Touch and go for Boris in Brexit barrier vote

Top News | 12 Dec 2019

Prime Minister Boris Johnson vows to fight for every vote after polls predicted a close finish to Britain's general election aimed at settling the Brexit crisis.

Britons head to the polls today for the third time in four years, against a backdrop of political deadlock since a 2016 referendum which saw a majority opt to leave the European Union.

Parliament repeatedly refused to accept divorce terms that former prime minister Theresa May agreed with Brussels, forcing her out and bringing Johnson into the fray with a vow to deliver.

The former London mayor and foreign minister has been hammering home his "Get Brexit Done" message to win a majority which would enable him to get the deal approved. He has vowed to take Britain out of the bloc by January 31.

But a closely watched poll showed his Conservative party's lead over the main opposition Labour party had narrowed.

The YouGov study said the Tories were on course for a 28-seat majority in the 650-seat House of Commons under Britain's first-past-the-post system.

On November 27, it forecast a 68-seat majority.

"The margin of error here could put the final number of Conservative seats from 311 to 367," YouGov said.

The lower end of that range would leave Britain with another hung parliament, where the biggest party does not have a majority, and the possibility of Brexit being delayed for years or even canceled in a second referendum.

It could also end the political career of Johnson - a sharply polarizing figure whose appeal to core Tory voters made him the logical choice to replace the increasingly hapless May.

"This could not be more critical. It could not be tighter," Johnson said while helping to load milk bottles onto delivery vehicles on the campaign trail in northern England. "We're fighting for every vote."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, 70, is a passionate campaigner who confounded pollsters by coming within a whisker of winning the last election in 2017.

He has vowed to implement a radically left-wing program to overhaul public services that have been hit by a decade of austerity caused by the global financial meltdown of 2008-09. But his vague stance on Brexit and repeated accusations of anti-Semitism in Labour under his watch have weakened his appeal to voters, according to opinion polls.

Corbyn, who like Johnson is criss-crossing the country in a frantic bid for last-minute votes, told the undecided that they could vote for "hope" today. "We will put money in your pocket because you deserve it. The richest and big business will pay for it," he said.

Corbyn's proposal for Brexit is for Labour to strike a more EU-friendly agreement with Brussels, then put it up to a fresh referendum that includes the option of staying in the bloc.

Polling suggests Corbyn stands almost no chance of winning the election outright and would need smaller opposition support to become first Labour prime minister since Gordon Brown in 2010.

These include the pro-EU Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats, who have promised to cancel Brexit altogether.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Page 27: Omission in Boris spoof ad

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