Miliband Rules Out SNP Coalition

Ed Miliband has attempted to quash weeks of Tory jibes that he will try to ''crawl'' into Downing Street with SNP backing by ruling out a formal coalition with the nationalists.

The Labour leader insisted there will be no power-sharing deal with Nicola Sturgeon's party and he would not lead a government that included SNP ministers.

''It will not happen,'' he said at a town hall-style campaign event in Guiseley, West Yorkshire.

''There are big differences between us...

''Labour will not go into coalition government with the SNP.

''There will be no SNP ministers in any government I lead.''

The intervention followed growing concerns about the damage being inflicted by repeated refusals to rule out a coalition.

Labour figures had previously dismissed speculation over a post-election deal as ``nonsense''. But with polls suggesting the SNP could win dozens of seats north of the border, they had stopped short of an unequivocal commitment.

At Prime Minister's Questions last week, David Cameron lambasted Mr Miliband as ``weak and despicable'' for considering a deal with ''people who want to break up our country''.

Mr Miliband made clear today there would be no coalition with the SNP - a prospect Ms Sturgeon had already described as ''unlikely'' - but indicated he would not be drawn on any looser arrangements that could arise after May 7.

''I'm not going to spend the next eight weeks speculating about what might or might not happen after the polls have closed,'' he said.

''It is vital we spend the next eight weeks debating the real choice facing the British people in this election: a choice between a better future for Britain with a Labour government or the failing plan of this Conservative government.

''Our campaign is 100% focused on winning that debate to win the Labour majority government that can bring the change Britain needs.

''Now the Tories, the party that haven't won a majority for over 20 years, are now running a misleading campaign based on the idea of a Labour-SNP coalition... this idea is nonsense.''

Speaking before Mr Miliband's appearance, Ms Sturgeon said there could be ''many things to commend'' some kind of tie-up.

''I can't see for the life of me why Labour wouldn't want to contemplate the possibility of working with the SNP to keep the Tories out of office,'' she said at a lecture to the London School of Economics.

''As long as there are more SNP and Labour MPs than there are Tory MPs, we can lock the Tories out of government, there is no question about that.

''So I won't rule out those other working relationships. In fact, I think they may have many things to commend them.''

She said Labour ruling out a formal deal in the wake of Conservative attacks - including a poster depicting Mr Miliband in former SNP leader Alex Salmond's pocket - would not ''change too much''.

''But working with Labour, in a looser arrangement, I certainly wouldn't rule out because I want to see SNP MPs being in the House of Commons arguing for and pushing for progressive change,'' she said.

Ms Sturgeon ruled out any pre-election talks over the detailed terms of any deal.

''What happens after the election will be dictated first and foremost by how people vote in the election and all of us have got to be mindful of not taking people for granted,'' she said.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: ''This changes nothing. Ed Miliband will not rule out a deal with the SNP because he knows it's impossible to become prime minister without being carried into Downing Street in Alex Salmond's pocket.

''There have been over 1,200 votes in this parliament. Vote by vote, bill by bill, issue by issue, Ed Miliband would have to do a deal with the SNP on each and every one of them.

''Who knows what Ed Miliband will sell out to Alex Salmond on: more borrowing, more debt, higher taxes or weaker defences. But one thing's for certain: it's hardworking taxpayers who will pay the price for this chaos.''

A senior Labour source said Mr Miliband had decided to clarify the position in the face of a ''protracted and concerted campaign of misinformation'' by the Tories.

The Conservatives had ''given up on the people of Scotland'' and were not making a positive effort to win the election outright, the source added.

Asked whether he was ready to consider a post-election deal to work with the SNP without entering a formal coalition, Mr Miliband said: ''I couldn't be clearer about this. I am ruling out a coalition government with the SNP. I am not going to start getting into never-ending speculation about how other parties might vote on a Labour Queen's Speech.

''And I also want to emphasise this point - I want a majority Labour government. I am working for a majority Labour government.''

The Labour leader added: ''I think we owe the British people an election debate about the issues. For goodness sake, I do say to the Conservative Party, I couldn't be clearer that we are not going to have a coalition government with the SNP.

''And I say to them, `Instead of trying to make up things up about the Labour Party, instead of trying to have scares about the Labour Party, why don't you start debating the issues?

''A good start would be saying you are going to do the TV election debates so we can debate the issues.''