A defiant Nick Clegg has told supporters a victory for Labour in his Sheffield constituency is “not going to happen”.
The Liberal Democrat leader, who trailed Labour by one point in a recent poll, said he is confident he will hold off the challenge of Labour candidate Oliver Coppard.
In a speech at Banner Cross Methodist Church this afternoon, he accused Labour of trying to “barge in” to the area when they had offered it nothing in the past.
Mr Clegg, who was campaigning with his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, is defending a huge majority of more than 15,000 votes and would normally be considered to hold one of the safest seats in the country.
But recent polls have seen Labour overtake the Tories as the main opposition in the seat.
A study by Lord Ashcroft last month found Labour on 37 per and the Liberal Democrats on 36 per cent in the seat, although Mr Clegg dismissed the findings, claiming his own polling put him firmly ahead.
In a speech to activists to urge them to step up their efforts in the final days of the campaign, Mr Clegg thanked them for their support, saying: “You are the most resilient, resolute and remarkable set of campaigners any MP, any candidate could wish for.
“I have been out with you knocking on thousands of doors over the last several weeks and the reason I know, and the reason you know, that we are going to win is because what the Labour Party don’t understand is you can’t barge into a community - having done nothing for that community ever, in fact short-changing that community - and then vilify the people who picked up the mess that you made in the first place, and blame them, and expect to represent that community.
“It’s not going to happen.”
He added: “You don’t win a general election by just suddenly walking around at the 59th second of the 11th hour and say ‘I don’t like the other lot, I don’t like the difficult decisions the Liberal Democrats had to take because of the mess that Labour created in the first place’.
“That doesn’t compete with the service - day in, day out, week in, week out - we have provided to Sheffield.”
Mr Clegg, who has made increasing nursery-to-college education funding in line with both prices and the rising number of children a red line in any coalition deal, added that Labour would cut £2.5 billion from the budget.
Mr Clegg added: “It is the greatest privilege and honour of my political life to serve this community with you, alongside you. I’m not going to let that go, you’re not going to let that go, so let’s go out and fight for it.”
The comments come as photographs were released today of snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan playing snooker against Labour leader Ed Miliband in Sheffield.
Five-time world champion O’Sullivan, who is backing Labour in the election, spent an hour playing against Miliband.
Mr Miliband is a big fan of O’Sullivan but recently warned him to “watch out” after performing a stunning trick shot during a game with ITV’s Tom Bradby during filming for the Tonight programme.
But he was unable to replicate the success when confronted by the snooker legend, losing 3-0.
Mr Miliband joked afterwards: “I took it easy on him.”