Today marks a month to go until election day, with last Thursday’s leaders’ debate setting the context for this week’s polling. The latest Opinium poll shows that Labour and the Conservatives are tied again on 33 per cent each, while there were particular post-debate boosts for Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage. Other polls reveal that there is no clear consensus between the 7m viewers of the debate about which leader came out on top.
Business issues continue to be high in the news as the start of the new financial year yesterday saw each party trying to position themselves on the side of workers. David Cameron used the start of the tax year to declare that 94 per cent of working households are better off under the new changes, while Nick Clegg has committed the Lib Dems to keep funding increases in the personal allowance. However, Ed Balls is claiming that families are £1,100 a year worse off under the Coalition Government than they had been in 2010.
Europe is also central to this week’s agenda. Making his first intervention of the election campaign, Tony Blair is in his old Sedgefield constituency today to attack the Conservatives over their pledge to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership. At a Sunday Times business event this morning, Vince Cable also confirmed that the Lib Dems do not plan to hold an EU referendum without any further transfer of power to the EU. Both come after David Cameron told voters considering voting UKIP to “come home”.
The devolved agenda, too, will feature. Scotland takes centre stage today at a pivotal moment in the campaign as the four main Scottish party leaders will take part in an STV debate on Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon did well last week, and is expected to do so again tonight, but she’s likely to come under pressure following reports that the SNP would prefer a Tory Government in Westminster. Attempting to make ground on the nationalists, David Cameron will travel to all four nations of the UK to set out his vision of a united UK, while Jim Murphy launches a Labour 10 point pledge card for Scotland.
With just 30 days to go until the election, the adversarial nature of the election is now very apparent. At the weekend Danny Alexander attacked the Tories by revealing that an unnamed Conservative Minister had told his Lib Dem colleagues during a Budget meeting in 2012 “you take care of the workers and we’ll take care of the bosses”. George Osborne, meanwhile, has published independent figures discrediting Labour’s fiscal plans.
We expect this oppositional narrative to intensify over the next few days, not least because the opposition leaders are preparing for a further debate this Thursday and the main parties’ manifestos should be published next week. It remains to be seen whether the opportunity for further debate or for further news coverage on key pledges will be enough for any party to secure an outright victory in May, but we think it unlikely, especially given reports this morning that the manifestos are yet to be signed off.