Labour’s John McDonnell has ruled out joining a national unity government with the SNP to delay Brexit if Boris Johnson is brought down over his plans for no-deal.
The shadow chancellor said he would refuse any coalition with parliament’s third-biggest party because “they’re Tories” and “we’re a socialist party”.
He confirmed he had “ruled out any pact, any coalition whatsoever” with the party that some have suggested could join forces with Labour to block a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, responded by saying she would be willing to partner with Labour to stop the prime minister “taking the UK in such a catastrophic direction”.
A government of national unity has been tipped by several MPs including the Conservative backbencher Dominic Grieve as a way to stop Mr Johnson taking the UK out of the EU without a withdrawal agreement in less than 90 days’ time.
Speaking at an Edinburgh Festival Fringe event, Mr McDonnell explained why Labour would never team up with the SNP.
“We’re a socialist party, they are not,” he said.
“I think the SNP is to the right of most of what we’ve seen.
“My own view? I think they’re Tories – it’s as simple as that. I always have thought that.”
He added their agenda was “implementing austerity” and insisted: “We’re about an irreversible shift in power and wealth in favour of working people.
“That’s not what the SNP are about, that’s not what the Lib Dems or Change UK are about.”
Ms Sturgeon responded hours later, telling Central FM she “didn’t envisage a coalition with Labour”.
But she added: “I would want the SNP, if the arithmetic lent itself to this, to be part of a progressive alliance that gets the Tories out of government…
“It’s more important that we try to do that now that we have Boris Johnson taking the UK in such a catastrophic direction.
“The big stumbling block on Brexit has been Labour and Jeremy Corbyn failing to get off the fence and failing to offer any leadership at all on Brexit.”
It comes after Mr McDonnell was forced to clarify his comments on a second independence referendum, having said a Labour government would not stand in the way of one.
“To change a huge constitutional policy on the hoof at a comedy festival seems strange”
Labour MP Ian Murray calls for John McDonnell to apologise for his comments on a second Scottish independence referendum.
— Sky News Politics (@SkyNewsPolitics) August 7, 2019
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard stepped in to confirm he met with Mr McDonnell the following day to tell him the poll would be “unwanted and unnecessary”.
While Ian Murray, the Edinburgh South MP and a former shadow Scotland secretary, called on him to apologise.