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UK election: Party leaders make last-ditch bid for votes as campaign ends

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, center, arrives with First Minister of Wales Vaughan Gething, right, for a visit to the West Regwm Farm Events Venue in Carmarthenshire
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, center, arrives with First Minister of Wales Vaughan Gething, right, for a visit to the West Regwm Farm Events Venue in Carmarthenshire Copyright Stefan Rousseau/live
Copyright Stefan Rousseau/live
By Mared Gwyn Jones in London
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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has asked voters to refrain from handing over “unchecked power” to Labour.

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The general election campaign is drawing to a close in the United Kingdom, with the party leaders scattered across the country in a last-ditch bid to secure votes.

As time to convince the undecided runs out, senior Tory figures have conceded a likely defeat but asked voters to cast their ballots tactically in a bid to limit the margin of Labour’s win. Sunak himself has appealed to voters to “stop a Labour supermajority” and prevent the party from gripping “unchecked power.”

As the prime minister visited Hampshire in south-eastern England on Tuesday, one of his closest allies - work and pensions secretary Mel Stride - said Labour was on track to secure the "largest majority any party has ever achieved."

Labour leader Keir Starmer slammed the move as a deliberate tactic to try to "get people to stay home rather than vote."

Less than 48 hours before voters cast their ballots, Boris Johnson made a surprise campaign appearance for the Conservatives on Tuesday - his first on the trail so far - accusing Starmer of trying to “usher in the most left-wing Labour government since the war.”

But the former prime minister did not appear alongside Sunak, a move that has fuelled speculation of deep rifts within the party.

Responding to Johnson's appearance, Keir Starmer said that his Tory opponents had “wheeled out the architect of chaos and division” in a last-ditch bid to secure voters.

Labour is polling at a staggering 20 percentage points ahead of the Conservatives and eyeing one of the biggest majorities of any post-war government in the UK.

Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, delivers a speech at a Conservative Party campaign event at the National Army Museum in London., Tuesday, July 2
Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, delivers a speech at a Conservative Party campaign event at the National Army Museum in London., Tuesday, July 2Thomas Krych/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

Starmer chose to close his campaign criss crossing across Wales, England and Scotland.

During a campaign appearance in Carmarthenshire, Wales, where the party is polling neck-and-neck with Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru, he told supporters that a Labour victory on Thursday would mean the governments in Cardiff and London "working together, not in conflict.” Labour have governed in Wales for over three decades, since the start of devolution.

Nigel Farage, who is hoping to enter the House of Commons in what will be his eighth bid, spent the last day of campaigning in his Essex constituency of Clacton-on-Sea.

His Reform UK party have surged in the polls since Farage announced he would stand, and is expected to clinch as much as 15% of the national vote. But the UK's first-past-the-post system - where the candidate that gets the most votes in their local constituency gets elected - means that Reform could get none or very few of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.

Farage has forged his campaign on a hardline stance against immigration, with pledges such as a freeze on all non-essential migration and prohibiting access to social benefits for migrants.

But the wind was taken out of his sails following a recent interview where he claimed the West had provoked Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, took part in a tractor race in Wiltshire on his last day of campaigning. He has previously been seen paddle-boarding and bungee jumping on the campaign trail, in what he described as a bid to encourage voters to do something they've "never done before" by voting for the Liberal Democrats.

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'Writing on the wall'

Suella Braverman, the former home secretary who was sacked by Rishi Sunak last year, said on Wednesday that the Conservative party had to "read the writing on the wall" and "prepare for the reality and frustration of opposition."

Braverman is one of the rumoured contenders to replace Sunak as the Conservative leader if Thursday delivers the bruising defeat polls have long predicted for his party.

Slow growth, a biting cost-of-living crisis and the sense that public services are fraying across the country have featured among voters' deepest concerns in the run-up to the vote.

Keir Starmer, in pole position to become the next prime minister, said on Wednesday that Labour was offering a choice to "turn the page" on 14 years of "chaos, division and failure."

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