The final countdown

Good morning, welcome to the FT's live coverage of the final day of the election campaign.

The party leaders will tour the country today in one final push for votes before polling stations open at 7am tomorrow morning.

Boris Johnson had a particularly early start as he went on a milk round in West Yorkshire. The FT's Sebastian Payne is travelling with the prime minister and will update us through the day.

Sterling slips following release of closely watched poll

The pound fell following the release of a new model of the British electorate that suggests that Boris Johnson’s polling lead has shrunk.

The comprehensive survey by YouGov showed the Conservative party is on course to win the election, but the projected majority of 28 in the House of Commons is down as much as 40 seats from an earlier model that predicted something close to a landslide.

The prediction suggests that Jeremy Corbyn has succeeded in narrowing Boris Johnson’s lead, particularly as some pro-Remain voters have returned to Labour.

We will take a closer look at the data throughout the day right here, or you can read our overnight piece here.

Commerzbank: Suspense in the UK is rising

Analysts at German lender Commerzbank have said the UK election is "getting interesting after all" following the release of the YouGov poll which has knocked sterling and given Labour fresh hopes of forcing a hung parliament.

The bank's foreign exchange analyst Thu Lan Nguyen said in a note to clients this morning that sterling bulls could be in trouble.

If the Tories should even miss a majority in the end, this would be a particularly hard blow for sterling bulls. Because not only would the pound then need to give up all its gains of the past weeks, but also the Brexit suffering of recent years would continue indefinitely."

Digging into the YouGov poll

The FT's Sebastian Payne has been digging through YouGov's detailed numbers:

Several seats may have changed hands since the pollster modelled the electorate two weeks ago.

• The Conservatives could be on course to hold both Cheltenham and Sedgefield, while several others will potentially be held by Labour, including Kensington, Clwyd South and Wolverhampton South West.

• The Liberal Democrats are set to perform marginally better than the previous YouGov model suggested, possibly gaining three extra seats, including South Cambridgeshire and Winchester.

• The poll suggests that several ‘red wall’ seats, which are traditionally held by the Labour party, will turn blue, including Bishop Auckland, Don Valley and Dudley North.

• But the narrowing of the polls suggests that Labour may be on course to gain two seats in London: Putney and Chipping Barnet, the latter represented by Theresa Villiers, the environment secretary.

• In Scotland, the SNP could be set to make significant gains at the expense of the Tories and Labour.

Labour: All to play for tomorrow

John McDonnell has said the country is in “striking distance of a Labour government”.

The shadow chancellor said his party has benefited from a tightening of the polls in recent days.

Referencing last night’s YouGov model, he said: “We are in the margin of errors now about ensuring Boris Johnson is not in government, and I think we are in striking distance of a Labour government.”

“It will all be to play for tomorrow,” he told the BBC.

A health warning on these polls, though.

The YouGov model uses 100,000 panellists across the country and adapts them for individual constituencies. In the 2017 election, its MRP model correctly predicted many of the results. But the FT’s poll of polls, which collates the regular opinion polls from throughout the campaign, has not shown the Conservative lead falling below 10 points at any stage.

Conservatives confident they can break through Labour’s ‘red wall’

Sebastian Payne in Darlington and Chris Tighe in Eaglescliffe report:

The Conservatives are targeting a “red wall” of constituencies the party must win to form a majority government — seats that economically and demographically might be considered conservative but which have typically elected Labour MPs.

With Brexit demolishing old loyalties, the Conservatives are optimistic that swaths of seats in the north of England, Midlands and Wales might support the party, some for the first time.

Bishop Auckland has never returned a Tory MP. With a Labour majority of 502 and 60 per cent of its voters backing Brexit in 2016, it is a prime Tory target. The party has thrown high profile campaigners, money and resources at the seat in the hope of delivering a historic result.

On the doorsteps of the village of West Auckland, voters sometimes speak as if they have been handed a script by Conservative central office — repeating the party’s slogans about getting Brexit done and Mr Johnson’s “oven-ready deal”. Very few voters could name a policy from either manifesto or anything that had happened during the campaign.

Johnson hits the milkround in final push for votes

Sebastian Payne reports from Guiseley:

Boris Johnson made an early start for the last day of the election campaign. The prime minister kicked off a final lap of the country in Yorkshire at 5:45am, stopping off to deliver milk and orange juice in the marginal constituency of Pudsey.

A resident in the village of Guiseley was surprised to open her door to find Mr Johnson outside. “I would have put makeup on if I’d known who it was,” she said.

There has been one hiccup already. ITV’s Good Morning Britain attempted to speak to the prime minister at the milk distribution centre, having been promised an interview with him during the campaign. Rob Oxley, the prime minister’s spokesperson, kept the camera crew away with some tough words.

The prime minister is en route to Derbyshire for his next stop. Before the day is out, he will have been to Wales and Essex before a final big rally in London. Expect plenty more photo opportunities and pledges to “get Brexit done”.

Johnson poses with 'oven-ready' pie

From Sebastian Payne on the Conservative campaign trail:

Second stop of Boris Johnson's bus today was Derby, another marginal constituency the Tories are hoping to win back tomorrow. The prime minister visited the Red Olive baking company to oversee a beef and ale pie coming out of the oven, with a nod to his “oven ready” Brexit deal. He made the pastry on another pie before heading off to the next stop.

Climate activists deliver bags of coal to Scottish parties

Extinction Rebellion activists, dressed as Father Christmas, plan to deliver bags of coal to the headquarters of Scotland's political parties today as part of the movement's environmental message.

The activists plan to hand over one sack for every year that the Extinction Rebellion 2025 target of net zero carbon is missed. The stunt comes after a week of similar action to raise awareness of issues from air pollution to biodiversity loss, which the group have dubbed “the 12 days of crisis”.

Demonstrators this week dressed as bees and glued themselves to Conservative and Liberal Democrat election buses in an effort to disrupt political campaigning in England, and they invaded the Brexit party headquarters, but caused no lasting disruption.

“The climate and ecological crisis goes beyond party politics, no matter where you vote on the left/right scale," said Hannah Bischo, 23, from Edinburgh, according to a statement from the activist group. "The destruction and disasters on the horizon for the UK will affect everyone.”

Podcast update: The final campaign days

Presented by George Parker with Sebastian Payne and Laura Hughes. Produced by Anna Dedhar.

The FT's politics team dissects the final days of the campaign including Boris Johnson's bid for marginal seats in the north-east, Labour minister Jon Ashworth's leaked comments and why the Liberal Democrats are miserable.

Listen to the latest podcast here:

Investors rush to protect against a sharp sterling fall

Investors have scrambled to protect against a fall in the pound following the general election as polls suggest the race is tightening.

One-week risk reversals in the pound against the dollar — a measure of the premium required to protect against a fall in the currency compared with a rise — has risen sharply over the past week even as sterling has held above $1.31 on expectations of a Conservative majority.

The gauge is now running at its most elevated level since 2016.

The price action for sterling over election night is "likely to be asymmetric" given the anticipated market-friendly outcome, said ING's foreign exchange strategist Petr Krpata.

“This disproportionate downside compared to the upside is one of the reasons why risk-reversals is pointing to investors hedging against adverse sterling moves,” said Edward Park, deputy chief investment officer at Brooks Macdonald, an investment manager.

Corbyn rallies Labour faithful in final push

Jeremy Corbyn is heading to the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency this afternoon as he urges Labour supporters to get out and vote.

The sitting MP is Conservative Brexiter Simon Clarke, who is is fighting to hold on to it, with polling indicating it could be a tight race.

Mr Corbyn was in Scotland overnight. He hit the campaign trail early this morning, delivering a dawn stump speech to supporters and activists in Govan in the south of Glasgow.

Poll of polls update: Tories hold 10-point lead

At midday on the final day of campaigning, the Conservative party maintained its healthy lead of 10 percentage points over Labour, the Financial Times poll tracker shows. The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, trailed 20 points behind the Tories, who were at 43 per cent, after being squeezed by a small Labour surge in recent days.

But according to pollsters YouGov, which uses a different model to make predictions, the chances of a Tory landslide in the House of Commons have dwindled. It projects a Conservative majority of 28 seats down by as much as 40 seats from an earlier survey.

YouGov uses a technique called Multilevel Regression and Post-stratification to produce vote estimates constituency by constituency. It has interviewed around 100,000 people about their voting intentions, a wider survey than most pollsters. However, their sample size for individual constituencies has been criticised by some experts as limited.

The FT’s poll of polls combines the surveys of all major British pollsters.

Corbyn pledges to reconnect the north east at Middlesbrough rally

Regional investment was front and centre as Jeremy Corbyn addressed a rally in Middlesbrough.

The Labour leader promoted his party's plans to renationalise railways, cut fares and ensure bus services operate across the country as he sought to win over voters in more isolated rural areas.

If you live in a remote community and there's no bus and you don't have a car and can't afford a taxi you are stuck. Surely it's up to us in government or in councils to make sure there are bus services for the whole country, and that is exactly what we will be delivering.

Mr Corbyn said austerity was a political choice made in 2010 by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats that had hit the north east "worse than many other areas".

It already has a lower level of investment from central government, already has more people living in poverty, already has more people with insecure work and a very difficult future so long as this Tory government stays in office.

Johnson wraps up election campaign

Reports Sebastian Payne from Glamorgan, Wales:

Boris Johnson has stopped in Wales while on his whistle-stop tour of the UK today, as his election campaign enters its final furlong.

Arriving by chartered plane from Yorkshire, he visited a design factory in the village of Hengoed which produces wrapping paper and crackers. After filling boxes with paper, he pulled a cracker with staff and joked:

“What can you get some by Christmas?” he asked. The answer: “Brexit.”

FT Analysis: Jeremy Corbyn's final push

Chris Tighe reports from Middlesbrough:

On the final day of campaigning, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made his first visit of the general election campaign to north east England, a vital area for his party as it seeks to hold on to the so-called 'red wall' of seats the Conservatives need to win to achieve a majority.

Flanked by party chairman Ian Lavery and North West Durham's former MP and candidate Laura Pidcock, a rising star in the party nationally, Mr Corbyn was greeted by several hundred enthusiastic supporters at an open air rally in Middlesbrough.

Whilst some speakers struck a note of urgency – “It’s within our grasp, we are only inches away from the winning line”, said Mr Lavery – the party leader’s speech was classic, restrained Corbyn.

“I come here with a message of hope for this country,” he told the crowd, before reminding them – and the attending media – of Labour’s pledges on the NHS, social care, public ownership of the railways – “which should never have left” – bus services, homelessness and education.

He alluded indirectly to the vilification to which he has been subjected during the campaign:

It’s been 51 days of unbelievable levels of abuse hurled at leading members of the Labour party. If you wish to inhibit the gutter, that’s absolutely fine by me but I will not be joining you there.

“Do you trust the prime minister?” he asked. “No”, roared the crowd. Decrying the lies he said his opponent had told he observed: “It all becomes some sort of vague mirage.”

A Labour government would undo the damage of austerity, he said, and restore social justice.

Tomorrow we have to decide which way we are going to go in this country ... I’m utterly determined to go flat out between now and 10pm tomorrow evening.

Afterwards, faced with some sceptical media questioning, Mr Corbyn insisted he believed Labour would win. Challenged on Labour’s policy on Brexit, the divisive issue which had led some lifelong Labour supporters to think the unthinkable of voting for Conservative candidates, he was adamant his negotiating team would be able to win improvements to a deal which would protect key north east employers like Nissan.

The importance of the self-employed vote

The UK’s 5m self-employed people could be crucial in deciding the outcome of the election, FT Money's Emma Agyemang writes.

The Conservatives have attracted criticism from The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, a trade body, and other self-employed and business groups for reforms to tax law called IR35 which will hit contractors. They had planned to bring these changes in April 2020. But on the campaign trail they've bowed to pressure that they will review this, if they win the election.

All the main opposition parties have also pledged to review the IR35 changes - as the FT wrote last week.

IPSE has analysed data from the Office for National Statistics and found 186 parliamentary constituencies where there are more freelancers than the current MP’s majority.

• This includes Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Uxbridge seat where the number of self-employed totals 6,600 - larger than the majority Mr Johnson won by in 2017 of 5,034 votes.

• Other Conservatives in the Cabinet who could be at risk include Theresa Villiers who won by 353 votes in Chipping Barnet in 2017; it has a self-employed population of 12,300.

• Senior Labour candidates tend to have larger majorities than the Conservatives. But many Labour northern Brexit-voting seats which are being targeted by the Conservatives could be swayed by self-employed voters.

• These include several “Red Wall” targets, such as Workington, Crewe and Nantwich, Bishop Auckland, Ashfield and Wakefield which are all seats that have higher numbers of self-employed people than the existing majorities.

“The importance of the self-employed vote cannot be underestimated at this election,” said Ryan Barnett, IPSE’s economic policy adviser.

Former Labour MPs call on voters to 'think again'

Fifteen ex-Labour MPs have called on the electorate not to back the party citing concerns that leader Jeremy Corbyn would pose “too great” a risk as prime minister.

In a newspaper advert paid for by Mainstream, an anti-Corbyn political group, the former MPs said they had come to the “difficult decision” not to support the party, and advised people to do the same.

Addressing readers of the Manchester Evening News and The Northern Echo, among other papers based in traditional Labour heartlands, the group wrote:

“Millions of people who have voted Labour all their lives now think the risk of Jeremy Corbyn getting into Number Ten is too great. The party has changed.”

The advert warned of anti-Semitism in parts of the Labour party and the alleged national security threat posed by Mr Corbyn, who “has too often been sided with those hostile to Britain, from the IRA and Russia” it read.

Mr Corbyn has apologised for anti-Semitic incidents involving the Labour party, which he repeated on ITV’s This Morning programme last week.

The list of signatories included Ivan Lewis, the former Bury South MP who was suspended by the party over allegations of sexual harassment; Ann Coffey, MP for Stockport since 1992, who stepped down in October in protest over Corbyn’s leadership; and Gisela Stuart, former chair of the Vote Leave campaign.

Mainstream is registered with the electoral commission as a third-party campaign group allowing it to spend money during the campaign.

Tories to take 43% of vote, new mobile poll predicts

The FT's Daniel Thomas reports:

The Conservatives would take 43 per cent of the country’s votes, according to Brandwatch, using a mobile survey tool called Qriously that it says successfully predicted the Brexit vote and the Labour surge in the 2017 UK general election. Labour trails with 30 per cent, and the Liberal Democrats with 12 per cent.

Taking a representative sample of 2,222 UK adults via smartphones and tablets, and based on registered, decided likely voters, the Conservatives were well ahead in more rural areas, but Labour and the Conservatives were roughly equal in more urban areas.

Among those that said they would vote for Labour, only 71 per cent said that Jeremy Corbyn would make the best leader for Britain.

About 87 per cent of those that voted to leave the EU have stuck to that position (but 13 per cent said they would now remain). When asked what they saw as the most important issues facing Britain today, the NHS and healthcare came top of the poll for both Conservative and Labour voters.

Among Conservative voters, Brexit negotiations and Europe came close second, however, with poverty and inequality a distant eighth. Poverty and inequality was the second most important for Labour voters, followed by Brexit.

Corbyn quizzed on campaign absence from north east

Chris Tighe reports from Middlesbrough:

Jeremy Corbyn's rally this afternoon was held in the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency, to support Labour candidate Lauren Dingsdale, who is trying to win it back from Tory Brexiteer Simon Clarke. He snatched it from Labour in 2017 with a 1,020 majority.

Strangely – at least from a media perspective – John McDonnell has not visited the north east region at all in this election and Mr Corbyn only this once. Asked why, Mr Corbyn said he had been all over the country to 82 constituencies – with some more to go before today is over.

His supporters were delighted by his visit. “Boris Johnson’s actions in the last few days have been disgusting,” said mature student Philip Whitfield. Mr Whitfield will vote Labour in Hartlepool, a seat at risk from the Brexit Party.

“We have a good chance of having a hung parliament,” predicted Mr Whitfield.

Very soon now, we will know.

Corbyn's message of 'hope' to northeast England on final day

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spent his last 24 hours on the campaign trail with a 500-mile dash down the eastern spine of England, hammering home his message about how only a Labour government would end austerity and offer “hope” to hard-pressed citizens, report Jim Pickard in Sheffield and Chris Tighe in Middlesbrough.

The Labour leader’s final trip on Wednesday began in the Govan part of Glasgow with a stump speech as dawn was breaking. The Labour bus then carried Mr Corbyn and his aides south to a rally at Stainton village, just outside Middlesbrough.

A waiting crowd sang, before Mr Corbyn appeared, a rendition of “prime minister Corbyn” to the tune of Seven Nation Army.

“I come here with a message of hope for this country,” he told the crowd, before reminding them of Labour’s pledges on the National Health Service, social care, public ownership of the railways, bus services, homelessness and education.

He alluded to the vilification to which he believes he has been subjected during the campaign.

It’s been 51 days of unbelievable levels of abuse hurled at leading members of the Labour party. If you wish to inhabit the gutter that’s absolutely fine by me but I will not be joining you there.

Afterwards he stopped off in Rother Valley and then Ashfield, which are both major Tory target seats that voted Leave in 2016.

Mr Corbyn told the crowd at Dinnington Resource Centre in the Rother valley that a vote for Labour was a “vote for hope”.

This is the most important election in a generation and people have the chance on Thursday to vote for a government for the many, not the few.

We will put money in your pocket because you deserve it. The richest and big business will pay for it.

Labour government would give a pay rise to 12m people, bring in lower fares and bills, and provide free childcare, he said.

The weird world of the election battlebus

George Parker, Jim Pickard and Sebastian Payne have been touring the country with the campaigns:

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson will step off their battlebuses for the last time on Wednesday evening, consigning the political charabancs that have provided a colourful backdrop (and a mobile home for politicians and journalists) for the last five weeks to the paint shop.

For those caught up in this weird political roadshow, following the main party leaders as they tour the country, the surreal becomes normal. Take for example the Daily Mirror chicken, stalking Mr Johnson on the campaign trail. Police stopped it from crossing the road. Even to get to the other side.

Or Mr Johnson’s ill-fated decision to confiscate a journalist’s mobile phone to avoid having to look at a picture of a four-year-old boy lying on a hospital floor. Michael Gove put this down to “absent-mindedness” — perhaps caused by the fact the prime minister was up at the crack of dawn to cradle a large fish in Grimsby.

After five weeks cooped up on a bus and trying to exert discipline on a prime minister not noted for his iron self-control, Mr Johnson’s press chief Rob Oxley flipped on Wednesday, muttering “for f**k’s sake” on live television as a reporter tried to speak to his boss. Mr Johnson took refuge in an industrial fridge.

Battlebuses play a central role in political culture but they have a prosaic function. “It’s a good way of covering as much ground as you can,” said Paul Harrison, who helped to run Theresa May’s tour in 2017. “Hopefully it’s a comfortable place when you’re covering lots of miles. And it’s a ready-made backdrop.”

The most famous bus of all in British politics — the red Vote Leave coach with its promise of a £350m-a-week NHS Brexit bonus — was evidence of the potency of this form of mobile advertising. Mr Johnson’s blue bus this time predictably declares: “Get Brexit Done.”

Read George, Jim and Seb's full piece here

FT poll tracker

As the parties make one last push for votes ahead of election day the FT's poll of polls still points to a 10-point lead for the Conservatives over Labour.

This latest update takes into account a new poll released today by Opinium which pointed to gains for Labour.

The FT’s poll of polls combines all voting intention surveys published by major British pollsters ahead of the 2019 general election. The trend line uses only the most recent forecast from each pollster and weights them according to when they were conducted.

Overall, after five weeks of campaigning which initially saw the Conservatives pull further ahead, the gap between the two main parties is roughly back where it started.

Johnson's eleventh-hour blunder

James Blitz, FT Whitehall editor, writes:

Is Boris Johnson’s lack of empathy towards Jack Williment-Barr going to cost him a majority tomorrow? As the Conservatives’ poll lead over Labour appears to narrow, some pollsters are wondering whether the prime minister’s apparent heartlessness over the case of a four-year-old boy lying in Leeds General hospital is losing him votes.

To recap: the Conservatives have had a pretty consistent 10 point lead over Labour for much of the campaign. But YouGov’s MRP poll on Tuesday night has suggested that this is starting to tighten.

Two weeks ago, the YouGov MRP poll gave the Tories an 11 point lead over Labour which translated into a Commons majority for the Tories of 68.

Tuesday’s MRP poll shows that is now down to a nine-point lead that would give Mr Johnson a majority of 28.

Marcus Roberts, director of international projects at YouGov, tells me that if the lead narrows by one more percentage point nationally, that would bring the Tory majority down to about 16. If it narrows by two percentage points nationally, that would bring the Tories down to a majority of around four.

Why is this lead narrowing? Mr Roberts says two factors will have helped to contribute to the MRP result. “First we are seeing extreme efficiency in tactical voting that is working against the Tories. Voters who don’t want Brexit are working things out for themselves and self sorting.”

The second reason is the case of Williment-Barr. On Monday, Mr Johnson refused to look at a photo of the boy who had been forced to lie on a pile of coats in a Leeds hospital because of a lack of beds. The image served to highlight the state of the NHS, one of the few areas on which Labour is seen as somewhat more trusted than the Conservatives.

Most of the MRP survey was done before the NHS story broke. But Mr Roberts says: “Boris Johnson’s actions here have done him no favours when it comes to the need to reassure Labour voters in northern marginals to back the Conservatives. Boris was on a mission to reassure Labour voters that it was OK to vote Tory. They may be reluctant to do so when seeing what they feel is his apparent heartlessness.”

This has certainly been a bad end to the campaign for Mr Johnson. Not only did he blunder over the boy in Leeds General. He also faced a broadside on TV on Tuesday night from the father of Jack Merritt, who was murdered in the London Bridge terrorist attack last month. He directly criticised the prime minister for treating his son’s death as a political “opportunity”.

The election result seems to be close. If we have a hung parliament on Friday, Mr Johnson’s actions over Williment-Barr and Merritt could be judged crucial.

Today's election wrap

The top stories from the eve of the UK general election:

• Investors have scrambled to protect against a fall in the pound following the general election as polls suggest the race is tightening. One-week risk reversals in the pound against the dollar — a measure of the premium required to protect against a fall in the currency compared with a rise — have risen sharply over the past week even as sterling held above $1.31 on expectations of a Conservative majority.

• Jeremy Corbyn ended the campaign with a 500-mile dash down the eastern spine of England, hammering home his message about how only a Labour government would end austerity and offer “hope” to hard-pressed citizens

• Boris Johnson closed his campaign with a whirlwind trip across the country, making a last-minute bid for votes in the north-east of England and Wales - targeting critical the “Red Wall” seats he hopes will secure a Conservative majority in parliament.

Roll on election day

The campaigns are finishing up and so are we — for tonight at least.

But make sure you tune back in tomorrow for the big day as the UK once again heads to the polls.

Election Central will be up and running from 7am right through the night, bringing you the latest news and analysis on the results as they come pouring in.

The blog will once again be free to access for all. So bring your friends.

See you tomorrow.

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