Labour and SNP would work in coalition, Johnson claims

The Prime Minister said Labour would rather work with the SNP to bring down his government than work with them to stop independence.

18 March 2022

Labour and the SNP would enter into coalition at the next General Election, Boris Johnson has said.

Speaking at the Scottish Tory conference in Aberdeen on Friday, the Prime Minister made the accusation, dubbing the two parties the “terrible twins”, saying they would fight to be the more left wing party, with Labour preferring to work with the SNP to bring down his government than working to stop independence.

Labour have repeatedly rejected the idea of an official agreement with the SNP, with leader Sir Keir Starmer saying in January there would be “no deals going into a General Election and no deal coming out of a General Election”.

The Prime Minister said: “Be in no doubt that at any UK General Election it would be those terrible twins – Labour and the Nats, the Scottish National Party – each vying to be more left wing, more high-taxing, more generally hectoring and bossy and nannying, that would try to form a coalition.

“And, by the way, be in no doubt that Labour would rather work with the Nationalists to bring down this government, than work with us to stop the SNP from breaking up Britain.”

The Prime Minister added: “When we face so many challenges but also when we have so much going for us, so much to look forward to, let’s put that endless confected division behind us and let’s take this country forward in a way that makes us all proud – delivering prosperity and opportunity at home, and giving the leadership that makes us a force for good around the world.”

Scottish Conservative Conference
Boris Johnson speaking during the Scottish Conservative Conference in Aberdeen. (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“And I’ll tell you the other reason why Douglas has been so successful – he is the only political leader in Scotland saying loud and clear what should be blindingly obvious to everyone – that this is not the moment to be having another referendum.

Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray described the accusation as a “barefaced lie”, adding: “Labour have been clear that there will be no coalitions and no stitch-ups with the SNP after the next general election.

“This is desperate behaviour from a man who has done more for independence than Nicola Sturgeon could dream of.”

Mr Johnson’s speech at the Aberdeen conference – the first in-person conference with Douglas Ross as leader – came against a backdrop of an apparent rift between the two leaders.

Mr Ross was one of the most senior voices in the party to call for the Prime Minister’s resignation following the partygate saga, but announced last week he would be revoking his letter of no confidence from the backbench 1922 Committee and Mr Johnson would be speaking in person at the Aberdeen event.

Douglas Ross and Boris Johnson shaking hands
The Prime Minister spoke at the conference despite a rift between himself and leaders in Scotland in recent months (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Despite calling for his resignation, Mr Johnson praised the Scottish leader in a 15-minute speech to party members on Friday.

Mr Ross is, in the Prime Minister’s words, the “only political leader in Scotland” to say “this is not the moment to be having another referendum”.

Both Labour leader Anas Sarwar and Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton have repeatedly affirmed their opposition to another independence referendum.

“It is by driving that Levelling Up agenda in every part of Scotland and every part of the UK, by a relentless focus on the people’s real priorities,” the Prime Minister said, “combined with a fearless interrogation every week of the First Minister that Douglas Ross has been able to defy the sceptics, stop Nicola Sturgeon from getting an overall majority – as people said that she would – get more votes than any other Scottish Conservative leader – including Ruth Davidson, brilliant though she is – 100,000 more votes.

“This is not the time for yet more delectable disputations about the constitution when our European continent is being ravaged by the most vicious war in Europe since 1945 and when public services and the economy need to recover from the pandemic.”

The Prime Minister was given a standing ovation by members at the end of his speech.

Scottish Conservative Conference
Scottish Conservative Party leader Douglas Ross (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Ross, who has been struggling with a “seized up throat” that saw him back out of First Minister’s Questions this week, praised the UK Government’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“At every point, the UK Government has been leading in trying to work with partners and allies across Europe and Nato partners around the world,” he said.

“That leadership is coming from the Prime Minister and colleagues in government – Ben Wallace, Liz Truss and others – are day in, day out, seeking to get resolution to this conflict, seeking to provide the Ukrainians with as much support and assistance as they can.”

After the speech, SNP MSP Rona Mackay said Mr Ross must have “regretted” inviting the Prime Minister, adding: “It was an ill-conceived 15-minute charade laced with numerous personal insults and the same old tired bluster but it contained not a single word of comfort for ordinary Scots suffering during this Tory cost of living crisis.

“For a Prime Minister to pitch up and deliver a message bereft of any substance about how he will help families make ends meet exposes just how little he cares about the people of this country.

“Scotland can see right through this partygate Prime Minister who only ever looks out for number one.”

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