Election 2015

Election 2015: Tories stand by Miliband Trident attack

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Media captionEd Miliband: "[The Conservatives] are offering a campaign based on deceit and lies"

The Conservatives are standing by an attack on Ed Miliband that Labour said had dragged politics "into the gutter".

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Mr Miliband had "stabbed his own brother in the back" to lead Labour and was now "willing to stab the UK in the back" by doing a deal on Trident with the SNP "to become PM".

Mr Miliband said the defence secretary had demeaned himself and his office.

But Prime Minister David Cameron said Mr Fallon was "absolutely right".

In other election news:

  • Labour pledged teenagers would be guaranteed face-to-face individual careers advice if the party is in government
  • SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said her party would only press for another independence referendum if something material changed
  • A Plaid Cymru candidate at the centre of a Nazi slur row admitted he has had a "baptism of fire"
  • UKIP admitted it was "lagging" behind with women voters and that the party sometimes resembles a "rugby club on tour"

"This is the day the election campaign got personal", said BBC deputy political editor James Landale.

"The Conservatives believe that focusing on Ed Miliband's character and a potential Labour-SNP deal will win them votes in England.

"But Labour reckon that playing politics with decisions taken about national defence will backfire and ultimately cost the Tories votes."

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Media captionThe BBC's Norman Smith challenged Michael Fallon on the personal nature of the attack

The Conservatives and Labour are both committed to replacing the ageing Trident system - Britain's continuous at-sea nuclear submarine force.

But the SNP - which has said it would work with Labour in order to keep the Conservatives out of government after the 7 May general election - opposes renewing Trident and calls the issue a "red line".

Mr Fallon suggested the nuclear weapons system could be at risk if Labour won and did a "grubby deal" with the SNP "to get into Downing Street" - something denied by Labour.

His comments were also criticised by the Lib Dems and UKIP.

But Mr Cameron said Mr Miliband was "playing fast and loose" with Britain's security.

"I think that is a really serious issue and that's why Michael Fallon is absolutely right this and, yes, raise it in a pretty frank way as he did today," he added.

Chancellor George Osborne and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith also agreed with the defence secretary.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg described it as "really nasty language" while his colleague Vince Cable told the BBC it was an "appalling way to conduct the debate".

Hitting back, Mr Miliband said: "Michael Fallon is a decent man. But today I think he has demeaned himself and he has demeaned his office. National security is too important to play politics with."

He said Mr Cameron had "nothing positive to say about the future of the country": "He sends out his minions like Michael Fallon to engage in desperate smears. I think Conservatives today, decent Conservatives right across our country... will say 'come on, we're better than this kind of politics'."

Asked if had gone too far, Mr Fallon told the BBC it was an "issue of trust and of leadership" and denied the comments were a misjudgement on his part.

Labour has suggested the possibility of reducing the number of submarines from four to three if a continuous deterrent could be maintained, although Mr Miliband said their position at the moment was to stick with four.

The Liberal Democrats favour cutting to three, saying the existing system was designed for the Cold War era.

SNP Leader - and Scotland's First Minister - Nicola Sturgeon said any formal arrangement between the SNP and Labour would require a commitment not to renew Trident. Otherwise she said the party would "vote on a case-by-case basis and we will never vote for anything that's about renewing Trident".

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