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Party leaders make their pitch in last day of campaigning before local elections

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during a walkabout in Bitterne Village, Southampton, while on the local election campaign trail. Photo by Peter Carey/PA

By Ben Hatton, PA Political Staff

Party leaders are due to visit key electoral battlegrounds on the last day of political campaigning before voters go to the polls on Thursday.

The political fortunes of the major party leaders are likely to be influenced by what voters decide in the polling booths on May 5, with the Conservatives and Labour recently coming under pressure over alleged Covid rule breaches and their plans to tackle cost-of-living rises.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to visit Hampshire on Wednesday, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will be in Wakefield and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey is due to visit areas across the South East.

Meanwhile, party leaders in Scotland will campaign in Edinburgh as they seek to make their case to voters, while tensions are also high in Northern Ireland ahead of the Stormont Assembly elections as the Brexit protocol remains a divisive issue.

Speaking ahead of his visit to Wakefield, Sir Keir accused the Conservatives of “doing nothing” to help with rising energy and food costs.

He said: “The Conservatives are doing nothing to help people now. Instead they’ve made it worse by imposing 15 Tory tax rises – including this month’s national insurance rise on business and working people.

“Labour’s plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis puts money back in your pocket. Our call for an emergency budget would mean action now.

“We wouldn’t go ahead with this unfair Conservative tax hike on working people which is the wrong tax at the wrong time.”

He repeated Labour’s call for an emergency budget and a windfall tax on oil and gas producers.

“On Thursday you can send a message to the Tories that they can’t ignore. Britain deserves better,” he said.

The Liberal Democrats said party leader Sir Ed will target his message towards the “squeezed middle” in visits across the “blue wall” in London and the South East on Wednesday, including Elmbridge in Surrey, which covers Justice Secretary Dominic Raab’s constituency of Esher and Walton.

Sir Ed said the elections are a “chance to send a shockwave from communities around the country to the heart of the Conservative Party”.

“Boris Johnson is not fit to lead the country and he needs to go. At this time of national crisis, we can’t afford to have a law-breaking Prime Minister and a tax-hiking Chancellor,” he said.

Writing in the Express, the Prime Minister said: “I know that families across the country are feeling the pinch as the cost of living rises.

“That’s why we’re focused on growing the economy to address the cost of living, and it’s why keeping bills down and cutting council waste is more important than ever.

“It’s why we gave more than 20 million households a non-repayable £150 council tax rebate this month, paid straight into people’s bank accounts.”

He accused Labour and Lib Dem councils of being focused on “woke crusades to change street names and tear down statues”.

“It’s Conservative councils and councillors across the country who deliver better local services while managing your money wisely,” he said.

Nicola Sturgeon said backing the SNP on Thursday would “put Boris Johnson under real pressure to act now and help families out”.

She said the Conservatives have “run out of excuses for their negligent inaction on their self-made cost-of-living crisis that is hammering families across Scotland”.

“The only thing that will make the Tories sit up and take notice is when they think their own jobs are on the line – and that’s why this election is so important,” she said.

Ms Sturgeon added: “The Tories are neglecting the spiralling cost-of-living crisis – while the SNP are focused at all levels of government to support households through tough times.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The SNP will always be too distracted by their nationalist interests to focus on what your local community needs.” He called for a focus on “local priorities”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Scottish Labour has a plan to tackle the cost of living crisis and bring our country together.”

He added: “At this election you can choose more division and decline with the SNP and the Tories – or you can demand more action with Labour.

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