Monday 19 March 2018

Political leaders in final pitches to UK voters

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron addresses party activists at a campaign rally in Carlisle in northern England May 6, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron addresses party activists at a campaign rally in Carlisle in northern England May 6, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Britain's Labour Party's leader Ed Miliband's speaks at his final campaign event in Leeds, northern England, May 6, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Scotland's First Minister, and leader of the Scottish National Party Nicola Sturgeon, speaks during First Minister's questions at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain, May 6, 2015. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne
Leader of the Liberal Democrat party Nick Clegg waves to young children as he leaves the Westerton nursery during a campaign event in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain May 6, 2015. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron addresses party activists at a campaign rally in Carlisle in northern England May 6, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Party leaders closed a frenetic eve-of-election campaign push with desperate appeals for support as final opinion polls showed the UK remaining on course for another hung parliament.

David Cameron said the way voters cast their ballots tomorrow would "define a generation" and appealed for more time to build a better Britain, warning a Labour government would be "held to ransom" by Scottish nationalists.

But Ed Miliband accused him of hiding the truth about deep spendings cuts that posed a "real and present danger" to families' finances and urged people to bring an end to "five years of unfairness, five years of failure".

Polling stations across the UK open at 7am with all the evidence suggesting neither main party will be handed a clear mandate - despite the Conservative and Labour leaders insisting they remain hopeful of an overall Commons majority.

Read more: Shane Hickey: The biased front pages of the British press illustrate this election will be the tightest in a generation

An ICM survey for the Guardian put the Conservatives and Labour level on 35% - a three-point recovery for Ed Miliband's Opposition - while TNS put the Tories marginally ahead by 33% to 32%, Opinium by 35% to 34% and Panelbase by 33% to 31%.

In the past that could have been enough to propel Ed Miliband into power but an SNP surge in Scotland threatens to rob Labour of dozens of its traditional strongholds north of the border and of the chance to govern alone.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said her party was "within touching distance" of winning a majority of Scottish seats at Westminster for the first time and being able to make sure " the voice of Scotland is going to be heard more loudly at Westminster than it has ever been heard before".

She has appealed to Labour to join forces to "lock out" the Conservatives but warned her MPs would vote down a future Labour budget if it failed to end "Tory austerity" - a threat that has been seized on by Mr Cameron as a threat to economic stability.

Rounding off a non-stop 36-hour push with a rally in Carlisle, Mr Cameron said he was not a "demented accountant" obsessed with eradicating the deficit - but aimed to make life better for hard-working people.

"This is the election that will define this generation," he told activists, saying Britain was " on the brink of something special".

"It comes down to a choice of leadership. Whether you want me to continue leading our country and taking it forward, or whether you want Ed Miliband to go back to the start and waste all the work of the last five years.".

Labour would have a "credibility" problem if they were not the largest party and relied on the SNP to govern and appeared to hint that he would be ready to consider another alliance with the Liberal Democrats if it was "the right thing for the country", he said.

Read more: Northern Ireland MPs set for General Election

Mr Miliband mounted the stage in Leeds for the last of six weeks worth of campaign speeches to call on Labour to campaign "down to the wire" and add another million "conversations" with voters to the five million the party claim its made so far.

"We're fighting for a Britain where everyone plays by the same rules, where we take on the tax evaders, the hedge funds and the Tory donors and say: enough is enough," he said.

"We're fighting for a Britain where we rescue our precious National Health Service and run it with the right values at its heart. And we're fighting for a Britain that's more fair, more equal, more tolerant, more prosperous and more just."

Read more: Football club uses disgraced striker Ched Evans in election plea

The Labour leader said Mr Cameron had "avoided and evaded" questions about the scale of planned Tory cuts.

"We know he's planning to double the cuts next year. The most extreme spending cuts of any political party for a generation," he said.

"Cuts that are a clear and present danger to the family finances of working people."

Nick Clegg, who was delivering his final pitch to voters in John O'Groats at the culmination of a 1,000-mile, 48-hour battlebus odyssey the length of Britain from Land's End, said voters faced "the biggest political decision of their lives".

The Liberal Democrat leader said his party could provide stability but warned that Labour and the Tories were in danger of "sleepwalking" to a "messy" minority government.

Mr Miliband and Mr Cameron refused to admit neither of them would win an outright majority.

Read more: Charlotte Church slams Tory policy ahead of UK election

The Lib Dem leader, who has refused to share power with the SNP or Ukip, has indicated he would not form a minority coalition that depended on the votes of Nicola Sturgeon or Nigel Farage's party.

After completing his epic journey to a windswept John O'Groats, Mr Clegg said: "We have been crossing the country, end to end, with one very simple message ahead of the election.

"A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for a government with a head and a heart.

"A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for fewer cuts than the Conservatives and less borrowing than the Labour Party.

"A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to balance the books and balance them fairly, putting money into your schools and hospitals.

"But above all, a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to put the country first, to provide stability.

"So if you want a stable, a decent, a united United Kingdom, you have got to vote for it.

"From Land's End to John O'Groats, you have got to vote Liberal Democrat."

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