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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 July, 2004, 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK
By-election fights enter last day
Charles Kennedy campaigns with Parmjit Singh in Leicester South
The Liberal Democrats are hoping to 'do a Brent' in Leicester South
Politicians are in the final day of by-election campaigning as voters in two key Midlands constituencies prepare to go to the polls.

The Birmingham Hodge Hill and Leicester South by-election results will be studied closely with less than a year before a possible general election.

Labour held both seats with large margins at the last election, but the other main parties are predicting wins.

Senior politicians have been visiting both areas ahead of Thursday's poll.

The result will be a matter for the people of Leicester South
Conservative leader Michael Howard

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy visited the Birmingham seat for the fifth time on Tuesday before heading on to Leicester for a rally.

Having taken the control of Leicester City Council from Labour in last year's local elections, the Liberal Democrats are hoping to repeat the by-election success they saw in Brent East last year.

Mr Kennedy said his candidate, Parmjit Singh Gill, had a "great chance" and predicted he would give the Labour hopeful, former city council leader Sir Peter Soulsby, a "run for his money".

But, he said, the party was not "taking anything for granted" and said the result would be "nip and tuck".

Tory leader Michael Howard, who has also visited Leicester South, said his candidate, Chris Heaton-Harris, the East Midlands' European Parliament member, was "fighting to win".

Michael Howard on the by-election campaign trail in the Midlands
Michael Howard says his party is fighting to win

"The result will be a matter for the people of Leicester South but we are not contemplating any other outcome," Mr Howard told BBC Radio 4.

Labour are also quietly confident their tough action on crime and anti-social behaviour will see them through the day.

On the campaign trail earlier in the week, Health Secretary John Reid argued that most voters were concerned with what was happening on their doorstep rather than nationally.

The Leicester South by-election was triggered by the death of long-serving MP Jim Marshall from a heart attack in May.

In Birmingham Hodge Hill, Labour's Terry Davis - who held the seat at the 2001 general election with a majority of 11,618 - is stepping down to become general secretary of the Council of Europe.

Jim Marshall
The late Jim Marshall, MP for Leicester South, often defied his party

Seeking to defend the seat for Labour is computer company founder Liam Byrne, who is standing for tough action on crime and public service investment.

Despite his predecessor's large majority, both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats are hopeful of victory.

Conservative campaign manager in Hodge Hill Andrew MacKay said the party was "on the up" in Birmingham having just made gains in the city council.

"We're working very hard to make sure that continues," he added.

The Liberal Democrats are hoping their candidate, Nicola Davies, who stood for Birmingham Edgbaston at the last general election, can win the day for them.

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