Brexit versus public services: rival British leaders make final campaign push

Boris Johnson remains on track for parliamentary majority in many opinion polls

In this photo issued by ITV, Boris Johnson, left, and Jeremy Corbyn, shake hands during their election head-to-head debate live on TV, in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.  Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are set to go head-to-head in their first live televised debate Tuesday evening, as the UK prepares for a General Election on Dec. 12. (ITV via AP)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will travel to the heartlands of Brexit Britain in a final campaign blitz ahead of Thursday’s election, as he seeks to secure the parliamentary majority he needs to take the country out of the EU.

“We have just three days to make that a reality, three days to break the deadlock and avoid a hung Parliament, three days to get Brexit done,” he will say on Monday in Sunderland, north-east England.

The city was one of the first places to declare its residents had voted for Brexit after a referendum in 2016.

While Mr Johnson has made the December 12 election chiefly about ending the divorce from the bloc, the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn has focused on promises of sweeping economic steps to benefit struggling Brits.

Labour will pledge on Monday to start delivering on its plans to end public spending cuts and begin nationalising industries within 100 days of taking office.

Mr Johnson is ahead in opinion polls and forecast to win the 320 or so parliamentary seats he needs to finalise the EU divorce by January 31.

But with many areas expected to be very tight contests, even a small change in public opinion could cost him an outright majority.

That would lead to a hung Parliament that many expect to result in a temporary government led by Mr Corbyn.

This would mean the Labour leader would have limited powers to enact his economic reforms, but would have smaller parties backing him to hold a second Brexit referendum.

Labour, which would need a huge last-minute swing in public opinion to claim a majority, has promised to negotiate a new Brexit deal with the EU and then to give voters a choice between that or staying in the bloc.

Mr Corbyn’s campaign has centred on appealing to voters who are frustrated after almost a decade of spending cuts by successive Conservative-led governments.

Labour is offering more public spending paid for by higher taxes on companies and the wealthy, hundreds of billions of pounds of infrastructure investment funded through borrowing, and a programme of nationalisation.

“When we win power it, will be to give it to you,” Labour’s would-be finance minister John McDonnell will say during a speech on Monday.