British political leaders rose early Wednesday to pursue undecided voters on the eve of a national election, zigzagging across the country in hopes that one last push will get the wavering to the polls.
Though opinion polls have consistently shown Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party in the lead, surveys suggest the margin may be narrowing before Thursday's contest. All of the parties are nervous about the verdict of a volatile electorate weary after years of wrangling over Brexit, and increasingly willing to abandon long-held party loyalties.
All 650 seats in the House of Commons seats are up for grabs in the election, which is being held more than two years early in a bid to break the political impasse over Brexit.
Johnson has tried to focus minds on the potential of an uncertain result and a divided Parliament, which would endanger his plan to lead the UK out of the European Union on January 31. He started his day before dawn, helping load milk and orange juice bottles onto a delivery vehicle in northern England.
"This could not be more critical, it could not be tighter — I just say to everybody the risk is very real that we could tomorrow be going into another hung parliament,'' he said.
"That's more drift, more dither, more delay, more paralysis for this country."
The main opposition Labour Party said polls showed that momentum was moving in their direction. The party has tried to shift attention from Brexit and onto its plans to reverse years of public spending cuts by the Conservatives, who have been in power since 2010.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn campaigned in Scotland and urged people to elect a government that would "give real hope."
"In this city of Glasgow, which has some of the poorest people in this country, which has wards which contain the lowest life expectancy all across this country, they need an end to austerity,'' Corbyn said. "They need a UK government that will invest all across the country."
For many voters, Thursday's election is an unpalatable choice. Both Johnson and Corbyn have personal approval ratings in negative territory, and both have been dogged by questions about their character.
Corbyn faces allegations that he has allowed anti-Semitism to spread in the centre-left party, and is seen by some as a doctrinaire, old-school socialist.
Labour was embarrassed on Tuesday by the leak of a phone recording of the party's health spokesman suggesting that the party would lose Thursday's election because voters "can't stand Corbyn."
Jonathan Ashworth said his unguarded remarks were merely banter with a Conservative friend.
Johnson has been confronted with past offensive comments, broken promises and untruths. This week he was caught out making a ham-fisted and seemingly unsympathetic reaction to a picture of a 4-year-old boy lying on a hospital floor because no beds were available.
Johnson ally Michael Gove said Wednesday that the prime minister was deeply concerned with the boy's plight but had suffered "a single moment of absent-mindedness."