Sunak not ruling out coalitions despite accusing Starmer of ‘plotting’ pacts

Sunak not ruling out coalitions despite accusing Starmer of ‘plotting’ pacts

Rishi Sunak is not ruling out entering into a coalition government in the future despite accusing Sir Keir Starmer of “plotting” to team up with other parties.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary declined to “speculate” on the outcome of the next general election after being asked if Mr Sunak could form a pact with the DUP or other parties.

Labour called on Mr Sunak to rule out a “grubby, desperate deal” to “cling to power” if he fails to win.

Labour leader Sir Keir has ruled out doing a deal with the SNP but left the door open to working with the Liberal Democrats if he does not secure a Commons majority.

Mr Sunak attacked Sir Keir on the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, accusing him of being “busy plotting coalitions” while the Conservatives are running the country.

But Mr Sunak’s press secretary would not rule out any deals, including with Reform, which was founded with Nigel Farage’s backing, or Reclaim, the party led by actor Laurence Fox, who has just welcomed in MP Andrew Bridgen after he was expelled from the Tories for comparing vaccines to the Holocaust.

“I don’t think anyone at this stage is going to speculate on the results of the next election,” she said.

“The Prime Minister is fully committed to and focused on delivering his five priorities and that’s what we’re going to do to get a Conservative majority.”

She denied Mr Sunak is being hypocritical by targeting Labour when the Tories have been in coalition with the Lib Dems and entered a pact with the DUP during the last 13 years.

England local elections 2023
(PA Graphics)

The attacks on Labour came after the Conservatives were punished by voters in last week’s local elections, with the party losing nearly 1,000 councillors.

Labour made large gains but some projections cast doubt on whether Sir Keir is in a position to say he is on course for a majority after the next general election, expected next year.

Shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray said: “Rishi Sunak’s refusal to rule out a grubby deal with the SNP is a sign of his desperation to cling to power.

“Under Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar’s leadership, Labour has said repeatedly we wouldn’t do any deal with those who want to break up our country. The Tories must now urgently follow Labour’s example.”

On Tuesday, the Labour leader repeatedly declined to rule out doing a deal with the Lib Dems in the future after they performed strongly in the local polls.

He insisted he is “going for an outright majority” but declined to answer “hypotheticals” when asked about doing a deal with Sir Ed Davey’s party.

However, Sir Keir said he is “absolutely clear there are no terms in which we will do a deal with the SNP” because there is a “fundamental difference” between Labour and the Scottish nationalists.

England local elections 2023
(PA Graphics)

Last Thursday, the Tories lost 957 councillors and control of 48 authorities under Mr Sunak’s leadership, but the next general election is not expected until 2024.

With results in from all 230 councils up for grabs, Labour gained 643 seats, the Lib Dems 415 and the Greens 200.

Downing Street said Mr Sunak has confidence in Tory Party chairman Greg Hands despite the losses.

“Yes, of course,” the press secretary said.

Meanwhile, former Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable suggested that secretive discussions will be going on between Labour and his party.

“You can be sure that serious, but deniable, conversations will be taking place over the next year,” he wrote in an article for the Comment Central website.

But a Lib Dem source responded: “Vince doesn’t speak for the party. We hope he continues to enjoy his retirement.”