London: The final day of Britain’s general election campaign saw top party leaders making a last-ditch sprint across the UK to woo the voters, as a definitive pre-poll survey gave Prime Minister Boris Johnson an edge but also kept the prospect of a hung Parliament on the table.
A total of 3,322 candidates are standing across the 650 seats in the House of Commons this year, with Brexit and Britain’s impending exit from the European Union (EU) playing a key role in the campaign this time.
A Conservative majority would allow Prime Minister Johnson to pass his controversial Brexit deal and take the UK out of the 28-member EU on January 31.
The last election in 2017 had thrown up 12 Indian-origin MPs, including the first female Sikh MP Preet Kaur Gill and the first turbaned Sikh MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi – both for the Opposition Labour Party.
Thursday’s election looks set for a hike on that number, with Labour’s Navendru Mishra and Conservatives’ Gagan Mohindra and Goan-origin Claire Coutinho among the frontrunners to clinch their party’s strongholds.
The ethnic minority surge in the number of MPs is expected to include all the Indian-origin MPs from the last election, except Labour’s Keith Vaz – who announced his resignation just ahead of the election in the wake of a sex scandal.
For the Tories, Priti Patel, Alok Sharma, Rishi Sunak, Shailesh Vara and Suella Braverman are set for a return. For the Labour Party, besides Gill and Dhesi, the others contesting so-called safe seats include Keith Vaz’s sister Valerie Vaz, Lisa Nandy, Seema Malhotra and Virendra Sharma.
In what is being pegged as a very close election that could go down to the last vote on polling day on Thursday, the model that accurately predicted the outcome in the last election in 2017 reveals that unlike some of the previous surveys, the ruling Conservative Party can no longer be guaranteed a majority.
The YouGov poll on the eve of polling day, based on interviews over the past week, suggests that the Conservatives are on course to win 339 seats, Labour 231, the Liberal Democrats 15 and the Scottish National Party (SNP) 41.
This is comfortably over the magic 326-figure required for a majority in the 650-member House of Commons, but the figure remains within the margin that could well throw up a hung Parliament.
“Based on the model we cannot rule out a hung Parliament,” notes Anthony Wells, YouGov’s director of political research.
The latest 13-seat majority for the Tories is a far cry from the comfortable 68-seat majority forecast just two weeks ago. This keeps the field open for Jeremy Corbyn led Opposition Labour Party and smaller parties like the Lib Dems and SNP to feel hopeful that they may still be in with a chance to influence the final outcome.
Under YouGov’s multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) model applied to the demographic make-up and individual characteristics of each of the constituencies in Great Britain, the survey provides a broad prospect of vote shares for each seat.
“This is a very close fought election and we need every vote,” Johnson said on the final leg of the campaign trail, adding that a Tory victory on Thursday was absolutely not guaranteed.
“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 a hung parliament, the 55-year-old prime minister said.
We cannot have more drift, more dither, more delay, more paralysis for this country,” he said, adding that Opposition Labour’s policies would be an “economic disaster”.
“We have got to move forward. We have a fantastic agenda for the country, we can get Brexit done. We’ve got a deal that’s ready to go .
Equally, Corbyn and Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and SNP chief Nicola Sturgeon have been trying to hammer home the message that the result is not a foregone conclusion and that the 46-million electorate of the country could still swing the vote with a large turnout.
Any party with more than half the MPs (326) in the Commons usually forms the government. If no party has a majority of MPs, the one with the most can form a coalition, with one or more other parties to gain control.
While Johnson has been focussed on his party’s Get Brexit Done message, the Opposition parties have been offering another referendum on the final Brexit deal and have been keen on focussing on domestic issues such as the struggling state-funded National Health Service (NHS).
Corbyn said what the country has had for the last nine years is cuts to public services, frozen public sector wages and lost jobs.
The 70-year-old leader is also scheduled to be in north-east of England – where the Tories are targeting Leave-voting Labour seats – to appeal to the undecided voters.
Polls open on Thursday morning at 7 am and close at 10 pm local time, at which time the results of the first major exit poll are declared, which usually go on to reflect the final tally that will become clear in the early hours of Friday.
According to expert analysis, the new Parliament set to be voted in on Friday is expected to be the most diverse in Britain’s history based on projections. – PTI