Labour and Ukip neck-and-neck as Europe goes to the polls

The results of the local and European elections look set to go to the wire, with the last batch of opinion polls putting Labour and Ukip neck-and-neck.

As voters head to the polls today, a YouGov survey had Ukip on 27%, slightly above Labour on 26%.

The Tories were set for a third place finish on 22% and the Liberal Democrats on just nine per cent, suggesting a fifth place finish behind the Greens.

Despite the dismal outlook for the Lib Dems and the Tories it was Ed Miliband who was under the most pressure, with a poor showing cementing the impression he is heading for defeat in 2015.

Labour has had an underwhelming campaign beset by criticism of its anti-Nick Clegg election broadcast, a bland election slogan and a muddled pitch to voters.

Miliband blundered during a local radio interview in which he was unable to identify his party's leader on the local borough council but nevertheless insisted he was doing a "good job".

Pictures of the Labour leader struggling to eat a bacon sandwich filled the inside pages of the press in the closing days of the campaign, in a taste of the hostile and personal attacks he will face from the  media once the general election campaign begins.

If Labour comes second to Ukip in the European elections it will be the first time a main opposition party has not topped the contest since 1984.

Such an outcome would demand a strong Labour performance in the local elections, where vital seats such as Redbridge, Croydon and Cambridge have been flooded with activists.

Labour has been massaging down expectations ahead of the vote by saying that gains of between 150-200 seats would make it a good night. The Tories want Labour held to a figure of more like 475-500 gains, a view which is closer to the opinions of independent election analysts.

In the European elections, Labour will be aiming to win 25%, increasing its MEPS from 13 to 22.

Despite being set for a third place finish, David Cameron's weeks of pushing down expectations have given him considerable breathing room.

Tory backbenchers are usually highly rebellious, but trouble-makers have been silent in the lead up to the vote, most of them having been appeased in advance by the party closing the gap with Labour in general election voting intentions.

Cameron felt confident enough to share a slice of cake with potential leadership challenger Boris Johnson yesterday, as the pair campaigned in Newark in Nottinghamshire for the forthcoming by-election.

There are even hopes the party could pick up some votes from the Lib Dems, with gains possible in southern areas like Kingston upon Thames and Richmond.

A document leaked to the Guardian yesterday suggested the Lib Dems are braced for a complete wipeout in the European elections, with senior party figures being briefed that a failure to win any seats should be "expected" at this point in the election cycle.

The party's best projections would see it win five seats in Strasbourg, cutting its current number of MEPs by more than half.

Voters will cast their ballot in 4,216 local council elections and five mayoral elections, in addition to the European vote.

Some local results will come in overnight, while others will be counted tomorrow morning. The European election results will come in on Sunday night or later. will have a live blog this evening and throughout tomorrow reporting the election results as they come in.