With just over six weeks to go to polling day, the mood of the parties is now largely determined by the opinion polls. This morning’s crop are a mixed bunch. Survation for the Mail on Sunday has a 4 point Labour lead, YouGov has Labour two ahead but Opinium has the Tories on 36% and ahead by three.
What seems clear is that the Budget hasn’t had a decisive impact on the polls. Yet most Tory MPs, including those who’ve been highly critical of Osborne in the past, are happy with it. One senior backbencher told me, ‘Burnishing a reputation for responsibility is more valuable than anything else. Glitzy giveaways wouldn’t have worked.’
But the lack of a Budget bounce has, I say in the Mail on Sunday added to the sense on the Tory side that they are more likely to be the largest party than win an actual majority. As one Secretary of State says, ‘we’re much more confident about being the largest party than winning an actual majority’.
Number 10, for its part, is urging Tories to hold their nerve, arguing that voters won’t really tune into the election until after Easter. But on the Labour side, there’s a growing confidence borne of the fact that they are still in the game.
Yet with neither side landing knock-out blows on the other, this election campaign is going to be a case of both parties trying to grind out a result.