Keir Starmer: Labour on course to win next general election
Sir Keir Starmer has declined to rule out doing a deal with the Liberal Democrats if Labour does not secure a majority at the next general election.
The Labour leader said he’s focused on winning a majority when the UK next goes to the polls but stopped short of saying he would avoid a coalition or an informal supply and confidence arrangement with the Lib Dems if his party needed their support to form a stable government.
It has been suggested that the Liberal Democrats could demand a referendum on the UK applying to rejoin the EU as a condition of entering a coalition with Labour.
Sir Keir’s party enjoyed a successful set of local election results last week gaining 537 councillors and 22 local authorities in England, including bellwether areas such as Swindon, Plymouth, Medway and Stoke-on Trent.
But analysts have claimed that if those results were extrapolated across the whole of the UK at a general election, Labour would fail to command an outright majority, resulting in a hung Parliament.
Under these circumstances, the party with the most seats is normally invited to form a government. But in order for the government to be stable it will usually have to seek support from other parties either by entering into a formal coalition or via an informal arrangement.
Westminster insiders have been speculating about what Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey’s “red lines” would be in potential negotiations with Labour if such a scenario were to play out.
The staunchly pro-EU party could attempt to force Labour into agreeing to another national vote on the UK’s relationship with the 27-nation bloc in exchange for its support on key votes in Parliament or as a junior partner in a formal coalition.
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When asked by the BBC if he would do a deal with the Lib Dems, Sir Keir said: “I want to press on for a Labour majority, that’s what we’re aiming for. This is a hypothetical question.”
But he was unequivocal when asked the same question about the SNP, insiting he would never do a deal with Humza Yousaf’s party because of a “fundamental disagreement” on Scottish independence.
“I will never do a deal with a party that thinks the separation of the United Kingdom is the way forward,” he said.
When challenged that this was another hypothetical question, Sir Keir insisted “there is no basis for a deal at all with the SNP because of their politics of separation”.
Similarly, while the Lib Dems have ruled out forming any kind of formal or informal pact with the Conservatives after the next general election, they remain open to reaching an agreement with Labour.
The fourth largest party in Parliament campaigned forcefully for a second referendum in the run-up to the 2019 election but dropped the demand after the Conservatives won a thumping majority at the polls. The Lib Dems and Labour both want to forge closer ties with the EU but the former wishes to go further by eventually rejoining the Single Market – something the latter has ruled out.
Longer term, the Lib Dems’ website states that “rejoining the EU” is the party’s ultimate goal.
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