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Leaders in last push for votes in ‘most important election in a generation’

The party leaders are criss-crossing the country as they look to rally support in the final hours before polling on Thursday.

Boris Johnson holds a freshly baked pie during a visit to the Red Olive catering company in Derby (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Boris Johnson holds a freshly baked pie during a visit to the Red Olive catering company in Derby (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

By Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor

Leaders of the main parties are engaged in a frantic last drive for votes in a General Election both Tories and Labour have described as the most important in a generation.

With just hours to go before polls open on Thursday, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn were criss-crossing the country in a final bid to win over waverers and get out the vote.

Final opinion polls suggested that while the Conservatives remain in front, they are still not guaranteed an overall majority in the new parliament.

The Prime Minister’s day got off to a bumpy start as he was accused of “hiding” in a fridge on live TV to avoid a reporter pressing him for an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

Mr Johnson insisted he was “fighting for every vote” as his campaign tour took him through South Yorkshire, the East Midlands and South Wales.

“This could not be more critical, it could not be tighter – I just say to everybody the risk is very real that we could tomorrow be going into another hung parliament,” he told reporters.

His itinerary included photo opportunities on a milk round – intended to highlight his promise to deliver Brexit – and at a bakery to illustrate his “oven ready” deal.

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Jeremy Corbyn addresses a rally in Stainton Village in Middlesbrough (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Mr Corbyn started his last day of campaigning in Glasgow South West with a promise of “real hope” for voters affected by years of austerity.

Later, at a rally of supporters in Middlesbrough, he brushed off the evidence of the polls to insist Labour could still win.

“Of course we are going to do it – no problem at all,” he said.

“We are campaigning all over the country with thousands of people on the streets campaigning, carrying a message of hope.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson was concentrating her efforts on the area around London and Surrey where the party is hoping to pick up seats.

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Jo Swinson addresses a Lib Dem rally in the Esher and Walton constituency of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (Aaron Chown/PA)

They include Esher and Walton, where polls have suggested Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab may be vulnerable, despite a majority of more than 23,000 at the 2017 general election.

Ms Swinson said the polls showed it was still “absolutely possible” to deny the Tories an overall majority through tactical voting.

“We know from past elections that very often voters who vote tactically come to that conclusion in the final hours before they cast their vote,” she said.

Her call came as the Lib Dem candidate in South Stockton urged voters to back his Labour rival who is defending a wafer-thin 888 majority over the Tories.

A Lib Dem spokeswoman said Brendan Devlin was acting “independently and locally”.

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(PA Graphics)

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was out with SNP candidates in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Dunbartonshire, while Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was in South Yorkshire.

Speaking in Doncaster, Mr Farage said he was hoping for “very, very heavy rain” in the town on Thursday in the belief that it would depress the votes of the other parties.

“I know that people who are going to vote for us will turn out, because they absolutely believe in our message, they believe in their hearts as well as in their heads,” he said.

A final constituency-by-constituency poll by YouGov forecast that the Conservatives are on course for a 28-seat majority.

However, it warned that the margin of error – together with the unknown impact of tactical voting – meant a hung parliament is still possible, as is a larger Tory majority.

The pollsters, who have analysed more than 100,000 voter interviews over the past week, calculated the Tories would win 339 seats and Labour 231.

A 28-seat majority would be the best Tory result since Margaret Thatcher’s showing in 1987 – but it is sharply down from the 68-seat victory margin that was being forecast just two weeks ago.

Chris Curtis, YouGov’s political research manager, said: “The margins are extremely tight and small swings in a small number of seats, perhaps from tactical voting and a continuation of Labour’s recent upward trend, means we can’t currently rule out a hung parliament.”

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