Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are to embark on a final frantic 24 hours of campaigning as both teams insist the election remains closely fought and that polls giving the Conservatives a lead could be wrong.
Both Labour and the Conservatives have branded Thursday’s vote the “most important in a generation” as the two sides have vastly different plans for Brexit and spending on public services.
The prime minister was set to crisscross the country from Yorkshire to the Midlands, Wales and London on Wednesday, sending out his core message that the Conservatives need only another 12 seats to win a majority.
Meanwhile, Corbyn will begin his day in Scotland and will visit at least five key seats in a whistlestop tour across England, calling for those who are undecided to “vote for hope in this election”.
The Conservatives are leading by anywhere between six and 15 points according to the polls, which could mean anything from a comfortable majority for Johnson to a hung parliament.
A detailed constituency-by-constituency poll published on Tuesday night predicted a Johnson majority, but much reduced compared with its previous set of results two weeks ago.
Although the YouGov MRP poll put the Conservatives unchanged on 43% and Labour just two points up on 34%, when mapped on to all the UK’s seats that resulted in the notional Tory majority falling from 68 to 28 as his party’s seat count falls by 20 to 339, while Labour’s improved by the same amount to 231.
The survey is based on a large sample of more than 100,000 interviews conducted over the previous six days, but given the margin of error, a hung parliament cannot be ruled out.
Johnson spent Tuesday in Staffordshire attempting to recover from a disastrous previous day, when he refused to look at a photo of a sick boy lying on the floor of a hospital in Leeds and his advisers then wrongly briefed that an aide had been punched.
With polling stations due to open at 7am on Thursday, Corbyn will say it is time for people to vote for “a Labour government that will be on your side; a Labour government that will save our NHS”.
“It’s time for a pay rise for 12 million people, for lower fares and bills, and for free childcare,” he will say in a speech in Middlesbrough in the north-east on Wednesday.
“It’s time for pension justice for women born in the 1950s, and for free personal care for pensioners. And it’s time for everyone to have free education and decent jobs.
“We will put money in your pocket because you deserve it. The richest and big business will pay for it. We will save our NHS by giving it the money it needs, ending privatisation and by not selling it out to Trump.”
He will argue that Thursday’s choice is the “most important election in a generation”, in which people have the chance “to vote for a government for the many, not the few”.
Johnson, who will start his day on a milk-round in Yorkshire at 7am, said the Tories could not be complacent about being ahead in the polls and said the election remained “close-fought”.
Asked at a campaign event in a JCB factory in Staffordshire whether the general election was “in the bag”, the prime minister insisted “absolutely not”.
“This is a very close-fought election, and we need every vote,” he told his audience of factory workers at a carefully staged event. “The only mathematical alternative to a working majority for a Conservative government is the real, real risk of another hung parliament. That’s another five years of confusion, chaos, dither and delay. We cannot go down that route.”
In an attempt to emphasise his point, he drove a union jack-emblazoned bulldozer through a wall of polystyrene blocks in a stunt for the TV cameras.
He told JCB workers: “We’ve only got 48 hours to get this thing done. I want you now to reflect on the gravity of the choice we have before us. This is a momentous occasion for our country. I’ve never seen an election quite like it.”