Polling day: Candidates fight until end
FIGHTING to the bitter end, the three candidates vying for Westminster North refused to give an inch in the vital few days before the elections. It has been a closely fought campaign fraught with intrigue throughout. It began with a high-p
FIGHTING to the bitter end, the three candidates vying for Westminster North refused to give an inch in the vital few days before the elections.
It has been a closely fought campaign fraught with intrigue throughout.
It began with a high-profile resignation and rapid return by Conservative candidate Joanne Cash.
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And it has ended amid accusations of scaremongering and a string of visits from top politicians including shadow minister Chris Grayling, Foreign Secretary David Miliband and even the Prime Minister himself (see stories on facing page).
Battling to keep hold of her seat after a boundary change swung the constituency towards the Conservatives, Labour incumbent Karen Buck has used every resource at her disposal to pull in the votes.
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But with her rival Joanne Cash given a 65 per cent chance by the oddsmakers all her efforts may be to no avail once the final results are in.
However, even with this very real possibility of losing her seat, Ms Buck attested that she was still hopeful - if a little tired.
"I feel extraordinarily good," she said. "We're just running this brilliant campaign. We've had hundreds of people getting out there and delivering leaflets for us.
"This has been one of the liveliest campaigns in the country and I just feel fantastic.
"But I'll be relived when it's over because it's not just been four weeks of campaigning - it's been four years and it's been a bit more bruising this time."
Liberal Democrat candidate Mark Blackburn was equally buoyant - even though his party has not had an MP in Westminster since the time of Queen Victoria.
He said: "We're very positive. I've just leafleted Northumber-land Place and there were five houses with Lib Dem posters - and not one Tory.
"We're just getting more leaflets out there to people and doing more canvassing. We're just keeping it going up until the end.
"I think it's all to play for. This election is more uncertain than any election that I remember and if everyone has the courage to go with their convictions then it could be a very interesting result.
"As long as they don't get scared off by the right-wing press."
With the pressure mounting on her to win a seat which is number 61 on the Tory's hit-list, Ms Cash has also been going hell for leather on the campaign trail.
She has every reason to be cheerful with the fantastic odds she has been given to win.
But her reluctance to approach the final days with the assured stance you might expect gives some indication of how Westminster North could still go down to the wire.
"Whatever the result of the parliamentary election, I want to have made a real difference to our local community," said Ms Cash.
"The three and a half years that have passed since I was selected to fight Westminster North have been the most amazing of my life.
"The last fortnight has been incredible, we had an avalanche of new volunteers kindly giving up their own time to help ensure our positive message reaches as many people as possible."
She continued: "I can honestly say we have given this campaign our all and we could not have worked harder.