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UK leaders' eve-of-poll vote push

LONDON, England -- The UK election has entered its final day of campaigning with Tony Blair's Labour Party still on course for victory, despite signs of a narrowing of its lead.

According to an opinion poll published on the eve of Thursday's vote, Labour is expected to achieve a majority of between 170 and 190, less than previous polls have suggested.

The three main party leaders are embarking on a final frenetic day of campaigning in a bid to push up their vote.

Blair, Conservative leader William Hague and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy were all travelling hundreds of miles in punishing schedules in an attempt to communicate with as many voters before polling day on Thursday.

The ICM survey published in The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday showed the Conservative Party, led by William Hague, cutting Labour's advantage to 11 points from 19 points just a week ago.

It put Labour on 43 percent, four points down from last week, the Conservatives up four on 32 percent, and the Liberal Democrats up two on 19 percent.

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Hague kicked off his last day's campaigning insisting the Conservatives could still win.

He told reporters during a tour of London's Smithfield Market: "I don't take notice of polls, whether they go up or down. They are up today, they are down other days. We think this campaign is going well."

Asked about the conduct of his opponents' campaigns, Hague said: "Labour hasn't engaged in the real issues. They haven't wanted a debate.

"Tony Blair has kept calling for an honest debate, but he hasn't wanted to debate with me in this election.

"They are the people who have failed on all the promises they made four years ago and now make the same promises again."

Hague's schedule for the eve-of-poll campaigning includes a speech in London and visits to southern England and his home county of Yorkshire in northern England.

Blair, who will travel to events in England, Scotland and Wales on Thursday, is repeating calls for the maximum possible turn out, urging voters to "put their cross on their ballot paper for continued economic stability in the coming years and to put schools and hospitals first."

He has spent that final days of the campaign trying to play down talk of a landslide victory, fearing that voters may simply stay away from the polls if a Labour victory is made to appear inevitable.

The nightmare scenario for Labour is what happened in 1995 elections in the Australian state of Queensland.

Then, the badly-trailing opposition clinched the election in a stunning upset after warning voters of the perils of a landslide victory for their rivals.

On Thursday night, Blair will return to his Sedgefield constituency, in north east England, where he says he plans to watch England's World Cup qualifying football match against Greece in Athens.

Kennedy, meanwhile, told a news conference: "If you want more investment in education and pensions, cast a vote for the Liberal Democrats."

The Liberal Democrat leader was due to make campaign appearances in south west England, Cheshire and Scotland on the final day of campaigning.







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