One of the most keenly-contested British General Election campaigns in decades enters its final full day with politicians engaged in desperate eleventh-hour efforts to seize a decisive advantage.
Britain will go to the ballot boxes tomorrow with no sign of any party breaking the opinion poll deadlock – the three latest show a narrow view for the Tories and Labour and a dead heat respectively.
As they continued whistle-stop tours of target seats, party leaders were combining positive messages with stark warnings of the consequences of opponents running the country for the next five years.
David Cameron, who was meeting shift workers and others on a through-the-night battle bus trip, will say a Tory vote would keep the country on “the road to a brighter future” and warn backing the Liberal Democrats or Ukip would allow Labour in through the “back door”.
But Ed Miliband said it was a fresh coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats that posed a “huge risk” to working families as he declared himself “optimistic” the nation would swing behind him as the next PM.
Nick Clegg, on the second half of a 1,000-mile push to save Liberal Democrat MPs from Land’s End to John O’Groats, will say only his party could provide “safe, stable and fair” government in partnership with one of the main parties.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon will urge Scots to use the final “precious hours and minutes to make Scotland’s voice heard” with the party poised to meet sweeping gains north of the border.
And Ukip’s Nigel Farage wrote in The Express that “every single vote for Ukip is a vote for change, a change in direction for our country but also a change in our voting system because the one we’ve got doesn’t work any more”.
He was also forced to confront renewed questions about the extreme views of some of its candidates after one was suspended for saying he would “put a bullet” in his Tory opponent if he became the UK’s first Asian prime minister and another apologised for lewd and offensive remarks about a journalist.
A Survation poll for the Mirror had Labour on 34% and the Conservatives 33% - both unchanged, while ComRes poll for ITV News and the Daily Mail had the Tories in a three-point lead – gaining two to reach 35% while Labour dipped a point to 32% – and YouGov for The Sun showing both parties on 34%.
The Tories received the endorsement of The Times – in coalition with the Liberal Democrats if Mr Cameron failed to secure an overall majority, and Labour faced a number of hostile front pages in the morning papers.
Mr Cameron will say: “Tomorrow, the British people make their most important decision for a generation: me as your prime minister continuing the plan that’s put the country on the right track. Or risking it all with Ed Miliband, held to ransom by Nicola Sturgeon, Alex Salmond and the SNP.
“If Britain delivers a Conservative government, I make this promise: Britain will continue on the road to a brighter future. Our policies will deliver more childcare and jobs, help people buy their homes, cut taxes and give people the retirement they deserve.
“But I warn you: a vote for Ukip or the Lib Dems opens the back door to a Labour government; it will result in Ed Miliband as prime minister, unable to survive without SNP support. And that support will cost you money.”
Campaigning in the north of England, Mr Miliband said he believed the public would “make the right judgment” at the ballot box. But he again sidestepped questions about potential deals that Labour might strike in the event of a hung parliament.
“I’m going to right up to the line, right down to the wire talking about the issues that matter to the British people, which is the NHS, their family finances, whether they can pay the bills at the end of the month, those bread and butter issues that matter most to the British people,” he told broadcasters.
Asked if he really believed he was going to be prime minister, he replied: “I’m optimistic but it will be in the hands of the people come tomorrow and I know the people will make the right judgment.
“And I hope people make a judgment on the basis of what’s best for them and their family because I’m not just asking people to vote Labour, I’m asking people to vote to put their family first in this election.”
In a final plea for votes Mr Clegg said that without a significant Lib Dem presence at Westminster “Labour or the Conservatives will be left to run a messy and unstable minority Government, dependent on the SNP on the one hand or Ukip and the DUP on the other.
“Every Liberal Democrat MP makes Labour’s reckless borrowing and the Conservatives’ ideological cuts less likely. And every Liberal Democrat MP is a barrier between Nigel Farage and Alex Salmond and the door to 10 Downing Street.”
He said his party would “expand and grow” after the election, despite the “dents and bruises” of being in office.
Mr Farage cancelled a planned visit on the penultimate evening of campaigning as his party was forced into more disciplinary action.
A video of North East Hampshire candidate Robert Blay telling Mirror investigators he would “put a bullet” in his Conservative opponent Ranil Jayawardena if he became the UK’s first Asian prime minister was published by the newspaper.
“His family have only been here since the 70s. You are not British enough to be in our parliament,” he went on to say, accusing the would-be MP for North East Hampshire’s Sri Lankan father of having “ponced off” the UK state.
A Ukip spokesman said Mr Blay had been suspended as soon as the “abhorrent” remarks came to light – and offered an apology to Mr Jayawardena.
It also pointed to Mr Blay’s “long career” as a Conservative as evidence such views were not confined to its ranks.
Another of the Eurosceptic party’s candidates, John Leathley, said he was “appalled and deeply ashamed” about comments he made on social media about a leading journalist.
The Durham University student, who is standing in Sedgefield, issued an apology to liberal newspaper columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown for the string of comments she said were sexist, racist and violent.