General election 2019: Parties make last pitches on final campaign day

General election 2019 UK

The UK’s party leaders are touring the country on a frenetic final day of campaigning, focusing on key messages ahead of Thursday’s general election.

Boris Johnson has insisted only the Tories will “get Brexit done” and move the country forward while Jeremy Corbyn has vowed Labour will end austerity and give “hope to the next generation”.

Jo Swinson has said a strong Lib Dem showing can stop the UK leaving the EU.

Nicola Sturgeon said a vote for the SNP in Scotland could stop a Tory victory.

With voting set to begin at 07:00 GMT on Thursday, the parties are stressing the scale of the choice facing people and the impact it will have on the direction of the country.

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said voters were being offered hugely divergent choices when it came to the UK’s relationship with Europe, with the Conservatives promising to leave the European Union next month while Labour and others were backing a further referendum.

And the BBC’s economics editor Faisal Islam said both the Tories and Labour were proposing fundamental changes to how the UK’s economy and trade have worked over the past 30 years.

In terms of the opinion polls, the Conservatives retain a solid lead over Labour, according to the BBC’s opinion poll tracker.

A poll produced by YouGov released on Tuesday evening suggests the Conservatives are on course for a small majority of around 28 – but the pollster points out that the margin of error means neither another hung Parliament nor a larger Tory majority can be ruled out.

Labour is hoping for a late swing in its favour, as happened in the 2017 general election, while the Tories are warning about the possibility of a hung Parliament, amid concerns about voter complacency.

Both Conservative and Labour party leaders will be hoping to put a rocky few days behind them, as they embark on the traditional election-eve tour of target seats.

Mr Johnson began Wednesday by doing a milk round in West Yorkshire, saying the election campaign “could not be tighter” and that there is a “real risk again of a hung Parliament”.

He said: “The critical risk is very real. We cannot have more drift, more dither, more delay, more paralysis for this country.”

He is using events throughout the day, including a visit to a bakery in Derbyshire, to stress key Tory pledges on investing in the NHS, raising the number of police officers and bringing in a new immigration system.

But his main message will be on Brexit, saying “unless we get out of this quicksand… our future as a country remains uncertain”.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove told BBC Radio 4’s Today that only a clear Conservative victory would lift the UK out of the “rut” it had fallen into over Brexit and enable the country to “move on” to dealing with other challenges, like social care and the environment.

Mr Corbyn started the day in Scotland, telling a rally in Glasgow that a Labour government would “eliminate child poverty, give hope to the next generation and invest properly in education all across the UK”.

At a rally in Middlesbrough, he repeated pledges on funding for the NHS, expanding free childcare and lowering transport fares, and also addressed Brexit, saying Labour would get it sorted by securing a “good deal for working people” and giving the public the “final say”.

He told activists: “Remember it is our choice, our chance tomorrow, to elect a government that will be for the many, not the few. A government you can trust.

“And it will not be motivated solely by more billionaires… it will be motivated by improving the life chances of every single child all across this country, and bringing justice.”

Party chairman Ian Lavery said Mr Corbyn had a “real live chance” of being prime minister by Friday, telling the BBC’s Politics Live that while Brexit was a tough issue in many seats, what voters were really concerned about was the future of the NHS, schools and the cost of living.

However, a group of 15 former Labour MPs, including several who quit the party over the past year, have urged voters to back other parties, saying Mr Corbyn is unfit to be prime minister due to his record on anti-Semitism and national security.

Responding, Mr Corbyn said: “People who have left the Labour Party and decided to join up with the party that has imposed austerity, poverty and injustice on the poorest people in this country should look themselves in the mirror and decide what they are doing.”

Meanwhile, Ms Swinson said the last few hours were “absolutely critical” with thousands of voters yet to make up their minds.

On a visit to Esher in Surrey, where the Lib Dems hope to oust Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, she said tactical voting could determine the outcome of Tory-Lib Dem marginal seats and Labour voters in such areas could hold the result “in their hands”.

She also visited a volunteer hub in London to thank activists, adding: “Our country can be better than what Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are trying to say is the only way forward.”

Back on the road again today for the leaders’ last push. There feels like there’s been a real mismatch between the nature and conduct of the campaign and the scale of the choice. It’s a huge moment for the country, but we’ve heard so many times voters saying they don’t like “either of them”.

People’s thinking is really dominated by the two big characters in the campaign and no-one is making it to No 10 on a surge of anything like enthusiasm.

People seem fed up of politicians telling them how divided they are – most people have been quite rightly getting on with their lives while Westminster has torn itself apart.

The frustration Tories hoped to capitalise on is real, but there are doubts all over the place about whether Boris Johnson is the answer to that. However, beyond his strong core support there seems to be less appetite for Jeremy Corbyn to take it on. There is a massive generational split though.

Smaller parties haven’t punched through as some predicted, although they will still have a huge impact, and there are a vast number of local factors at play, of course, too.

Anyway, enough musing for now. Suffice to say this is an incredibly tight contest in lots of places. In 48 hours we might be waiting in a freezing Downing Street for Mr Johnson to return with a majority, or about to enter a frenzy of hung Parliament talks which could propel Mr Corbyn into power.

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‘People have lost faith’

The SNP is taking a similar tack in its appeal to Labour voters in Scotland, calling on them to back the party to “lock Boris Johnson out of No 10”.

Describing the PM’s Get Brexit Done slogan as the “biggest con” of the election, Ms Sturgeon said a vote for the SNP was a vote to stop further cuts to public services and to “stop Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will”.

Green Party co-leaders Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley urged voters to make it a moment of political reckoning on the climate, saying their party would make sure proper action was taken to meet carbon emission targets.

Speaking in Doncaster, Nigel Farage said the Brexit Party was challenging Labour in many of its Yorkshire heartlands, and he appealed to Leave supporters to back his candidates in areas where the Conservatives could not win.

Plaid Cymru’s leader, Adam Price, told the BBC that Wales was the “forgotten nation” in the UK and had been “neglected” for decades by successive Conservative and Labour governments.

He said his party would press whoever formed the next UK government for more resources to tackle child poverty, while also making the case to remain in the EU and ultimately for Wales to govern itself.