LABOUR’S pledge ruling out any kind of deal with the SNP following the next General Election is a “matter of tactics”, while seeking a pact with the LibDems could result in demands which are a “hard sell” to the party’s MPs, experts have suggested.

The results of the local elections in England have prompted a fresh wave of speculation about the prospect of a hung parliament and a coalition government. Quizzed on the issue last week, Sir Keir Starmer said there was “no basis for a deal at all” with the SNP because of “their politics of separation”.

But he was less forthcoming when it came to the potential for teaming up with the LibDems, branding it a “hypothetical question”.

Colin Talbot, emeritus professor of government at Manchester University, said he would “never say never” when it came to whether Starmer would row back on his promise to refuse to deal with the SNP.

He said: “I certainly think before the General Election, Labour is going to be very firm about saying they wouldn’t do a deal with the SNP over granting a referendum.

“Keir Starmer is making it an issue of principle – and it probably is – but it is also a matter of tactics and the best way for Labour to get votes off the SNP is to say they won’t have a pact but they will get the Tories out of government.

“If people in Scotland think there is not going to be a referendum in the near future, and if there was it is touch and go whether or not it would be a vote for independence, then people are basically thinking we are in the situation we are in, what sort of government do we want in Westminster?

“From Labour’s point of view, making any concessions or hints they would do some sort of deal would be bad for their vote in Scotland.”

Talbot said it was “much more likely” that Labour would look to do some sort of deal with the LibDems.

He also said he believed the party was on course for a majority based on current polling and therefore debate around the issue of potential coalitions was a “distraction”.

The National: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer continues to have confidence in the party’s complaint process, a spokesman said (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Starmer was quick to say the results of the English local elections – in which his party gained 537 councillors and 22 councils – showed Labour was on course for a majority at the next General Election.

However, Peter Hourston, research assistant at the Institute of Government, said in a blog that the “numbers don’t necessarily translate”.

“Matching its lead of seven to nine percentage points over the Conservatives in the national vote share in a General Election would make Labour the largest party in the House of Commons, but leave it short of a majority,” he said.

He cautioned that local election results are not always reliable as a basis for general elections, but added: “These results serve as a reminder that all parties – as well as the civil service – should be preparing for possible hung parliament scenarios.”

Last week, the SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said that he believed Starmer will U-turn on his refusal to work with the party, adding that any deal would include demands to tackle the cost of living, roll back Brexit and deliver powers for an independence referendum.

Andrew Blick, professor in politics and contemporary history at King’s College London and senior adviser to The Constitution Society, said Labour’s caution over the SNP also stemmed from the party’s disastrous 2015 election result. During that campaign, Labour leader Ed Miliband ruled out any deals with the SNP but suggested he would work with them on a “vote-by-vote basis” for support.

Blick said: “Rightly or wrongly, there is a perception that Ed Miliband’s election bid was really damaged by the claim made to English voters that if you vote Labour what it is actually going to lead to is a minority Labour government dependent on the SNP and that was heavily used.

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“I think some in Labour think that was damaging to Labour’s electoral prospects in 2015.

“As we know, Keir Starmer if nothing else is very, very nervous about doing anything he thinks might mess up his chance of winning the next election.”

He added: “They have ruled out doing a deal with the SNP – I am not necessarily saying that wouldn’t necessarily happen.

“But the SNP in that scenario their price would be another independence referendum – Labour want to keep away from that for the reason of what happened in 2015 and also obviously being incredibly unpopular with Scottish Labour were they to do that.”

LibDem leader Sir Ed Davey has also avoided ruling out a coalition deal with Labour, but Blick said the party was likely to approach any idea with caution after their time in government with the Tories led to a wipeout in support.

“They might say what we are going to do is a confidence and supply deal or some kind of deal where we are not in the government but we will support you, but we have certain conditions,” he said.

Blick said one ask for the LibDems could be electoral reform, such as introducing a proportional representation system right away, rather than via a referendum.

“That might be tough for Labour to sell to its MPs as some of them like the existing electoral system.

“They might have a job getting that vote through parliament, so there is lots of questions in it,” he said.

“Labour have also adopted this make Brexit work idea, the Liberal Democrats aren’t talking about reversing Brexit but they are leaning a bit more away from Brexit.

“So it would be an interesting question to ask what would be the discussion about Brexit in anything in those talks and where would that figure out.”