Ed Balls said today that Labour does not want to form a coalition government with the SNP, but avoided categorically ruling one out.
With two months to go until the election, polls point to another hung parliament. The surge in support for the SNP in Scotland has seriously damaged Ed Miliband's chances of being able to form a majority.
The Conservatives have seized on the to try and persuade voters in England that Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond will therefore be pulling the strings in any post-May Labour government.
Asked to rule out a SNP-Labour coalition deal, Balls said that was "the last thing" Labour wanted. "It's not part of our plans, we don't want one, we don't need one, we aren't after one," he told a press conference.
And Balls said David Cameron was telling "scare" stories about the SNP to avoid negative coverage about his refusal to take part in the three planned election debates. "What we want is a majority Labour government".
"The Tories, who by the way did the deal with the SNP in Scotland just a few years ago, don't want to debate why David Cameron is ducking the leaders debates," he said.
Sturgeon, the SP leader and Scottish first minister, has repeatedly said she would prefer to support a minority Labour government on a "case by case" basis rather than form a formal coalition with Miliband.
There is no love lost between Scottish Labour and the SNP. Lord Foulkes, a former Labour minister in the Scottish Office, said today the party needed to rule out a deal as soon as possible.
Every Labour MP & Peer to whom I've spoken thinks we should rule out any kind of deal with the SNP. What are we waiting for?— George Foulkes (@GeorgeFoulkes) March 9, 2015
A Conservative campaign poster unveiled today depicts Miliband literally in Salmond's pocket.