Closed Election: Labour minister calls party’s chances ‘dire’ — as it happened

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Live coverage of the UK election campaign.


Good morning

Welcome back to Election Central.

Boris Johnson holds a 10-point polling lead with two days to go. Yesterday’s biggest story was the NHS as the prime minister was criticised for a lack of “empathy” after he refused to look at the photo of a child forced to lie on a pile of coats.

Last night it emerged he plans to fold the UK’s Department for International Development into the Foreign Office if he wins.

Follow our live coverage here throughout the day, where we’ll be bringing you the latest news and insight as the campaign enters the final stretch.


Sterling boon as Tories hold 10-point lead

Two days to go until the general election and the Conservative party is maintaining its comfortable lead in the polls. Labour has made some recent gains, most notably a 4 percentage-point rise last Tuesday from 29 per cent to 33 per cent, the FT’s UK election poll tracker shows.

However they have fallen back as the election approaches. The Tories’ latest lead is 43 per cent. The Liberal Democrats are in third place, 30 points behind the Tories, after seeing support drop since the election was called.

The likelihood of a Conservative majority has proved a boon to sterling as analysts predict that such an outcome will bring greater clarity over Brexit.

The pound has muscled 8 per cent higher against the dollar since early October, pushing above $1.31. The currency has made similar gains against the euro and surged to its strongest since May 2017 against both its peers.


Labour: Underfunding NHS puts ‘lives at risk’

Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said that the case of Jack Williment-Barr, the sick boy at the centre of an NHS storm yesterday, was not a “one-off event”. A row began when Boris Johnson refused to look at a photo of the boy, who had been made to lie on a pile of coats in a Leeds hospital last Tuesday because of a lack of beds.

“I, like any parent, would be furious after being let down by years of cutbacks in the health services,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

We’ve seen in this election campaign other images of elderly people literally wasting away on trolleys and corridors for hours upon hours because they simply can’t get a bed.

Despite denying he was politicising Jack’s situation, Mr Ashworth said such cases were evidence of the Conservative party’s failure to manage the National Health Service properly.

Labour is today releasing research from NHS trust boards in England which it says identifies hundreds of risks to patient safety. The Care Quality Commission says that the overall quality of care that people receive in England has improved in the last year.


Tories defend Johnson’s actions in NHS row

Boris Johnson’s reaction to the photograph of Jack Williment-Barr, was “what you should expect”, said Tory MP Robert Buckland.

“The reaction was clear, unforced and natural, and the apology was forthcoming and fulsome,” he told BBC Breakfast. A row began when Boris Johnson refused to look at a photo of the boy, who had been forced to lie on a pile of coats in a Leeds hospital last Tuesday because of a lack of beds.

Health secretary Matt Hancock subsequently visited the hospital in Leeds where he was heckled by protesters. His actions showed the party were taking the matter “incredibly seriously”, said Mr Buckland.

Reports emerged that an adviser to Mr Hancock had allegedly been assaulted by a demonstrator as they left the hospital. However a video later released on social media showed the man walking into a protester’s arm as he was pointing at something else.


Labour’s four-day week will not be forced on the NHS

Jeremy Corbyn has clarified his party’s position on its proposals for a four-day working week and said it will not be forced on the National Health Service.

There was confusion on Friday in the BBC’s leaders’ debate when Mr Corbyn seemed to contradict shadow chancellor John McDonnell who had said in November the proposal would include NHS staff. Mr Corbyn said there was no plan to bring in a four-day week in the health service.

“Increases in productivity will lead to lower working hours,” he told BBC Breakfast this morning, clarifying the policy.

Pointing to dwindling satisfaction levels and increased waiting times within the NHS, Mr Corbyn said, “The difference is the underfunding of the NHS during austerity.”

He defended his party’s record on the NHS in Wales, blaming cuts decided in Westminster for poor performance. He promised his proposed tax increases will raise the necessary funds for his spending plans.


Emoticon UK economy flatlined in three months to October

The UK economy stagnated in the three months to October, the Office for National Statistics has said.

Rolling three-month GDP showed no growth in October, with the dominant services sector the only positive contributor.

The ONS said:

The UK economy saw no growth in the latest three months. There were increases across the services sector, offset by falls in manufacturing with factories continuing the weak performance seen since April.

Construction also declined across the last three months with a notable drop in house building and infrastructure in October.


Volcano eruption and NHS spat lead the press

The eruption of a volcano on New Zealand’s White Island takes centre stage in Tuesday’s papers as news comes in of dead and missing tourists, knocking the election campaign from the spotlight. A spat over a four-year-old lying on a pile of clothes in an NHS hospital, meanwhile, and Boris Johnson’s reaction creates quite a stir.

The Times, Guardian and the Telegraph use the same picture for their front page:

The rightwing Telegraph points out that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is much closer to becoming prime minister as tactical voting in just 12 constituencies could oust Mr Johnson from Downing Street. Corbyn could win without gaining a seat, the paper says. It adds a story that tells of “rip-off” hospital parking charges topping £250m.

Labour accuses the Tories of “lying and cheating” to distract attention from Mr Johnson’s reaction to the image of the four-year-old boy lying on a hospital floor.

The Guardian adds that Mr Corbyn feels “very happy, very confident” on Labour’s tactics during the campaign.

Another story to head up the Times’ coverage is Mr Johnson saying a Tory government could scrap the BBC licence fee and replace it with a pay-to-watch subscription model.

Paul Volcker, former Fed chair, has died aged 92, while shares in oil boom star Tullow plunge 70 per cent are the top stories in the Financial Times.


Johnson promises to ‘protect’ Nissan in Sunderland

Boris Johnson said that Nissan’s car plant in Sunderland and its supply chain will be “all protected” after Britain leaves the EU, claims that appear to run directly against the carmaker’s own warnings about the future of the site, reports Peter Campbell in London.

In a visit to Sunderland on Monday, the prime minister said: “It’s absolutely vital we protect supply chains, we protect Nissan Motors, we make sure people continue to want to invest in our country.”

As we come out it’s all protected from the point of view of big motor manufacturing investors in our country.

The optimism runs directly against Nissan’s warnings about its UK operations, which are reliant on exports to Europe as well as imported components from Japan and the EU.

Nissan’s European business model, which hinges on its Sunderland site, would be “in jeopardy” if the business faces tariffs when selling cars to the EU, the Japanese carmaker’s European chairman Gianluca de Ficchy has warned in the past.

Nissan has pulled one new model that had been destined for the site, and laid off several hundred workers as sales fall.

It is due to begin making the Qashqai, a sports utility vehicle that accounts for most of the plant’s output and is needed to secure the facility’s future.

The Financial Times has reported the company intends to revisit the decision in the event of a hard Brexit that leads to tariffs and border checks.

This is not the first time the company has been promised protection in relation to Brexit.

A letter to the company from Greg Clark, former business secretary, at the time of its Qashqai investment decision in 2016 promised to try and protect the company’s operations as part of the government’s Brexit negotiations.


Sterling unmoved by flatlining economy

The pound shrugged off the weak economic data out of the UK this morning.

Olivier Konzeoue, FX sales trader at Saxo Markets, said:

Worse than expected UK GDP will have little to no impact today. Now more than ever, the election is the driver for markets, data will take a back seat and any reaction is expected to be muted.

Instead, Mr Konzeoue said opinion polls will continue to drive markets into election day, including a closely-watched update from YouGov this evening.


Emoticon Shadow minister – Labour’s chances are ‘dire’

A prominent Labour frontbencher said Labour’s election prospects were “dire” as he questioned the threat to national security posed by leader Jeremy Corbyn in a leaked recording, posted by the rightwing Guido Fawkes blog.

In the audio tape, Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health minister, said he doubted his own party’s chances of winning the election with Mr Corbyn at the helm.

Outside of the city seats … In the north, they don’t like Johnson but they can’t stand Corbyn and they think Labour’s blocked Brexit. I don’t think there are long-term gains for the Tory party but I can well see them going Tory in this election and if Labour ever got its act together presumably it would fall back.

Among middle-class Remainy people I think Labour is probably doing well but not in big enough numbers to deny the Tories a majority.

When asked about the chances of ousting Mr Corbyn from office he said:

No because we f**ked it up; we f**ked it up in 2016 when we went too early. People like me were internally saying ‘this isn’t the right moment’ but I got kind of ignored. But I don’t think we’re going to get there; In Mansfield, in Ashfield, it’s dire for the Labour party up there, these traditional working areas.

Mr Ashworth has dismissed the tape as “banter” with friend Greig Baker, and that it has been leaked selectively. He told BBC2’s Victoria Derbyshire:

I’m winding him up – I’m joshing with him. It’s banter

Listen to the 11-minute tape here.

*This post has been amended to correct the name of Greig Baker


Hung parliament will ‘significantly’ hit sterling, strategist predicts

A hung parliament will “significantly” depreciate sterling, a currency strategist at SEB says in his outlook as the UK heads to the polls on Thursday.

The pound was recently up 0.1 per cent against the euro at €1.1893, or 84p, and 0.2 per cent higher against the dollar at $1.3174. Sterling this week touched its highest point since April.

A Conservative majority, which Richard Falkenhall sees pushing the pound towards 83p against the euro, has been “mostly discounted”. A hung parliament will drive the currency towards 87p or 88p against the single currency, he says.

A majority for Boris Johnson in Thursday’s election would favour the pound, the senior currency strategist at the leading Nordic corporate bank says, as it would “create a stable political situation and reduce the risk that the Labour party will have any political influence” and will offer “clarity on Brexit”.

He adds however that “we see the risk of renewed GBP weakness in 2020 with a Conservative majority in parliament”.

The reason is that the current withdrawal deal with the EU no longer prevents a hard Brexit if negotiations on the future relationship and a new trade agreement with the EU fail or are delayed.

The uncertainty this would create is likely to weigh on the UK economy and the pound in 2020 just like it did this year.

But a hung parliament would be bad for sterling in the short term but might be a more positive long-term story “if the UK is able to form a coalition and the EU accepts an extension, which would make a second referendum an option. However, currently this seems like a far-fetched alternative combined with a lot of ifs and buts.”


Tories jump on leaked Labour comments

The Conservative party has quickly responded to shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth’s leaked comments in which he writes off Labour’s election chances.

James Cleverly, chairman of the Conservative party, said:

This is an honest and truly devastating assessment of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership by one of his most trusted election lieutenants.

He admits that Labour has blocked Brexit and that is why voters ‘can’t stand Corbyn’. If even Corbyn’s closest political allies think he is unfit to be prime minister, why on earth should voters be expected to put their trust in him and them?


Ashworth: ‘I didn’t mean it’

“It’s banter… it’s joshing,” said Jon Ashworth, shadow health secretary, explaining to BBC journalist Victoria Derbyshire why he told a friend Labour’s prospects were “dire” in a leaked phone call.

I’m trying to say to him, don’t worry – because he’s an activist. It’s a bit like when you say to a friend of a rival football team, ‘don’t worry…’. You are trying to unnecessarily boost their ego and make them become complacent. And now he has gone and leaked it all.

I can’t believe he’s leaked it. We’re supposed to be mates, winding each other up and teasing each other. At one point I call him a ‘Nervous Nelly’.

He’s saying to me Jeremy Corbyn’s going to win, and I’m winding him up back.

I’m saddened that a friend who I spent three weeks going around America with 15 years ago has done that.

Mr Ashworth said he did not mean it when he said the Labour party had ““f**ked” up” by failing to get rid of Mr Corbyn as leader.

“Of course, it makes me look like a right plonker but it’s not what I meant.”


Farage warns on Johnson’s Brexit deal

The FT’s Laura Hughes reports:

Nigel Farage, the Brexit party leader, has claimed the election has “come down to meaningless slogans and promises that are never going to be met”.

Speaking in London on Tuesday, Mr Farage defended his decision to stand Brexit party candidates in Conservative-held seats. “It was a case of putting country before party,” he said.

He also warned that Boris Johnson’s “oven-ready” Brexit deal “will lead to many long years of indigestion”.

“If you think the last three years have been bad, just wait for the next three years.”


Johnson wades in on Ashworth controversy

The prime minister has seized the opportunity to use Jon Ashworth’s unguarded comments as a stick to beat the Labour party with.

It is worth noting that, while the shadow health secretary says a combination of Jeremy Corbyn and the party’s Brexit policy are costing Labour votes, he does not directly link Mr Corbyn’s Brexit stance to his ability to be prime minister.

Here is Mr Johnson’s tweet:


‘Sock puppets’ behind push to discredit NHS bed story, says expert

Partisan “sock puppet” social media accounts have been spreading allegations about the biggest election issue of the past 24 hours – a four-year-old boy made to sleep on a hospital floor – according to an academic expert, writes Andy Bounds, north of England correspondent.

Marc Owen Jones, who researches disinformation, says an organised influence campaign has tried to discredit a story that is causing Conservatives discomfort.

Boris Johnson refused in a live televised interview to look at a picture of Jack Williment-Barr, a suspected pneumonia case at Leeds General Infirmary, leading the Labour party to increase its attacks over cuts to the National Health Service.

Within hours, Facebook and Twitter were alive with allegations that the story was fake, purporting to come from people who worked at the hospital. In fact, many of the social media posts were cut-and-paste jobs and targeted at prominent influencers in the hope they would repeat them.

Prof Owen Jones, who works at Hamid Bin Khalifa university in Doha, told the Financial Times:

It is a co-ordinated influence campaign. It may be 100 per cent sock puppets or it may be bots.

Sock puppets are accounts that pretend to belong to people they are not, such as the person with a friend who is “a senior nursing sister at Leeds Hospital” quoted in many tweets. One person usually operates several.

Unsuspecting genuine users then spread the information, often through local Facebook groups in towns and cities.

Mr Owen Jones said platforms should be regulated and forced to identify and take down false accounts immediately.

The Yorkshire Evening Post, which broke the story, stands by it. The Leeds hospital has confirmed the boy was treated for flu in a chair because no beds were available.

James Mitchinson, editor of the Yorkshire Post, sends a letter to a reader.


Ashworth: ‘Obviously I look a plonker now’

The shadow health secretary has been back out on the airwaves trying to play down this morning’s leaked recording in which he said the Labour party was facing an “abysmal” defeat this week.

Speaking on BBC’s Politics Live, Jon Ashworth said that his comments were intended to “psyche out” his (now former) friend and Tory activist Greig Baker.

He was saying his sources at CCHQ say Labour is doing well. And I’m doing … what Alex Ferguson would do – football manager kind of thing – trying to psyche him out saying: ‘No, you’re going to win, don’t worry about it’.

Cracking jokes and appearing relatively relaxed, Mr Ashworth said his intention had been to make Mr Baker “complacent”. “I’m deliberately throwing the Tory attack lines back at him to say: ‘This is what we’re getting’.”

Obviously I look a plonker now. I was a smart alec. Too clever by half.


London: where to dine like a political player

It is lunch time in London. If you’re a politico (or just want to eat like one) make sure to check out Jim Pickard’s excellent round-up in FT Globetrotter. Hint: It includes a lesser-known sushi joint favoured by our own political editor.

Bon appétit.


SNP could face its most testing period yet, says John Lloyd

The Scottish National party, if it wins decisively on Thursday, is set in 2020 to face its most testing period, writes John Lloyd, FT contributing editor.

In an opinion piece for the FT, Mr Lloyd says that concerns are rising among voters about police and the quality of education in Scotland. This will come as Alex Salmond, the SNP’s former leader, faces trial.

Read the whole piece: Outmanoeuvred, outspent and out-patriot-ed, the dispirited pro-Union parties in the Scottish parliament have, over the years of Scottish National party domination since 2007, defaulted to one main accusation. That is, that the SNP cannot govern properly because it is not a government, but a campaign.


Efforts to prevent foreign manipulation of UK election flounder

Authorities are ill-equipped to deal with interference under current rules, writes Helen Warrell, FT defence and security editor.

Outdated campaigning rules, restrictive data regulations and a failure to publicise the dangers of disinformation are hampering efforts to prevent foreign interference in the UK election, security experts have warned.

Fears about state-backed manipulation of the upcoming poll intensified after social media site Reddit said on Friday it believed an anonymous account which leaked a UK-US trade document was part of a Russian operation directed by the Kremlin.

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn had used the document as proof that a Conservative government would “put the NHS up for sale” after Brexit.

“The government should take the risk of foreign interference more seriously, but so should everyone else,” said Elisabeth Braw, director of the Modern Deterrence programme at the Royal United Services Institute.

Read the full story here


UBS top UK economist ‘relaxed’ on election

Chris Tighe reports from Newcastle:

Amid all the excited talk of this general election’s huge implications, Dean Turner, the UK Economist at UBS, is maintaining his position at what he terms the “more relaxed” end of the forecasting spectrum.

Talking to the FT today in Newcastle during a tour of UBS’s offices in the north of England and Scotland – key battlefields for the Conservative party as it fights for a majority – Mr Turner said he was not anticipating any big sterling price movements on the back of the election result.

With a Conservative victory looking the most likely outcome at present, he expects sterling — which currently sits at $1.3165, having risen over the last week to hit its highest levels since April — to rally to $1.35. UBS has been long sterling for some time and sees no reason why that should change now.

Under a hung parliament, the relatively relaxed Mr Turner – who emphasises he is expressing economic not political views – would expect a second referendum. The worst risk with this prospect is not turbulence but stasis.

The likely scenario here, he says, would be “six months of pretty sluggish growth in the UK economy where business investment can’t sustain any momentum”. He would expect an interest rate cut of 0.25 per cent and some government spending on areas like health and education.

A Labour general election win – not that he expects one – would, again, mean a second referendum. The one event that might have send sterling yo-yoing, as it did when Sunderland declared the first shock Leave vote in the 2016 Referendum on EU membership, would be a no-deal Brexit, but that now appears off the table.

But no matter what happens in the next few days, he says, “sterling still looks a really cheap currency”.


Prime minister seizes on Ashworth’s comments at campaign rally

Boris Johnson again sought to draw attention to the leaked comments of shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth as he addressed a crowd at the JCB factory in Staffordshire this evening.

Calling on voters to remove the “blockage” that he said had “paralysed” parliament when they go to the polls on Thursday, he reiterated Mr Ashworth’s criticism of his own leader:

Jon Ashworth revealed that he thinks his own leader is a security risk. It couldn’t be clearer than that… He made it absolutely clear that Mr Corbyn is failing because he is blocking Brexit. Don’t listen to me, listen to what his own health minister said.

Mr Johnson called on “the whole country to get in the cab” and “remove the current blockage we have in our political system” by giving his Conservative party a parliamentary majority on Thursday. “The choice could not be starker,” he said.

The country can choose between going forward, punching through the deadlock and achieving a brighter future together with a one-nation Conservative party or we can remain stuck in neutral, paralysed with more deadlock, defeatism and drift.

“A Jeremy Corbyn coalition would be an economic disaster for the country,” he said.


Johnson suggests support for HS2

This from the FT’s Whitehall correspondent Seb Payne, was watching Boris Johnson speak just now at the JCB factory in Stafford:


Corbyn looks to bring NHS back centre stage

The Labour leader, meanwhile has been making a last ditch push for Labour votes in the north west of England, before moving north to Scotland later tonight.

Speaking in Carlisle, Jeremy Corbyn sought to bring the focus of the campaign back to the “underfunded” NHS, highlighting Boris Johnson’s gaffe yesterday in which he pocketed a journalist’s phone when pressed to look at an image of a sick child lying on the floor of a Leeds hospital.

We have a prime minister who hides the truth when it’s put in front of him, takes the mobile phone off somebody and sticks it in his pocket.

He also reiterated accusations that the Tories would be willing to put the NHS on the table in any post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

“Our message is quite simply this,” he told a crowd of supporters. “Our NHS is under threat, our NHS is at risk.”


Swinson calls on Johnson to resign in the event of NI border checks

Writes Laura Hughes, FT political correspondent:

Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader, has called on Boris Johnson to pledge to resign if his Brexit deal results in checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Speaking in Kent last week the prime minister said: “There will be no checks on goods from GB to Northern Ireland or Northern Ireland to GB.”

But that claim is contradicted by advice from his own officials. A leaked Department for Exiting the EU document has confirmed checks would be needed and that implementing them by the end of 2020 — on Mr Johnson’s timetable — would be a “major” challenge.

In a letter seen by the Financial Times, Ms Swinson writes:

Given that you are now asking the British people to vote for your party on the basis of your claim that there will be no checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, I ask you this: will you promise – now, before polling day – that if you win a majority, if your Brexit deal is passed, if we leave the European Union on those terms and there are any checks on any goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, you will immediately resign as prime minister?”


If Boris Johnson wins UK election, what risks lie ahead?

A secure parliamentary majority would enable Boris Johnson to take the UK out of the EU by January 31, writes the FT’s Tony Barber. Yet most English advocates of Brexit have shrugged off the implications for the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Brexit would receive support from all Conservative MPs, now that Mr Johnson has purged his party of moderate pro-EU legislators and candidates. It would delight rank-and-file party members.But it would have different consequences elsewhere on the UK’s political landscape.

Surveys of Conservative activists show that a majority would accept the secession of Scotland and Northern Ireland from the UK, if this were the necessary price of Brexit. However, exiting the EU is against the wishes of most people in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A survey of Scottish opinion, published last weekend, showed that a narrow majority of Scots would vote for independence if Brexit went ahead, but would prefer to stay in the UK if it remained in the EU.

In Northern Ireland, Catholic nationalists are anti-Brexit. But even unionists who favour leaving the EU are dismayed at Mr Johnson’s withdrawal deal, which creates a hybrid form of governance for Northern Ireland that risks weakening the province’s ties to the British mainland.

Difficult trade-offs will be necessary to reach even a limited trade deal before the end of 2020. But no one in Mr Johnson’s government has dared to come clean about this during the election campaign.

For more on this, read Tony’s full Brexit Briefing here



Exclusive: Only 1 in 3 Unite members certain to vote for Labour

Barely a third of Unite the Union members are certain to vote Labour in the general election, according to a survey of 75,000 carried out just weeks ago, report Jim Pickard and Peggy Hollinger.

The secret mass poll showed the challenge facing Jeremy Corbyn to win over working class voters in the run-up to Thursday’s general election.

Of those surveyed, 35 per cent were Labour, 19 per cent Conservative, 11 per cent Brexit party and 18 per cent undecided.

The findings are awkward given that Unite is Labour’s biggest single donor, handing the party millions of pounds every years. Len McCluskey, its general secretary, is one of the most powerful figures in the party’s hierarchy.

Unite officials said that the situation had improved since the poll was carried out at the start of the election campaign. A spokesperson said:

This poll of Unite members was carried out about a month ago and is therefore out of date … It’s also important to note that it was carried out among a self-selecting group of our membership, so not entirely representative.

Mr McCluskey disclosed the existence of the private poll last week when he told Huffington Post that it had showed a large number of undecided members. He did not mention that 29 per cent were planning to vote for the Conservative or Brexit party. “There is still a big don’t know group there and that encourages me to an extent,” he said.

The poll also showed that 7 per cent of Unite members planned to back the Lib Dems, 4 per cent were not voting while 2 per cent were voting Green and 1 per cent Ukip.

The sectoral breakdown shows even weaker support for Labour in some specific areas and regions. In the automotive industry the poll found the Tories at 24 per cent, just a whisker behind Labour on 26 per cent.


The bees are back: Extinction Rebellion targets Johnson’s bus

A group of activists dressed as bees glued themselves to the Conservative campaign bus to raise awareness about climate change this evening.

Representing the environmental group Extinction Rebellion, the demonstrators said the Tories had failed to raise the prospect of climate change and the planet’s ecological crisis throughout their election campaign.

The activists forced their way on to the bus as it was leaving a rally at the JCB auto plant in Staffordshire. Boris Johnson was not on board at the time.

Earlier this week the “bees” targeted the election bus of Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat leader, in London, and the Brexit party’s office in Grimsby.


London Bridge victim’s father accuses Johnson of seeing ‘opportunity’ in tragedy

The father of one of the victims of last month’s London Bridge attack has hit out at the prime minister for what he said was an attempt to capitalise on the tragedy.

David Merritt, father of Jack, who died after being stabbed in Fishmongers’ Hall on November 29, said that “instead of seeing a tragedy Boris Johnson saw an opportunity”.

The prime minister called for changes to sentencing laws and an end to the early release of prisoners in the wake of the incident.

Speaking on Sky News this afternoon, Mr Merritt said:

What was required was just a dignified approach whereby the politicians would express their regrets, express their condolences to the people affected and then get on with campaigning in the election. But what he did instead was seize what I think he saw as an opportunity.

Mr Merritt said the only contact the family received from the government was an offer to meet with home secretary Priti Patel to express her condolences, which he described at “crass and insensitive”.

My immediate thoughts were this is going in a direction that is all too familiar where there is an incident like this and suddenly people start jumping on the criminal justice bandwagon.

“I would say that if anybody has a right to say something about this situation then it’s me and his family,” Mr Merritt said. “We have lost Jack.”


Today’s top stories

Here are the main stories from the penultimate day of the UK general election campaign.

• A taped phone call between shadow health minister, Jon Ashworth, and a friend was leaked, in which the Labour frontbencher called his party’s election prospects ‘dire’. Mr Ashworth dismissed the comments as banter which he had not meant.

• The UK economy stagnated in the three months to October, the Office for National Statistics said, with the service sector the only positive contributor. The pound shrugged off the weak economic data with markets continuing to be driven by opinion polls.

• The father of Jack Merritt, who was murdered in the recent London Bridge attacks, accused Boris Johnson of trying to “score election points” out of the tragedy, in an interview with Sky News.

• Labour made a last ditch push for votes in the north west of England centred on the risks posed to the ailing NHS by a Tory agenda.

• Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader, has called on Boris Johnson to pledge to resign if his Brexit deal results in checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

• Nigel Farage, Brexit party leader, defended his decision to stand down candidates in Conservative-held seats, saying the “oven-ready” deal “will lead to many long years of indigestion”.


One day of campaigning to go

We are going to leave it there for this evening.

A reminder that we will be running live coverage of the results as they come in throughout Thursday night and Friday morning.

But before that we have one final day of campaigning ahead of polling day.

See you all tomorrow.