THE prospect of Labour securing an overall majority in the next General Election is “by no means certain” and the party could face a choice between an independence referendum or proportional representation to secure support, leading pollster Sir John Curtice has said.

The professor of politics at Strathclyde University said while Sir Keir Starmer’s party is “odds on favourite” to form the next administration, whether it will be with an overall majority was still the “$64,000 dollar question”.

He suggested in the scenario of a hung parliament while trying to deal with the country’s “substantial financial crisis” could leave Labour with the choice of a deal with the SNP - with the condition of indyref2 - or the Liberal Democrats, who reports have suggested would demand voting reform in return for supporting certain legislation.

Speaking at the annual conference of think-tank The UK in a Changing Europe last week, which focused on reflections on leaving the EU, Curtice said the central issue facing the country was a “fiscal crisis”.

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He said: “We have basically maxed out the credit card, we are in the midst of suffering the biggest decline in living standards in recorded history and the public services don’t work and we have record levels of taxation.

“The question then is what do we do about it. The reason why Brexit is as unpopular as it now is, is almost undoubtedly because of the economic situation that we are now in.

“Whatever the fine arguments we heard about to what extent it is Ukraine, to what extent is it pandemic or whatever, it has become very, very difficult for Brexiteers to be able to persuade people that Brexit is economically successful, given the conjunction of events.

“Therefore the question that will arise is whether or not reversing or at least softening Brexit, whether or not that is or is not regarded as an integral part of dealing with the fiscal crisis that we now face.

“And to that extent to suggest at least that the economy is more important than Brexit is potentially a false dichotomy."

He added: “The question is to what extent, given the conjunction of events, given the extent to which Brexit is now regarded as economically unpopular, whether you can persuade the public that being able to deal with the fiscal crisis effectively can be done without effective action on changing our relationship with the European Union.”

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Curtice said the chances of the Conservatives forming the next administration are “extremely low” and not just because of the vast ground which would now have to be made up in terms of support from voters.

“[It is] also because the Conservatives do not have any friends inside the House of Commons and the moment they fall below about 315 seats they will not be able to sustain a minority administration,” he said.

“Labour do not need to be the biggest party in the next parliament to form a minority administration – however what I think is still by no means certain is that while Labour odds on favourite to form the next administration, whether or not they will be able to do so with an overall majority is still the $64,000 dollar question.”

Starmer last month repeatedly refused to rule out a deal with the Liberal Democrats, but in the past he has also defied calls from within Labour for a change in the first past the post voting system to be included in the party’s election manifesto, saying it was “not a priority”.

Meanwhile while the Labour leader has said there was “absolutely no basis” for a deal with the SNP because of “their politics of separation”.

READ MORE: Debate over SNP strategy to take on Labour threat in General Election

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has suggested his party could end up holding the balance of power in a hung parliament and last month he said the SNP would be “very clear” in terms of the issues they want prioritised which would include the cost of living and to see “Brexit rolled back”.

He added: “And of course, we would be very, very keen to see a UK government, particularly a UK Labour government, deliver the powers to Holyrood to hold an independence referendum.”

Curtice said it would be “arguably still difficult” for Labour to try and deal with a “substantial fiscal crisis” over the next few years even with an overall majority.

But he added: “It’s going to be an awful lot better than trying to deal with a fiscal crisis in the middle of a deeply hung parliament in which you know that if at some point you need to turn to one or other minority parties to do a deal the choice is which do you prefer – proportional representation or a referendum on Scottish independence?”