m not going to have a coalition or a deal with them.”
A recent TNS poll shows that Sturgeon is now the most popular party leader across Britain. Many believe that she was the winner of not just the leaders and the challengers’ debate but in the Scottish leaders’ debates as well.
The SNP leader is flying high in the polls and with the election looming there’s only a few days left for the rest of the leaders to make a bigger impact. It’s questionable why Miliband declared that he would rather see the Tories in government than sign a deal with Sturgeon’s SNP.
Miliband’s reasons for ruling out a coalition with the SNP are definitely a calculated decision. There’s too much at stake for the Labour leader to announce something like that without carefully considering the consequences first.
What is clear is that Miliband was attempting to shore up Labour’s vote in the final days of the election campaign. Sturgeon may have been the star of the election debates, but many people still hold prejudices against her party in seeing them as having too much of a nationalist outlook and for trying to split the country.
The UK edition of the Sun declared its support for Tories by saying that the only way to stop the SNP to run the country is to vote for the Conservatives.
When many see the SNP as a threat, is it no wonder that the Labour leader is denying any deal with them?
Darren Lilleker, associate Professor of Political Communication at Bournemouth University believes that Miliband was stupid to completely reject the idea of a deal with the SNP. Mr Lilleker says that the outright rejection suggests that either the Labour leader thinks this will win over Scottish voters, which is unlikely, or that he intends to allow Cameron to form a minority government and then systematically block every policy.
Earlier Miliband and Sturgeon clashed at BBC’S Election Debate after Sturgeon offered to help Miliband to defeat the Conservatives. Sturgeon put Miliband in the corner by saying: “We have a chance to kick David Cameron out of Downing Street, don’t turn your back on it, people will never forgive you.”
Despite Sturgeon’s attack, Miliband remains confident that Labour are on course for getting majority in the election. Yet the polls suggest that there will be a hung Parliament and the real question is rather who will make up this coalition, rather than who will be in government.
The latest TNS poll predicted that Labour would gain 268 seats, Conservatives 278, SNP, 50 and Lib Dems only 28 seats. Also the supporters of the SNP in Scotland were most likely to say they are certain to vote whereas the rest of the UK had lower ratings in voter certainty.
To form a government you need at least 323 seats which suggests that the SNP is a considerable coalition partner if Labour or the Conservatives fail to get a majority.
Sturgeon hinted earlier that Miliband was bluffing during the Question Time debate when he said that he would rather not be the next Prime minister if the price was having a deal or coalition with the SNP. Sturgeon described Miliband’s decision as a tactical error that will have a negative impact upon Scottish voters.
Miliband’s uncompromised stance has also provoked critique within the party with senior Labour figures questioning the hardline position. Henry McLeish, a former first minister of Scotland, told the Guardian that the Labour leader could not deny himself the chance of being Prime minister by refusing to talk to the SNP.
However Miliband’s message is loud and clear: if the public wants a Labour government, they have to vote for Labour. The election result will show whether this will mean letting Conservatives back into office or not.
Even in a minority government Miliband will not be able to get policies through without winning support from other parties. At the moment the Labour leader is rather burning his bridges with his the party that will most likely get him into government.