Cameron embarks on marathon tour of Britain in last-ditch bid for votes

Kenneth Clarke admitted the Conservatives had only a "slim" chance of securing an overall majority in tomorrow's general election as the party launched a desperate last-minute effort to pass the winning post.

With time running out to capture millions of wavering voters, David Cameron dispensed with sleep and campaigned across the North of England through the night.

Tensions are running high within Conservative high command as polling approaches despite recent signs that the party's opinion poll rating is hardening. Although Tory strategists insist they are receiving better feedback on the doorsteps than the polls suggests, one source said: "We're not there yet, but still hope to be by Thursday."

The party's private anxieties were publicly confirmed by Mr Clarke in an interview with the website The Shadow Business Secretary said: "I think there's a still a slim chance we can get an overall majority, which I would very much like to see. It is very difficult to read because the electoral geography is quite local and it is a complicated breakdown of voting which is taking place. But my hunch is we're still in with a chance of getting a parliamentary majority."

Mr Cameron was due to meet night-shift workers – including firefighters, bakers and florists – in Carlisle, Darwen and Wakefield before heading to Grimsby this morning to greet the town's fishermen returning to port. In a final sweep through marginal seats today, the Tory leader will head for the East and West Midlands and Wales, before closing his campaign with a rally in the South-West.

The punishing schedule was designed to reinforce the message that Mr Cameron has the energy and drive to win the most unpredictable election in a generation.

A nine-minute video was emailed yesterday to 500,000 people comparing New Labour's ambitions upon taking office 13 years ago with its record. It highlights knife crime, child poverty, the recession, national debt, sleaze and government waste.

Yesterday Mr Cameron flew into Belfast to energise his Ulster Unionist sister party with assurances that a Tory government would not target Northern Ireland's extensive public sector for particularly tough cuts.

Mr Cameron, who arrived late because of flight disruptions caused by the volcanic ash cloud, repeatedly stressed his commitment to the union between Britain and Northern Ireland. He declared: "We are showing that we are the party of the union. I will never be neutral on the union." He received resounding cheers from a unionist audience when he vowed: "There is no way Northern Ireland will be singled out over and above any other part of the UK."

The Tory leader promised to study ways of turning Northern Ireland into a enterprise zone, of attracting more investment and of helping investors who lost investment cash in a Presbyterian society.

His sentiments will cause murmurs of anxiety in non-unionist circles, since his words might be taken as signalling that a Conservative government would not seek to observe equality between unionist and nationalist traditions.

Mr Cameron's declaration that the Tory-Ulster Unionist partnership has created "a dynamic new electoral force" has not been borne out by opinion poll evidence, which indicates that Peter Robinson's Democratic Unionists will continue to dominate the unionist landscape.

A Belfast Telegraph poll suggests in fact that the Ulster Unionist party may win none of Northern Ireland's 18 Commons seats. Such a result would obviously be of no help to Mr Cameron in a hung parliament.

He can expect no assistance either from nationalists such as the Social Democratic and Labour Party, which is aligned to the British Labour party.

Sinn Fein, which is expected to hold at least four of its five Commons seats, has a policy of abstentionism stretching back a century or so, its members never taking their seats and never voting.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine