Boris Johnson restates immigration pledge as lead in polls narrows

Four opinion polls put Tory Party between eight and 15 points ahead of Labour

British prime minister Boris Johnson, pictured at the BBC leaders’ debate on Friday,  dodged a question on if he would resign if he failed to win a majority.   Photograph: BBC/PA Wire

British prime minister Boris Johnson, pictured at the BBC leaders’ debate on Friday, dodged a question on if he would resign if he failed to win a majority. Photograph: BBC/PA Wire

 

British prime minister Boris Johnson said he was nervous about his narrowing lead in opinion polls ahead of Thursday’s election as he pledged to deliver a “transformative” Brexit on January 31st that would lower immigration numbers.

“Brexit is the most radical and profound change to the management of this country,” Mr Johnson told Sky, adding that he would lead the United Kingdom out of the EU on January 31st if he won a majority in the 650-seat parliament.

“Brexit is indispensable - you can’t move forward without Brexit,” he said.

Voting begins at 7am on Thursday and polls close at 10pm when an exit poll will give the first indication of who has won. Mr Johnson will likely need more than 320 seats to ensure he can stay prime minister and ratify the Brexit deal he struck in October.

Opinion polls, which largely failed to predict the 2016 referendum result or Theresa May’s loss of her majority in the 2017 snap election, show Mr Johnson leads Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, though the lead has narrowed in recent weeks.

A projection by Datapraxis in the Times newspaper, in which a YouGov poll gave the Tories a 10-point lead, put the cushion at 38 seats. Its previous analysis put the majority at 48.

A Savanta ComRes poll for The Sunday Telegraph, showed that the Tories’ lead fell to 8 percentage points, back to where it was shortly before the starting pistol was officially fired on the campaign. That would be enough for a parliamentary majority of 14, the report said.

Asked if he was nervous about narrowing polls, Johnson said: “Of course, we are fighting for every vote. I think that this is a critical moment for this country.”

Four opinion polls published on Saturday put the lead of Johnson’s Conservative Party over the Labour Party at between eight and 15 points.

No major poll shows Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will win.

But Labour could still lead a minority government if it deprives Mr Johnson of a majority as few other parties are willing to prop up a government led by the current prime minister. Labour proposes negotiating a new deal and then holding another EU referendum.

Mr Johnson dodged a question on if he would resign if he failed to win a majority and dismissed questions suggesting that after nearly a decade of Conservative-led rule, he was offering little to voters beyond Brexit.

“Trust in politics has been undermined,” he said. “It’s been undermined by people who for three and a half years... promised to deliver Brexit and then didn’t.”

Echoing the Leave campaign pledges of the 2016 referendum, Mr Johnson promised lower immigration with a points-based Australian-style system.

“Numbers will come down because we’ll be able to control the system in that way,” Mr Johnson said, adding that his focus would be cutting down on unskilled migration, but that there would be scope for high skilled and other workers to come to Britain.

Mr Johnson was criticised by broadcaster Andrew Neil for refusing to commit to an interview with him for his BBC show, telling viewers he wanted to put “questions of trust” to the prime minister.

Among the questions asked by Sky of Mr Johnson was what was the naughtiest thing he was ready to admit to. Mr Johnson initially asked advisers for suggestions before replying: “I think, I, you know, I may sometimes, when I was riding a bicycle every day, which I used to do, I may sometimes have not always have obeyed the law about cycling on the pavement.” - Reuters