Leaders Scramble For Final Votes As UK’s Ugly Election Ends

uk elections
Britain’s Prime Minister and Conservative party leader Boris Johnson poses as he hammers a “Get Brexit Done” sign into the garden of a supporter, in Benfleet, east of London on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, the final day of campaigning for the general election. (Ben Stansall/Pool Photo via AP)

Britain’s election has been like the country’s late-autumn weather: chilly and dull, with blustery outbursts.

On the last day of the campaign, political leaders dashed around the U.K. on Wednesday trying to win over millions of undecided voters who will likely determine the outcome.

Opinion polls suggest Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have a lead over the main opposition Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn ahead of Thursday’s election. But all the parties are nervous about the verdict of a volatile electorate fed up after years of Brexit wrangling.

Truck driver Clive Jordan expressed a weariness that could be heard up and down the country during the five-week campaign.

“Basically I just want it over and done with now,” he said. “Nobody’s doing what they said. Everybody’s lying.”

Britain’s first December vote since 1923 has been dubbed the Brexit Election. It is being held more than two years early in hopes of breaking Britain’s political deadlock over the country’s stalled departure from the European Union.

Johnson has focused relentlessly on Brexit throughout the campaign, endlessly repeating his slogan “Get Brexit done.” He says that if he wins a majority of the 650 House of Commons seats on Thursday, he will get Parliament to ratify his “oven-ready” divorce deal with the EU and take Britain out of the bloc as scheduled on Jan. 31.

“If we can get a working majority, we have a deal, it’s ready to go,” Johnson said Wednesday as he watched pies being baked at a catering firm in central England. “We put it in, slam it in the oven, take it out and there it is — get Brexit done.”

Labour — which is largely but ambiguously pro-EU — faces competition for anti-Brexit voters from the centrist Liberal Democrats, Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties and the Greens.

“The only reason the Conservatives are so far ahead in the polls now is that the ‘remain’ vote is divided,” said Rosie Campbell, professor of politics at King’s College London. “For ‘remain’ voters it has been a real failure of leadership.”

If the Tories fail to win a majority, it will be a sign that voters think other issues are just as important as Brexit. Labour has focused on domestic issues, especially the wear and tear to the country’s state-funded health service after nine years of Conservative government austerity. Labour also promises to boost public spending, nationalize Britain’s railways and utilities and provide everyone in the country with free internet access — all paid for by raising taxes on high earners.