The Budget will be rich in positive news – the deficit halved as a proportion of GDP, more people in work than ever, and improved economic growth. But don’t expect an immediate shift in Tory polling numbers.
Changes to personal tax allowances and welfare caps will be aimed at fostering the credibility of the chancellor’s beloved long-term economic plan. He may also target spending at infrastructure projects and regional initiatives to shore up the Tory vote in target marginals.
Winning the shoot out between the Conservatives and Labour on economic competence will not be the only objective. Osborne will also back measures important to his Liberal Democrat coalition partners since many of their voters have drifted to Labour – threatening seats that were won by the Tories in 2010.
This Budget will boost the Tories’ chances of emerging as the largest party on 8 May – but they still have a job to hammer home the risks of a Labour government.
Tom Mludzinski, head of political polling at ComRes, says No
The one event that moved the polls more than any other in this Parliament was George Osborne’s now infamous “omnishambles Budget” in 2012. As the chancellor’s pasty tax and granny tax unravelled, so did the Tories’ reputation for economic competence, and Osborne will need to avoid that happening again.
Before 2012, however, the promise to cut inheritance tax was another poll-shifting moment. So the opportunity is there for the chancellor to pull a show stopping rabbit from the hat. But voters are becoming ever more cynical and can smell a rat – or a rabbit – if they see something suspicious.
Unless there is something that immediately hits the wallet of the voter in a real and obvious way, it is unlikely that the benefits of any announcement will have much impact by 7 May. The Budget alone won’t hand the Conservatives a victory. They have been rebuilding their political credibility slowly, and the chancellor will need to be careful not to blow it all in one go.