Boris Johnston told us yesterday that the key factor in deciding the winner a week on Thursday was the gap between the Tories and Labour. He said so long as it stayed at around nine points, then the Conservatives were home and hosed. And he claimed that this gap was still intact, despite the LibDem surge. That optimistic assessment doesn't look quite so good this morning. YouGov has the Tories a mere five points ahead of Labour, 28 to 33. ComRes puts it at just four points, 28 to 32. That result would end in Labour being the largest party in a hung parliament.
Then we get some big news this morning from the City, with the part-nationalised Lloyds revealing that it is now back in profit. Robert Peston informs us that the taxpayer is now in the black, were we to sell our shares today. With the third TV debate on Thursday evening focussing solely on the economy, Gordon Brown could barely have scripted it any better.
The danger signs for the Tories could not be clearer. Despite all the chit-chat about internal Labour strife, of which there is plenty; despite all the speculation about hung parliaments and the dangers therein, this was always going to be a pound in your pocket election. Up till now, Labour has had to rely on proving a negative: that allowing in the Conservatives would damage the future prospects of the economy. All very well, but it had allowed the Tories to accuse them of scaremongering. What the Lloyds announcement gives it is something potentially much better, a proveable positive: that the action taken by the Government has produced results. That more powerful message could help them cut that gap between them and the Tories still further.
The question is whether Brown will be able to communicate this to viewers in the next debate, and on previous form, you'd have to say he won't. But if he can, might there be one more surprise in store in this campaign? Might Brown pip it on Thursday evening? (please note judicious use of the question mark there)
Posted by Eddie Barnes