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By JACK BLANCHARD
Good Wednesday morning. There is one day to go until the general election.
DRIVING THE DAY
FINAL COUNTDOWN: The nerves are jangling in CCHQ today after last night’s final YouGov mega-poll concluded the Tory lead over Labour is shrinking and Boris Johnson may yet fail to secure a majority in tomorrow’s general election. As party leaders embark on punishing final-day campaign tours covering the length and breadth of Britain, back in Westminster politicos are poring over the finer details of YouGov’s hotly anticipated 100,000-voter poll, which uses an MRP data model to make constituency-by-constituency projections. Its analysis — published by the Times and Sky News last night — concludes the Tories are on course to secure a 28-strong majority tomorrow, a decent-enough victory for Johnson but down a whopping 40 seats on YouGov’s previous MRP prediction a fortnight ago. Crucially, the pollster now says a hung parliament is within the margin of error … This election, it seems, is not quite over yet.
By the numbers: YouGov now puts the Tories on 339 seats, which would be up 21 from the 2017 election. Labour is on 231 seats, down 31 on 2017. The SNP is up six to 41 seats, the Lib Dems are up three to 15 seats, while Plaid Cymru and the Greens are unchanged on four seats and one seat respectively. But allowing for its own margin of error, the YouGov model suggests Tory seat numbers could be as low as 311 — meaning a hung parliament, with the Tories the largest party — or as high as 367, meaning a sizeable Johnson majority. In short, it is all to play for with 24 hours to go.
Tory top brass at risk: The poll will also bolster Labour and Lib Dem hopes of decapitating some of the Tory party’s biggest names tomorrow night, with current and former Cabinet ministers in Remain-heavy seats looking increasingly vulnerable to tactical voting or any further anti-Boris surge. If the YouGov modeling is correct, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is now just 2 points ahead of his Lib Dem opponent in Esher and Walton, while former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is only 2 points ahead of his Labour challenger in Chingford and Woodford Green. In both constituencies the third-placed party (Labour in Raab’s seat and the Lib Dems in IDS’) is on 8 percent of the vote — suggesting there is plenty of scope for tactical voting to force the incumbent out. The picture is bleaker still for Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers, who is now 4 points behind her Labour opponent in Chipping Barnet and on course to lose her seat. All three politicians played central roles in the 2016 Vote Leave campaign.
Red wall trembling: The improved picture for Labour means some Northern and Midlands seats which YouGov had predicted would turn blue a fortnight ago may now be saved. The new poll lists Workington — which has taken on an iconic status in this election as being typical of the Northern, working-class seats the Tories are targeting — as staying in Labour hands, along with Tom Watson’s old seat of West Bromwich East and Mike Amesbury’s seat of Weaver Vale. However many others including former Europe Minister Caroline Flint’s seat of Don Valley would still turn blue tomorrow night.
Time for the caveats: Yes, it’s just one poll. Yes, YouGov’s modeling may be way off this time round. Yes, it was undertaken over an entire week, and many floating voters may well have made a different choice by the time they come to cast their ballots. Yes, voter apathy and the appalling weather forecast for tomorrow might depress turnout. And yes, many of the individual seats are so closely fought that small, localized swings in either direction could change the whole picture. But this method of modeling got it more or less on the money in 2017 where more traditional polling failed, and so it’s the best we’ve got to go on for now. Plus, it gives us all something to talk about while we’re waiting for 10 p.m. tomorrow night.
Further reading: The Times publishes the forecasts constituency-by-constituency here, if you’re fortunate enough to have a log-in. Inside the paper, Steven Swinford takes a closer look at how the polling suggests individual seats may fall. Elsewhere, Stephen Bush’s snap analysis for the New Statesman is essential reading this morning. “No one can really say anything with confidence,” he notes, “other than that the Conservatives are on course to get more votes than Labour and that we have a terrible, unreliable electoral system.” Amen to that.
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A GLINT IN THE MILKMAN’S EYE: Boris Johnson’s photo-obsessed campaign continues this morning with the PM currently out delivering milk to unsuspecting households in Yorkshire. He plans to visit North Wales, the Midlands and London through the day before concluding with a final rally in Essex tonight. Last night he was up in Warrington packing boxes in a warehouse (pic here via the Telegraph’s Gordon Rayner), with aides convinced these endless photos of Johnson enthusiastically mucking in at people’s workplaces are helping to win undecided voters round.
Talking tactics: Rayner also bags an eve-of-poll interview with the PM, in which Johnson sounds distinctly nervous about the prospect of Remain supporters ganging up against his party. “I’m genuinely worried about tactical voting,” he tells the Telegraph. “It’s lap of the gods stuff.” And while the PM repeats his pledge to clamp down on violent criminals — that makes the front-page headline — he offers precious little other red meat to his former employer. Johnson ducks questions about tax cuts for high earners and a shake-up of stamp duty, neither of which made it into the Tory manifesto, and has nothing at all to say about the Telegraph’s long-running campaign for a new royal yacht. And when asked about planned big infrastructure projects, he promises greener buses. It’s maybe not quite what the paper will have hoped for when its former employee landed the top job.
Time for tea: It’s a sign of the shifting sands beneath British politics that Johnson seemingly has more to offer the Sun readers in Darlington who bag the morning’s other big interview with the PM. You can read here as Johnson makes dubious-sounding promises to Ash and Sam Parker that he will look into local council charges and NHS drug availability — before they grill him repeatedly on whether he plans to propose to girlfriend Carrie Symonds. “Are you going to buy her a rock any time soon?” Ash asks him. “Every girl likes a diamond.” After much prevarication, the embarrassed PM tells her: “I think ‘wait and see’ is probably the best answer I can give.”
Now hear this: The PM has also spoken to TalkRADIO, with the interview due to air in the next few minutes. Word is the PM will reveal that despite yesterday’s viral election video, he has never actually watched “Love, Actually.” For shame.
Speaking of that video: The internet is predictably full of spoofs and rip-offs, with this by comedian David Schneider — entitled “Lies, actually” — probably the pick of the bunch.
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JEZZA ON TOUR: For his part, Jeremy Corbyn is up in Glasgow this morning on the first of six campaign stops through the day. Look out for a rally in Middlesbrough at lunchtime, plus stops in Labour-held marginals Rother Valley and Ashfield this afternoon. He’ll then be in Bedford for a speech about 6 p.m., ahead of a big rally in east London tonight. Labour is seeking to keep the focus on the NHS in the campaign’s closing hours, releasing data last night suggesting the number of people waiting more than four hours in A&E is projected to have risen tenfold between 2010 and 2024.
Speaking of which: Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner says her own mum is currently stuck on a trolley in an overcrowded A&E department in Manchester.
Man in the Mirror: Corbyn gives his eve-of-election interview to the Mirror, telling Political Editor Pippa Crerar he is driven by the desire to improve the lives of struggling families around the country. “I feel the pain of the people I represent, the pain of trying to bring up children in a small overcrowded flat, and wanting them to achieve at school,” he says. “I think of the people saying they’ve got three children with quite wide age gap sharing a bedroom, one wants to play music, one wants to do their homework, one wants to play with Lego on the floor. They just end up fighting for space, then those children don’t achieve what they could at school and their whole life path is damaged because we, the community as a whole, did not provide the housing they need. It’s that sort of thing that drives me to change things in our society.”
Hospital pass: Corbyn will be heartened this morning by a HuffPost-Edelman focus group on female voters in the marginal seat of Peterborough. All nine women were 2017 Labour voters who classed themselves as undecided this time — but for whom the barrage of election stories on the NHS appears to be cutting through. “Every voter raised fears over NHS privatization when quizzed on Monday night,” Rachel Wearmouth reports. Their verdicts on Boris Johnson’s handling of the A&E photo on Monday are absolutely brutal, too.
But but but: Corbyn faces a nasty blow this morning with a new ad campaign in regional newspapers featuring former Labour MPs urging voters not to back his party. Fifteen former Labour MPs including Ian Austin, Gisela Stuart, Louise Ellman, Tom Harris and Gavin Shuker have signed an open letter that will run as a full-page advert today in local and regional papers across the north of England. “Everyone wants a safer, fairer society,” the letter states. “But in this election the Labour Party is set to deliver the opposite. We were all lifelong Labour voters and all former Labour MPs. We are voting for different parties at this election, but we have all come to the difficult decision not to vote Labour.” The Manchester Evening News has a write-up.
LIB DEM WORLD
SWINNING HERE: Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and her deputy Ed Davey are both in Esher and Walton this morning as the party dreams of pulling off the “Portillo moment” of the night by ousting Foreign Secretary Dom Raab. Swinson will also visit Wimbledon and Guildford today as she concludes what has proven a difficult first campaign for the new leader. Playbook’s Annabelle Dickson caught up with the Lib Dem leader yesterday as she made her way to Bath.
So whatever happened to the new En Marche? “That moment of opportunity for that seismic change that was opened up by those four parties [Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, Brexit] hovering around the same point in the polls has clearly moved on for the immediate moment. But I certainly don’t rule out that these opportunities may come around. I don’t think that we have yet seen the final result of how Brexit and the underlying issues are changing our politics. The new fault line in politics is about values. It’s about open or closed, liberal, authoritarian and we have got a sort of duopoly that is based on a kind of left-right axis which is very different.”
On that revoke policy: Swinson is unrepentant about her party’s headline-grabbing policy to revoke Brexit in the unlikely event it wins a majority — something often cited by candidates as a problem on the doorstep. “It has the virtue of just being honest. We still support a People’s Vote, and still want to stop Brexit in any way that we can. The thought that we would go and negotiate Brexit as the most pro-European party is a nonsense, right?”
Extremist, moi? Swinson pushes back against the idea the Lib Dems missed an opportunity to seize the center ground. “I think it’s a pretty mainstream position to want to remain in the EU. I appreciate it’s not one that’s shared by everybody, but you know, I think that 6 million people signed a petition to revoke Article 50, hundreds of thousands of people have marched on the streets of London to try to secure a People’s Vote to stop Brexit. I mean, it is something which is pretty mainstream in public debate. And moreover it is what we want to see.”
On tactical voting: Swinson can’t quite bring herself to publicly endorse the idea of voting Labour to oust Boris Johnson.”Lots of people will look at the circumstances in their own area,” she says. “And you know, anyone that’s had significant levels of leaflets from the Lib Dems coming through the letterbox can be pretty clear that they know they are in a seat the Lib Dems can win.”
Can they really oust Dominic Raab? “It is clearly very close. We’ve seen various polls that have shown that that seat has a real chance of going Lib Dem.”
Election fuel: Jeremy Corbyn has fueled his campaign on porridge; Boris Johnson on flapjacks. “My secret is plenty of cups of tea,” Swinson says. So how many a day? “Eight, maybe?” That seems … quite a lot.
Best campaign moment: “It’s not every day you get to have a conversation with somebody dressed as a bee.”
Worst campaign moment: “Seeing that stitch-up between Farage and Johnson, and seeing the kind of impact that has on the electoral arithmetic, that certainly was not a good moment.”
Meanwhile in the real world: “There’s been those kind of chaotic times where you realize a couple of weeks before Christmas you don’t have a tree up and the presents haven’t been bought.”
**The U.K.’s general election takes place tomorrow. Don’t miss out on POLITICO’s UK 2019 Election Sprint and catch up with our daily snapshot of key moments in the run up to the election and immediately afterwards.**
CAMPAIGN TRAIL ROUND-UP
NIGEL’S LAST STAND: Nigel Farage is campaigning in Doncaster this morning for what the Brexit Party has dubbed “National Action Day” — an unfortunate choice, given “National Action” is also the name of a banned far-right neo-Nazi terror group. Speaking to the Sun, Brexit Party founder Catherine Blaiklock reveals she is voting Tory and says Farage’s strategy has been a “disaster.” She tells Tom Newton Dunn: “Nigel has failed catastrophically, because you’re not going to get a WTO Brexit. You have to compromise … If you want Brexit, you must vote Tory now.”
Meanwhile in Scotland: Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will be campaigning in Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow, with every poll suggesting the SNP is on course to pick up seats tomorrow night. POLITICO’s Andrew Gray hit the campaign trail with SNP MEP Alyn Smith.
And in Northern Ireland? POLITICO’s Annabelle Dickson runs the rule over the DUP’s chances of clinging on to its current haul of 10 seats tomorrow. “It faces local threats in a clutch of Belfast seats after the pro-Remain SDLP, Sinn Féin and Greens formed an anti-Brexit tactical voting pact,” she notes. “Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s deputy leader, faces a fight to fend off Sinn Féin’s John Finucane in Belfast North in what appears to be a knife-edge contest, while the SDLP’s Claire Hanna is polling ahead of the DUP’s Emma Little Pengelly in Belfast South.”
More from the campaign trail: The FT’s Seb Payne has been touring Labour’s “red wall” seats in the North East of England to see if voter attitudes toward the Tories have actually changed … Yahoo’s Tom Belger has a nice piece from Thurrock, where Labour appears to have little chance of winning back a working-class seat it once saw as a stronghold … The Times’ Francis Elliott has been up in his old stomping ground of Workington … and the New Statesman’s Patrick Maguire has a fascinating piece from Ashfield, where the Tory candidate used to work for the outgoing Labour MP and where an independent council leader is giving them all a run for their money.
Donors day: The Electoral Commission publishes its final weekly report on political party donations during the election period at 2.30 p.m.
Coming attractions: Several interesting stories around this morning about issues a Tory-majority government may be grappling with in the new year. As of this morning, the World Trade Organization will be without a functioning court, with Donald Trump blocking all appointments and so effectively rendering the body toothless. This may not bode well for Brexit Britain, as POLITICO’s Barbara Moens and Jakob Hanke report … In the FT, lawyers raise concerns about exactly what Johnson may have planned for the Supreme Court after it had the gall to rule against him when he illegally suspended parliament in October. The Tories are planning to set up an ominous-sounding “Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission,” which “could be seen as attempted revenge,” one barrister warns. Perish the thought … And Bloomberg’s Kitty Donaldson says Cabinet office officials want to review laws around the way social media is used during an election period after what is already being dubbed the “fake news election.”
Speaking of which: Almost half of British political ads on Facebook — worth a combined £7.4 million — disappeared from the social media giant’s online records for more than 24 hours only days before the general election, POLITICO’s Mark Scott reports. “The failure of the company’s transparency tools is a major blow to Facebook’s efforts to shine a greater spotlight on how political groups use its platform to target voters amid growing pressure from lawmakers across Europe, the United States and elsewhere,” he writes.
Regulation, regulation, regulation: Meanwhile speaking at the Centre for Policy Studies last night, Johnson’s former economic adviser Gerard Lyons suggested the next government should consider cutting back regulation on industry and the finance sector. Before the crisis, he said, “the pendulum was at one extreme — there was almost self-regulation. Has it swung to the other extreme, and does it need to be set in the middle?” One to watch if Johnson wins big tomorrow night.
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Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove broadcast round: BBC Breakfast (7.30 a.m.) … LBC Radio (7.50 a.m.) … Today program (8.30 a.m.) … Sky News (9 a.m.).
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell broadcast round: BBC Breakfast (7.10 a.m.) … Today program (7.20 a.m.) … Sky News (7.45 a.m.).
Lib Dem Home Affairs Spokeswoman Christine Jardine broadcast round: BBC Breakfast (6.40 a.m.) … Sky News (7.05 a.m.) … LBC Radio (9.30 a.m.).
Also on the Today program: Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price (6.50 a.m.).
Also on BBC Breakfast: SNP candidate for Glasgow East David Linden (time tbc).
ITV Good Morning Britain: Shadow Employment Rights Secretary Laura Pidcock (7.15 a.m.).
Also on LBC Radio: Former McDonnell aide James Meadway and Labour List Editor Sienna Rodgers (7.05 a.m.) … U.S. Republican political strategist Michael Caputo (7.25 a.m.) … Shadow Employment Rights Secretary Laura Pidcock (8.20 a.m.).
Also on TalkRADIO: Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pre-recorded, broadcasts 8.05 a.m.).
Also on All Out Politics (Sky News, 9 a.m.): BritainThinks pollster Ben Shimshon (9.10 a.m.) … The Sunday Mirror’s Nigel Nelson and author Joanna Williams review the newspaper comment sections (9.15 a.m. & 10.15 a.m.) … The Speccie’s Katy Balls and the Evening Standard’s Ayesha Hazarika look back on the campaign (9.30 a.m.) … U.S. journalist and FRDH podcast host Michael Goldfarb talks Trump (9.45 a.m.) … Five-way debate with Justice Minister Chris Philp, Labour candidate Sam Tarry, Lib Dem London mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita, SNP candidate Tommy Sheppard and Brexit Party candidate Tom Bewick (10 a.m.).
The Emma Barnett Show (BBC Radio 5 Live, 10 a.m.): Former Labour adviser Ayesha Hazarika and former Tory adviser Laura Round (10.05 a.m.) … Shadow Police Minister Louise Haigh (10.35 a.m.) … Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi (11.10 a.m.) … Lib Dem President Sal Brinton (11.45 a.m.) … SNP deputy leader in Westminster Kirsty Blackman (12.15 p.m.) … Commentator Steve Richards and the Telegraph’s Madeline Grant (12.30 p.m.).
Politics Live (BBC2, noon): The Daily Mirror’s Political Editor Pippa Crerar … Freelance journo and author Rosa Prince … Political academic Matthew Goodwin.
The Andrew Neil Show (BBC1, 7 p.m.): All guests still t.b.c. … But you can rest assured none of them will be Boris Johnson. 🐔
Iain Dale in the Evening (LBC Radio): Cross Question panel (8 p.m.) with former Labour spinner Alastair Campbell … Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine … Corbynista pundit Paul Mason … and Brexit Party MEP Claire Fox.
Peston (Live on Twitter 8 p.m., ITV1 10.45 p.m.): Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell … Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson … Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price … Former Cabinet Minister John Whittingdale … Labour candidate for Canterbury Rosie Duffield.
Reviewing the papers tonight: BBC News Channel (10.40 p.m. & 11:30 p.m.): The New Statesman’s Stephen Bush and Economist Ruth Lea … Sky News (10.30 p.m. & 11.30 p.m.): The Daily Mirror’s Kevin Maguire and the Daily Mail’s Andrew Pierce.
TODAY’S FRONT PAGES
(Click on the publication’s name to see its front page.)
City A.M.: Saatchi out in ad giant bloodbath.
Daily Express: Demolition job on Corbyn … By his own man!
Daily Mail: Britain’s future down to the wire.
Daily Mirror: Johnson saw my son’s death not as a tragedy but as an opportunity.
Financial Times: Boris Johnson ready to shake up overseas aid if he wins vote.
HuffPost UK: Why black Brits are considering leaving the U.K. if Tories win election.
i: Corbyn closes on Johnson as race tightens.
Metro: I look like a right plonker — Ashworth.
The Daily Telegraph: PM pledges to get tough on serious criminals.
The Guardian: Final scramble for votes in “most important election in a generation.”
The Independent: Beyond the bluster — Here’s what the leaders are promising.
The Sun: Boris ticks all the boxes — The Sun says.
The Times: Tory lead narrows ahead of final election rallies.
Westminster weather: 🌤🌤🌤 Lovely sunny day forecast, with highs of 9C. Should stay dry.
More journo gongs: Good night for the Financial Times last night at the Press Gazette’s British Journalism Awards, with a pink ‘un reporting team led by Chief Political Correspondent Jim Pickard scooping the political journalism gong for a series of features on what a Corbyn-led government might look like. The FT also won the top prize of “news provider of the year.” National treasure Marina Hyde of the Guardian picked up the top award for comment journalism, for her invaluable work being extremely rude about politicians, while Paul Caruana Galizia of Tortoise Media — son of the murdered Maltese journalist Daphne — was named new journalist of the year. Full list of winners here. Many congrats to all.
Not London: Yet more brutal job cuts at Scotland’s biggest newspaper titles has left veteran journalists and politicians fearing for the future of Scottish media. The Guardian’s Libby Brooks and Jim Waterson take an in-depth look.
Happy Birthday: Tory candidate for Mansfield Ben Bradley, who turns 30 … Former Labour MP Adrian Bailey … Tory candidate for Hazel Grove William Wragg … Tory peer and former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley … Crossbench peer Robert Fellowes, a former private secretary to the queen … Labour MEP Theresa Griffin … Scottish government Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans … Daily Mirror columnist Paul Routledge … Former U.S Secretary of State John Kerry.
PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: My editor Zoya Sheftalovich and producer Miriam Webber.