Election 2019

General election 2019: Parties concentrate on key messages as election day nears

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright PA Media/AFP/Getty Images

Labour and the Tories are focusing on key messages around the NHS and Brexit in the final days of the campaign.

While Labour talks about under-funding risks to patients, the Conservatives are promising an end to "gridlock".

But it is not all plain sailing, as a recording has been leaked of shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth criticising Labour's election chances.

And Boris Johnson is still facing criticism over his reaction to an image of a sick boy on a hospital floor.

Party leaders are campaigning in key constituencies, with Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson telling campaigners in Bath that her message to stop Brexit was part of a "fight for the soul of our country".

She added: "This is about whether we are open or closed, generous or selfish, whether we reach out and work with others or pull up the drawbridge."

And the SNP is proposing legislation to protect the NHS in Scotland from "exploitative" trade deals, with Nicola Sturgeon warning Mr Johnson poses the greatest threat to Scotland of "any prime minister in modern times".

In other election developments:

'On the brink'

Labour is pledging a "relentless focus" on the health service if it wins power after Thursday's poll, promising changes in the first 100 days.

The party says reports produced by NHS trusts in England this month show a health service "in crisis and on the brink".

An analysis it has conducted of more than 120 NHS trust board papers identified hundreds of risks to patient safety classed as "catastrophic" or "extreme".

The majority were linked to spending, staff shortages or failures of privatisation, the party said. It promised that a Labour government would conduct an immediate audit of the risks revealed.

The BBC's Reality Check team said the quotes from the NHS boards were genuine but did not give the nationwide picture, which was more mixed.

Speaking in Carlisle, Mr Corbyn said there were four million people waiting for operations on the NHS, along with "a mental health care crisis and social care crisis".

He added: "I do not blame the nurses, I do not blame the doctors, I do not blame the health service.

"I blame the government that has underfunded our NHS."

Image copyright Reuters

However, the leaked recording of Mr Ashworth - which shows him telling a Tory activist friend the situation for Labour was "dire" and the party had made a mistake by not getting rid of Mr Corbyn as leader - has distracted from the campaign.

Mr Ashworth has insisted his apparent criticism of the Labour leader was "banter", telling the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire he was "joshing" when he told his friend that he thought there was no way Labour could win the election.

He also apologised to Labour members on BBC Politics Live.

Mr Corbyn said it was "not the sort of thing I would do", but claimed the story was "irrelevant" and Mr Ashworth was "making jokes".

He said the reports on the comments were "just trying to deflect away from the Tories' mess of the National Health Service".

'Clear and present' danger

The prime minister is trying to keep the focus on Brexit and the "danger" of another inconclusive result in Thursday's election.

Speaking at the JCB factory in Staffordshire, Mr Johnson said that without a working majority for the Conservatives it was "very hard to see" how the UK could leave the EU, and he was "fighting for every vote" to stop a hung Parliament.

He said backing him will allow the country to go forward, "punching through the current deadlock and achieving a brighter future together".

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWATCH: Boris Johnson warns of coalition "disaster"

But there is distraction for the PM too, as he continued to face criticism over his response to a photograph of a four-year-old boy sleeping on the floor of a Leeds hospital due to a lack of beds.

On Monday, an ITV reporter tried to show Mr Johnson the picture on his phone, but the prime minister initially refused to look, before taking the device and putting it in his pocket. He later looked, returned the phone and apologised to the family.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMoment Boris Johnson put ITV reporter's phone in his pocket

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday that the "family want their privacy to be maintained" and for their son Jack "not to be used as a political football".

He said the prime minister expressed "sorrow and regret" for what he saw and apologised to the family, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock also went to Leeds to apologise.

There were a number of angry protesters outside the hospital who shouted at Mr Hancock and his team when they left.

Two sources told journalists that one of Mr Hancock's advisers had been punched by one of the activists, but footage later showed that had not happened and instead that the aide had walked into a protester's outstretched arm.

Challenged on the footage, Mr Buckland said he did not know "who briefed what to whom", adding "what I saw was a very confusing scene of public disorder".

Mr Corbyn has denied politicising Jack's case, but said the incident "says an awful lot about the NHS" and the "shortage of staff".

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionElection explained: Hugh Pym on what to look out for on the NHS

What are the parties promising you?

Use this concise guide to compare where the parties stand on key issues like Brexit, education and the NHS.

General election manifesto guide

Follow election night on the BBC

  • Watch the election night special with Huw Edwards from 21:55 GMT on BBC One, the BBC News Channel, iPlayer
  • As polls close at 22:00, the BBC will publish an exit poll across all its platforms, including @bbcbreaking and @bbcpolitics
  • The BBC News website and app will bring you live coverage and the latest analysis throughout the night
  • We will feature results for every constituency as they come in with a postcode search, map and scoreboards
  • Follow @bbcelection for every constituency result
  • From 21:45 GMT, Jim Naughtie and Emma Barnett will host live election night coverage on BBC Radio 4, with BBC Radio 5 live joining for a simulcast from midnight

More on this story