Election campaign day 42: Tories heading for record defeat, says minister

As party leaders made a final push for votes on the last full day of campaigning, a Cabinet minister said Labour looks likely to get the biggest majority in UK political history.

– Stride throws in the towel

Rishi Sunak has no more loyal Cabinet ally than Mel Stride, who has been sent out to bat for the Tories in countless broadcast interviews during the course of the last six weeks.

But in what may be his last appearance as a Government minister on the morning round, the Work and Pensions Secretary effectively conceded the game was up, with Labour on course for a victory of historic proportions.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride standing outside a building
Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride has warned the Tories are heading for defeat (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

All that was left for the Conservatives, he suggested, was to limit their losses to ensure Sir Keir Starmer was not handed completely “untrammelled” power along with the keys to No 10.

“I have accepted that where the polls are at the moment – and it seems highly unlikely that they are very, very wrong, because they’ve been consistently in the same place for some time – that we are therefore tomorrow highly likely to be in a situation where we have the largest majority that any party has ever achieved,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

His bald admission seemed to take Mr Sunak aback, with the Prime Minister insisting he had not given up the fight, whatever the pollsters were saying.

“I’m fighting hard for every vote,” he said.

“We just saw some analysis which showed that just 130,000 people can make the difference in this election. So, everyone watching who thinks, ‘oh, this is all a foregone conclusion’, it’s not.”

– Quote of the day

– Suppressing the vote

Sir Keir also insisted that he was taking nothing for granted, accusing the Tories of adopting negative tactics aimed at deterring would-be Labour supporters from turning out to vote.

“The Tories have run a very negative campaign and they’re failing to answer the question of what positive change they bring for the country,” he told reporters.

General Election campaign 2024
Sir Keir Starmer with supporters at West Regwm Farm in Whitland, Carmarthenshire, on the final day of the campaign (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“It’s really voter suppression, it’s trying to get people to stay at home rather than to go out and vote. I say if you want change, you have to vote for it.”

Sir Keir was spending the final day of the campaign in the kind madcap dash around the country – visiting Wales, Scotland and England – political leaders traditionally feel is called for on such occasions.

The Labour – and former director of public prosecutions – said he was unfazed by the last-minute appearance of Boris Johnson on the campaign trail describing him as “exhibit A” in the case against the Tories.

“Last night they wheeled out the architect of chaos and division, so I think that just shows the kind of desperate, negative place they’ve got to with their campaign,” he said.

– The inquest begins

The polling stations may not yet have opened but the blame game has already begun among Tories who fear they may be in for a long spell in opposition.

First out of the traps was Suella Braverman, the former home secretary sacked by Mr Sunak, who had little doubt where responsibility lay.

Suella Braverman walking along a street
Former home secretary Suella Braverman said the Tories are ‘haemorrhaging’ votes’ to Reform (Victoria Jones/PA)

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, she said their failure to cut taxes and curb immigration meant they were “haemorrhaging” votes to Reform UK when they should have been making common cause with Nigel Farage’s party.

“We may lose hundreds of excellent MPs because of our abject inability to have foreseen this inevitability months ago: that our failure to unite the right would destroy us,” she wrote.

She predicted there would be “a fight for the soul of the Conservative Party” which would ultimately determine “whether our party continues to exist at all”.

– Picture of the day

Sir Keir Starmer, holding a micropsone, alongside Wales First Minister Vaughan Gething backed by Labour supporters holding placards
Sir Keir Starmer with Wales First Minister of Vaughan Gething (right) and the party’s candidate for Carmarthenshire, Martha O’Neil (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

– Reform part of a ‘similar phenomenon’ to Andrew Tate, says Farage

Nigel Farage donned a pair of boxing gloves as he sparred with former British heavyweight champ Derek Chisora during a final campaign visit to a gym in his Clacton constituency.

Speaking afterwards to reporters the Reform UK leader, expressed regret at the way his party – which has been beset by allegations of racism and sexism – had let some “bad people” stand as candidates admitting it had “all gone wrong” in the past few months.

Nigel Farage, wearing a blue boxing glove, with former boxer Derek Chisora
Nigel Farage with and boxer Derek Chisora (Ian West/PA)

He also used his appearance to claim many young men were turning to the influencer Andrew Tate, who is facing charges of rape and human trafficking in Romania, because they were feeling “emasculated” and that Reform’s rise was part of a “similar phenomenon”.

“Look at the football. You know, they’re told go to Germany, please don’t drink more than two pints of beer – you what? Don’t chant at the football matches – you what? Oh, don’t tell jokes that might offend the Germans, I mean, come on,” he said.

“We are trying to stop young men being young men – that’s why Tate’s got the following he’s got so what I’m doing is maybe a part of a similar phenomenon.”

He went on to insist that Chisora was a “good role model” for young men despite having been convicted of assaulting his then-girlfriend in 2010.

“You show me someone who’s lived a perfect life and never been in trouble. He’s got a huge following in the country and yeah, he is a good role model – imperfect as we all are,” he said.

– Davey gets traction

From paddleboarding to bungee jumping, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey’s election campaign has been an all-action affair.

So it was somewhat surprising that he that began his final day with what was – by Lib Dem standards – a surprisingly muted election stunt.

Sir Ed Davey gives a thumbs up gesture has he climbs out of a tractor
Sir Ed Davey climbs from a yellow tractor on the final day of the campaign (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Sir Ed took to the wheel of a large yellow tractor, doing circuits of a field in Wiltshire to illustrate how his party was targeting the “blue wall” of safe Tory seats.

“We’ve talked about the blue wall in the Home Counties, we’ve talked about the blue wall in the West Country and this is the blue wall across rural Britain – and the yellow tractor is coming for it,” he said.

– Sunak’s porkies

If the pollsters are correct, then Mr Sunak may soon have more time to enjoy lunch than is customary for a hard-pressed prime minister.

However, appearing on ITV’s This Morning, he indicated that he was likely to stick to simple fare, professing his favourite meal was a sandwich.

“You know, I’m a big sandwich person,” he admitted, later telling reporters that he was particularly partial to a club sandwich with “grilled chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise”.

He suggested, however, that he would be making an exception on Thursday night, with a “special election pie” from a local butcher in his Richmond and Northallerton constituency.

Asked what it was like, he explained that it was a “very good pork pie with a special chutney and some cheese as well, on top”.

– Social media moment

With less than 24 hours until polls open, the political parties took to social media to share countdown posts in a last-ditch effort to encourage potential supporters to get out and vote.

Labour posted images of Liz Truss and Jacob Rees-Mogg on X, formerly Twitter, showing the politicians lying in bed while they smile and stare out at the viewer and captioned them “don’t wake up to five more years of the Tories”.

Every hour on X, the Conservatives posted horror movie-style videos featuring ominous music that illustrate various scenarios they argue could occur if Labour won, including a person experiencing a power cut and receiving endless bills through their door.

– What’s happening tomorrow?

Polling stations open across the country at 7am, closing at 10pm when the first exit poll is published.