Leaders launch last push for votes as election polls show deadlock
- Credit: PA
Political leaders will embark on a frenetic final 48 hours of campaigning as they desperately seek to secure a decisive breakthrough with voters at Thursday's General Election.
With polling stations open in just two days for one of the most finely-balanced contests in living memory, they will tour the country to push key messages in a bid to move stubbornly-deadlocked polls.
The latest YouGov survey for The Sun showed the Conservatives and Labour tied on 33%, Ukip on 12%, the Liberal Democrats 10% and the Greens 5%.
Ed Miliband will wield leaked figures showing what he calls a 'financial bombshell' of looming staff, bed and service cuts at NHS trusts across England - pinning the blame on Tory reforms.
Two-thirds of trusts expect to be in the red by the end of the year, according to documents produced by NHS Providers, the party said, with a combined shortfall across 98 trusts soaring from £250 million to £759 million.
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The Labour leader said the data - which the party claimed equated to £1.86 billion across England's 240 trusts - showed the health service was 'in grave danger'.
David Cameron will keep his focus on the potential outcomes of a hung parliament, warning voters they risked 'five long years' of a minority Labour government reliant on 'bribes' to smaller parties like the SNP if the Conservatives were not handed a clear mandate at the ballot box.
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Kicking off a whistle-stop last push that will see him campaign through the night, the Prime Minister will say the constant 'back-room dealing' at Westminster would wreak havoc on the economy and drive up interest rates.
'Back-room deals. Bribes. Ransom notes. Chaos. Not just for the week after the election. But for five long years,' he will say in a direct appeal to Liberal Democrat and Ukip sympathisers.
'It doesn't bear thinking of. Our defences weakened. Our ability to pay our way questioned. Our United Kingdom threatened. All of your work and sacrifice that has put this country back on its feet again completely wasted.
'And the consequences for you? Higher taxes to pay for the extra borrowing. Higher mortgage rates caused by the instability. Jobs lost because of the insecurity.'
The PM's pitch was given a boost by The Independent newspaper declaring in favour of a continuation of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition and warning a Labour/SNP arrangement would be 'a disaster for the country'.
Not only did Ed Miliband's opposition appear 'unready for government' in too many policy areas, there would be 'justified fury' if nationalists seeking the break-up of the UK were to hold sway, it said in an editorial that took many Westminster watchers by surprise.
By contrast, it said: 'For all its faults, another Lib-Con coalition would both prolong recovery and give our kingdom a better chance of continued existence.'
The Tories were hit however by a call from the country's oldest Conservative think-tank, the Bow Group, for party supporters to switch their vote to Ukip in seats where the Eurosceptics had a better chance of keeping out Labour - including for Nigel Farage in Thanet South and ex-Tory defectors Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless.
Iain Duncan Smith said any vote for Ukip would be like writing a 'suicide note' for Eurosceptics' hopes of a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.
The former Tory leader - a prominent Euro-rebel during John Major's term as prime minister - appealed to wavering voters to stick with the Tories or risk ushering in a Labour government.
Mr Cameron's last-ditch push will cover 1,300 miles across the Midlands, South West, North West, Greater London, Wales and Scotland - accompanied at times by his wife Samantha and London mayor Boris Johnson.
Nick Clegg will demonstrate his determination to hold on to as many as possible of the Liberal Democrats' 56 seats by literally taking his campaign the length of the UK from Land's End to John O'Groats in the final hours before polls open.
Bolstered by a poll suggesting he is on course to hold on to his own Sheffield Hallam seat, the Liberal Democrat leader will declare that 'the stakes could not be higher' as he heads off on the 1,000-mile battlebus odyssey.
It will begin in Cornwall, where the Tories are mounting a challenge to their coalition partners, and end in Scotland where the Lib Dems have appealed for tactical voters to help survive the SNP surge.
Mr Miliband said: 'There is no bigger choice at this election for everyone in our country than the future facing our National Health Service.
'Right now, our NHS is in grave danger because David Cameron has broken his promises.
'And today we discover the financial bombshell that he has kept hidden from everyone until now.
'Two-thirds of hospitals face having to make swingeing cuts, not some point in the future, but this year because of a cash crisis made in Downing Street.
'That will mean staff cut, beds lost and services closed.'
Chancellor George Osborne warned that an indecisive election result could be 'deeply unstable'.
'The way to resolve this is for the British public, in the next three days, to send a clear signal to the politicians about what kind of government they want and what sort of composition of the House of Commons they want.
'Then it isn't up to the politicians in those darkened rooms,' he told ITV's The Agenda.
He said government 'can grind to a halt very quickly' if there was confusion at Westminster.
'There is a price for instability and the price is quickly paid,' he said.
'Many hung parliaments are deeply unstable.'