David cameron has made his final plea to voters for “a stable Government” as the closest election in a generation draws to a close.
Voters heading to polling booths today are unlikely to hand any party a majority, with election analysis for this newspaper raising the prospect of minority government and a parliament dominated by the aims of Scottish nationalists.
All three party leaders spent Wednesday frantically crossing the country in a last push for votes. As Mr Cameron warned of the chaos awaiting the country if the Tories are not returned to power, Labour leader Ed Miliband based himself in the crucial election battleground of West Yorkshire.
Mr Cameron has spent the election campaign insisting he needs just 23 seats to secure a majority, a victory most experts agree is beyond his reach.
Colin Mellors, Professor of Politics at the University of York, is among many to have looked at the polling data and concluded that the next government is either coalition or minority rule.
On his estimates the Conservatives look likely to finish with around 280 seats, Labour with 270 and Lib Dems with 26.
“Yorkshire is a microcosm of today’s election - both parties need to win key marginals here if they are to form the next government and the fate of the three Lib Dem-held seats will also be significant,” prof Mellors said.
In his last pitch to voters, Mr Cameron said: “Amid all the confusion and commentary, my message is simple and clear: Britain has the chance of a strong, stable Government, but only if you vote Conservative. All other options will end in chaos.
“So as you enter the voting booth, remember these simple things: you can stop Ed Miliband being held to ransom by Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. You can ensure strong and stable Government.
“You can secure our economy and the Union. You can ensure I am back at work as your Prime Minister on Friday.”
And in his effort to shore up the Tory vote in Yorkshire, he added: “Like every other region in the country, Yorkshire was hit hard by Labour’s Great Recession.
“Businesses were boarded up, jobs were lost, homes were repossessed and families suffered. People wondered if Britain could ever be great again. Five years later, thanks to difficult decisions we’ve taken in Government and the hard work and sacrifices of hardworking people, we know it can.
“I’m not saying every problem is fixed, but we are going in the right direction.”
Mr Miliband finished his campaign with a voter rally in Leeds. The Labour election machine claims to have carried out five million voter conversations thanks to an army of grassroots volunteers.
Mr Miliband said: “I’m not simply asking you to reject the Conservatives, I’m asking you to reject the Tories’ plan that always puts the rich and powerful first, to double the cuts next year and risk devastating our NHS, to reject their boasts about a recovery that only reaches the City of London and leaves young people locked out of opportunity, burdened with debts and dreams of a decent future fading away.
“It’s the closest election for a generation. It’s the most important election for a generation. It is the clearest choice that has been put before the British people for a generation.”
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg returns to Sheffield today after a last 48 hours Land’s End to John o’ Groats tour of the UK.
Mr Clegg has been the most open leader when it comes to the potential for coalition negotiations, and yesterday he paved the way for a return to the status quo when he made clear he would not rule out a forming a government with a party committed to an EU referendum.