Boris Johnson said today he is “taking nothing for granted” as he set out on a race around Britain for the final three days of election campaigning.
Cabinet minister Rishi Sunak said the election was “tight” despite polls putting the Tories ahead, including one from Survation giving Mr Johnson a 14-point lead.
The Prime Minister was up at dawn to visit Grimsby fish market, where he joked with workers before heading to Sunderland, another symbolic Labour heartland and the town whose early declaration for Leave in 2016 heralded Brexit.
“It’s a tight election,” Mr Sunak told Sky News. “That’s why the Prime Minister is out as you will see over these three days, visiting all parts of the country and he wants to fight hard for every vote.”
Polls were pointing to a comfortable Tory victory, but party chiefs appeared nervous of complacency creeping in so close to Thursday’s historic election which will shape Britain’s future for generations.
Writing in today’s Evening Standard, pollster Ben Page says another hung parliament cannot be ruled out in the event of a late swing from the Tories.
However, Tory hopes were bolstered by new polls showing the party’s candidates ahead in three London battlegrounds: Cities of London and Westminster, Kensington, and Finchley and Golders Green. This picture appeared to vindicate the strategy pushed by Mr Johnson’s No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings to unite the pro-Brexit vote and divide Remainers.
In Grimsby, the Prime Minister said: “We’re working very, very hard across the whole country and I think it’s a message of unity of bringing this amazing United Kingdom together.
“If we can get Brexit done then we can move forward with investments in infrastructure, education and technology that will unleash opportunity across the whole country. It’s a message that makes sense whether you’re working in the arts and financial services in London or fishing in Grimsby or the arts and financial services in Grimsby.”
Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell today unveiled the date of his first Budget if the party wins — February 5.
He said in a speech on London’s South Bank: “Labour has sought to shift the election focus on to public services, including the NHS given the crisis in A&E and long waits for treatments for cancer and other conditions.”
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson was set to visit target seats, including Wimbledon and Guildford, this week.
Mr Johnson this morning apologised to “everybody who has a bad experience” with the NHS after the publication of a picture showing a four-year-old boy sleeping on a hospital floor at A&E.
Sarah Williment covered her son Jack with coats to keep him warm as he waited for a bed at Leeds General Infirmary, where she took him last Tuesday fearing he had pneumonia.
He was eventually moved to a ward, where he waited for five hours on a trolley before a bed was found at 3am, Ms Williment said.
Asked about the incident during an interview on LBC, the Prime Minister said: “Of course I sympathise very much and I apologise to everybody who has a bad experience.”
He stressed: “By and large I think the NHS do an amazing job and I think that they deserve all praise for the service they provide — but they do need investment and that’s why we’re doing it now.”
The Conservatives would inject billions more into the NHS, he said, while Labour is promising even bigger funds.
This morning Mr Sunak, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, repeatedly failed to point to any official document which showed that Britain will be economically better off outside the EU compared to remaining inside it.
He insisted that if the Tories gain a Commons majority and the UK quits the European bloc by January 31 there would be no need for further no-deal Brexit planning. “There is going to be a trade deal...and we can go and sort the details of that over the course of next year.” The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that it will take far longer to negotiate a new free trade deal between the EU and Britain.
A Department for Exiting the EU document obtained by the Financial Times also questioned whether the December 2020 deadline was achievable, warning that new customs arrangements for Northern Ireland may not be ready by then.
During his LBC interview, Mr Johnson said the HS2 rail link would probably cost “north of £100 billion”, even though the current estimate is £88 billion, raising speculation that it might be scaled back, or even scrapped, if the costs escalate hugely.
He struggled to defend figures put out by Home Secretary Priti Patel which suggested murders, knifings and other crimes would rise if Labour gained power.
Mr Johnson, asked if he was still planning to lie down in front of bulldozers at Heathrow if work starts on the third runway, said: “I don’t see much sign of any bulldozers yet.” He added: “I would have to find some way of honouring that promise. It might be technically difficult to achieve.”