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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May, 2005, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
Election battle nears its climax
John Prescott, Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Gordon Brown
Labour stressed the team effort in their last campaign drive
The final dash for votes is on in the last hours of election campaigning for the political parties.

Labour leader Tony Blair says the election will be "tight" and has claimed the Conservatives would put the economy and public services at risk.

Tory leader Michael Howard says his party would offer action on the people's priorities and open a new "chapter of hope" for Britain.

Charles Kennedy predicted the Lib Dems would take a "massive step forward".

He said it would be much healthier if Mr Blair's majority was curbed by a new influx of Lib Dems MPs.

Final polls

The final opinion polls of the campaign suggest Labour has a lead of between 3% and 6% over the Conservatives, although all the parties forecast surprise results in marginal seats.

A Guardian/ICM poll puts Labour on 38%, the Tories on 32%, the Lib Dems on 22% and others on 8%.

An NOP/Independent survey suggests Labour has 36% support, the Conservatives 33%, the Lib Dems 23% and others 9%.

Charles Kennedy campaigning in Brent East
Charles Kennedy says his party can make a difference

Labour stands on 38% in a Populus/Times poll, with the Conservatives on 32%, the Lib Dems on 21% and others on 9%.

And a YouGov/Telegraph poll has Labour on 37%, the Tories 32%, the Lib Dems 24% and others 7%.

The party leaders have been on another blitz of those tightly-fought seats on Wednesday.

The entire Cabinet turned out to begin the party's final day of campaigning in the marginal Finchley seat in north London - a scene reminiscent of the Labour manifesto launch.

'Tough' fight

Mr Blair said his party would be out campaigning in every part of the country until polls closed on Thursday.

He said for voters the election was "about who's best for my mortgage, who's best for my job, who's going to protect and raise my living standards, who will do most to support families, who will do most for the health service and who will do most for schools."

Preparing for his last election rally in Scarborough, Mr Blair dismissed any talk of a third big Labour majority, saying the battle remained tough.

Michael Howard in Guildford
Michael Howard says he will provide action, not talk

He told BBC News: "This is going to be decided in those marginal constituencies and a few hundred votes or a few thousand votes either way will determine the result."

The Labour leader shrugged off attacks on his character, saying opponents "play the man rather than the ball if they have lost the policy argument".

But Mr Howard argued character and trust were election issues.

"If you look back at the promises which were made and broken, people have to ask themselves how they can believe the promises that are being made to them by Mr Blair at this election," he said.

Protest worries

At his final election campaign rally in Tadcaster, Mr Howard urged voters to "send a message" that they wanted more police, cleaner hospitals, school discipline, controlled immigration and lower taxes.

"You can take a stand tomorrow, you can help to build a better, brighter Britain tomorrow," he said.

HAVE YOUR SAY
If you don't vote, don't complain if you get a government you didn't want
Rob, Kirkcaldy, Fife

Mr Howard said voters should not "settle for second best".

Lib Dem leader Mr Kennedy began his last day's campaigning in Brent East, the constituency his party won from Labour in a by-election.

He wanted to crush Labour claims that support for the Lib Dems let in the Conservatives by showing his party could win seats.

"Every vote for the Lib Dems will make and can make a difference," he said.

"What I think we are seeing is support for the Conservatives disappearing like snow off a dyke, support for us coming up and Labour very badly rattled by the Lib Dem challenge in the closing stages."

He highlighted his party's promises to replace council tax with a local income tax, provide free personal care for the elderly, increase pensions for over-75s and cut class sizes.

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond said his party was the most trusted in Scotland and it was a "matter of motivating that sentiment into polling stations".

Plaid Cymru parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd predicted his party would return to Westminster with more MPs than ever and its highest popular vote.



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