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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Final push in local poll battle
Ballot boxes
The polls open on Thursday morning
Political parties have been making a last dash for votes on the final day of campaigning for the local elections.

As Labour's troubles continue ahead of the polls in England, Tony Blair faced pressure at prime minister's questions.

Conservative leader David Cameron and Lib Dem Sir Menzies Campbell are calling for the home secretary to quit over the release of foreign prisoners.

Defence Secretary John Reid said voters would weigh up the recent "lurid headlines" against Labour's record.

All the main party leaders were hitting the campaign trail on Wednesday after their Commons clash.

Mr Cameron was trying to drum up support in Bexleyheath, Kent, while Sir Menzies was visiting Willesden, London.

Prisoner questions

The prime minister, meanwhile, made a campaign trail stop with Chancellor Gordon Brown and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell in the London borough of Merton.

Mr Blair paid tribute to Ms Jowell for her role in securing the 2012 Olympics and to the chancellor for his stewardship of the economy.

The state of Britain's finances had made possible investment in health, in skills and education, he said.

"You do not have to choose between a well run economy and a more just society," he said in a jibe at what he claimed was the case during the former Conservative administration.

He said that while Tories would slash investment, Labour councils would implement central policy, tackling issues like public order.

I will vote for the Liberal Democrats, even though I voted Labour in last year's general election
Siobhan Burgess, Warrington

Labour activists are worried the recent flurry of controversies to hit the government has severely damaged their poll prospects on Thursday.

In the Commons, Home Secretary Charles Clarke made a statement to MPs amid the furore over 1,023 foreign prisoners released without being considered for deportation.

And Mr Reid conceded that the government had suffered some difficult days.

But he told BBC News he hoped voters would be "sensible" enough to look at Labour's achievements over nine years in government.

"People will weigh all the things of the last few days and all the lurid headlines and difficulties for the government against what we have achieved in the last few years," he said.

He pointed to improvements in education, the "lowest ever" council tax rises this year, more nursery places, more police and the state of the economy.

'Waking up'

He said Labour was fighting a political struggle again after unparalleled success in the polls since Mr Blair became leader.

"The Conservative Party, which was comatose for a decade, has smelt the coffee - at last wakened from its slumber and we are engaged in what we call democracy," he said.

The smaller parties are also continuing their pre-election push.

Green Party principal speaker Caroline Lucas is attacking the Conservatives and Lib Dems over their environmental credentials.

The British National Party says it is picking up support from people fed up with the established political parties.

And the UK Independence Party is trying to show voters that its policies range further than European issues.

The elections are being held in 176 town, city, borough and other councils in England.

Some voters will be electing a third or half of their councillors and the rest will be electing the whole council - including all London councillors. Elected mayors are also being chosen in four areas.

People can vote between 0700 BST and 2200 BST - although many people who applied for postal ballots have already cast their votes.


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