AN Ed Miliband government propped up by Nicola Sturgeon's SNP would be "open to a daily dose of political blackmail", Sir John Major will insist today.


The former Conservative Prime Minister's intervention comes despite the First Minister's assurance that an enlarged group of Nationalist MPs would behave responsibly for the good of the UK.

A ComRes poll of more than 2000 adults also found 59 per cent did not want the SNP to play any role in the next UK Government; only 19 per cent said they did.

In a separate development, US banking giant Morgan Stanley warned that a minority Labour government supported by the SNP could lead to an earlier than expected rise in interest rates because of increased market uncertainty.

Its election outcome analysis said: "Looser fiscal policy in an economy already growing above trend and close to full employment could lead the Bank(of England) to be more concerned about inflation exceeding the target; this could result in an earlier and faster pace of rate normalisation by the Monetary Policy Committee."

But the Wall Street investment bank pointed out how the Nationalists' proposed looser fiscal policy - £180bn more would be spent over the five-year lifetime of the next parliament - was "not extreme" but "consistent with the deficit more than halving by the end of the parliament and the debt/GDP ratio staying broadly stable at close to 80 per cent of GDP".

In a speech this morning in the West Midlands, Sir John will say: "If Labour were to accept an offer of support from the SNP, it could put the country on course to a government held to ransom on a vote by vote basis.

"Labour would be in hock to a party that, slowly but surely, will push them ever further to the Left. And who would pay the price for this? We all would. We would all pay for the SNP's ransom in our daily lives; through higher taxes, fewer jobs, and more and more debt."

Sir John, who in recent years has made strong interventions in defence of the Union, will argue that in a Labour-SNP alliance, the Nationalists would demand policies that favoured Scotland at the expense of the rest of the UK, noting how Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, had already boasted that his party's mansion tax, mainly levied in south-east England, would raise funds for Scotland.

Insisting that a Lab-SNP alliance would be a "recipe for mayhem," the former premier will add: "At the very moment our country needs a strong and stable government, we risk a weak and unstable one; pushed to the Left by its allies and open to a daily dose of political blackmail."

As Prime Minister, Sir John famously took to a soap box in towns to get his message across to the public as he won a Tory majority at the 1992 General Election.

Sir John's remarks echo increasingly charged words of warning from Tory high command.

David Cameron on the stump in Cheshire cautioned that a Labour-SNP tie-up was a "match made in hell" that would wreck the British economy. George Osborne, also campaigning in the same county, claimed a Miliband-Sturgeon deal would mean a loss of investment and jobs for north-west England.

But the strongest and most controversial language came from London Mayor Boris Johnson, who, in raising the prospect of a party being involved in the government of a country it wanted to split up, wrote: "You wouldn't get Herod to run a baby farm, would you?"

The First Minister, as she launched her party's election manifesto in Edinburgh, denounced Mr Johnson's remarks as an "entirely offensive", that would not be shared by people north or south of the border.

Ms Sturgeon insisted her party would not only fight to "make Scotland stronger" but would also use its influence to bring about "real and positive change" for ordinary people across the UK.

The SNP leader said her party's MPs - which polls suggest could number as high as 50 on May 8 - would seek to "make common cause and build alliances with others of like mind" to end austerity and herald a real change in politics.

The Nationalist prospectus was noticeably Labour-friendly in places, supporting Mr Miliband's plans to reintroduce the 50p rate of income tax for top earners, to create a mansion tax as well as a bankers' bonus tax.

In a BBC interview, the Labour leader insisted he would not be dictated to by the Nationalists. "They're not going to tell us(what to do)...I'm very clear about that."

Challenged that many voters believed that in another hung parliament with a minority Labour government, it would be the SNP "calling the shots", Mr Miliband replied: "That ain't gonna happen."

Meantime, Mr Cameron's election strategy suffered a major internal blow from Conservative peer Lord Forsyth, who criticised the party leadership for playing a "short-term and dangerous" game, that threatened the future of the Union by building up the SNP as a means of damaging Labour in Scotland.

Harriet Harman for Labour responded by accusing the PM of playing a "desperate and cynical game" and said: "Even Conservatives are now saying he is prepared to risk breaking up the UK because the SNP represent his only hope of clinging to power."

Meanwhile, it emerged last night that the Tories have been forced to hand back more than £50,000 in donations from US hotel chain owner Beatrice Tollman, whose husband was convicted of tax fraud in the United States.

Ms Tollman, who founded the Red Carnation Group, reportedly made her most recent donation of £20,000 to the Tories earlier this month to boost the party's General Election campaign coffers.

Jon Ashworth, Labour's General Election Campaign Deputy, said it was embarrassing for Mr Cameron. He said: "This is even more evidence that the Tory campaign is in chaos."