Johnson heads for Brexit election win in tightening race

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The December 12 election has been described by all parties as Britain’s most important in memory

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on course to win Thursday’s election though the race has tightened markedly and he can no longer be sure of a majority, according to opinion polls published on the eve of the vote.

The December 12 election has been described by all parties as Britain’s most important in memory, with Johnson calling for a big majority so he can swiftly pull Britain out of the European Union next month.

The main opposition Labour Party promises a new referendum on Brexit as well as a renationalisation of utilities and railroads in its most left-wing platform for decades.

YouGov, which accurately predicted the outcome of the last election two years ago with an elaborate survey that estimates the outcome in individual constituencies, cut its forecast for Johnson’s likely parliamentary majority by more than half to 28 seats. Two weeks ago it had forecast a majority of 68.

Possible outcomes range from a landslide victory for Johnson to a hung parliament with no party in control, YouGov said, given the possibility of “tactical voting” in dozens of closely fought constituencies to deny a Conservative victory.

“It could not be tighter,” Johnson, the face of the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, said on Wednesday when asked about the opinion polls showing a tighter race. He delivered milk to voters before sunrise.

In a last minute pitch for votes, both Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn went on whistlestop tours of the country.

Corbyn called on voters to reject the politics of despair and division he said the Conservatives had sown and urged Britons to vote for justice and equality.

The YouGov model indicated Johnson’s Conservatives were on course to win 339 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons with 43% of the vote, versus Labour’s 231 seats with 34% of the vote.

While that would be the Conservatives’ best performance in seat terms since Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 victory, YouGov said the Conservatives’ tally could fall anywhere from 311 to 367.

Sterling fell sharply immediately after the poll, hitting as low as $1.3107, a drop of more than half a cent in Asian trading. In London it was last at $1.3117, down 0.3% on the day. Half a dozen opinion polls were due on Wednesday.

An Opinium poll showed Johnson’s lead over Labour had narrowed to 12 percentage points from 15.

Brexit paralysis

Johnson called the snap election to break what he said was the paralysis of Britain’s political system after more than three years of crisis over how, when or even if to quit the EU.

He has promised to “get Brexit done” by January 31 if he wins a majority. Corbyn has said he will negotiate a new Brexit deal maintaining closer trade and financial ties with the EU, and then grant a new EU referendum.

Polls open at 0700 GMT on Thursday and close at 2200 when an exit poll will give the first indication of who has won.