Gordon Brown will attempt to turn the election spotlight on his rivals' lack of experience as the party leaders prepare to debate the economic crisis in a final televised encounter next week.
Labour strategists are preparing to drive home the message that a Tory victory would jeopardise the tentative recovery and cost jobs.
They are also aiming to focus on Labour plans for the public services, beginning with a health rally to be addressed today by Mr Brown.
However, they are acutely aware that time is fast running out for the party to improve on its lamentable opinion poll ratings of around 25 per cent, below the level of support obtained by Michael Foot in Labour's disastrous 1983 election campaign.
The Prime Minister's allies yesterday claimed that approval ratings for Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, had peaked and Mr Brown would be the main beneficiary.
The Prime Minister underlined his warning about "novices" running the country at a press conference called yesterday, in response to official figures showing the economy grew by 0.2 per cent in the first three months of the year. But he was forced to defend Labour leaflets warning the Tories would cut benefits to the elderly, such as winter fuel payments and free eye tests. The leaflets were angrily denounced by David Cameron, the Tory leader, as "lies".
Mr Brown retorted yesterday that it was legitimate for Labour to raise such subjects, as the Conservatives had avoided them in their manifesto.
The Prime Minister, who said during the TV debate that he should be counted out if it was "all about style and PR", yesterday made clear he was preparing to contrast his long service in government with the other leaders' youth. "I believe that there is one leader in this campaign with the experience, the judgement, the record and the team to be trusted with the recovery at this uncertain and fragile time.
"Leadership, I have found, is being steady under fire. It is about getting the big calls right. Novices cannot today be trusted with the economy."
Lord Mandelson, Labour's campaign chief, mocked Mr Cameron and George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, as "just a couple of kids in short trousers". Later, Mr Brown insisted the Government was putting in controls on the banks which would prevent a repeat of the fiscal crisis of autumn 2008.
He said he was confident the moves would result in "greater responsibility, closer supervision and a return to bankers taking far greater care with the money of others".
The Prime Minister also suggested that British taxpayers should be in line for compensation if allegations of fraud at Goldman Sachs were true.
"I say 'no more RBS getting out of control, no more of the kind of scandal we've seen this week at Goldman Sachs'. Because the latest scandal at Goldman Sachs reminds us of how much we still need to agree internationally on banking standards....
"If what happened at Goldman Sachs and any other bank is proven to be wrong, then hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation should be paid to British banks and, because we are the biggest shareholder in many of them, to the British taxpayer."
Two down, one to go
According to most of the opinion polls, Gordon Brown improved his performance more than the other two leaders in the second debate. He sounded less wooden, played the statesman card and was more prepared to take on both David Cameron and Nick Clegg. No more "I agree with Nick".
He delivered too many obviously prepared lines – as was shown by a photograph revealing a crib sheet of possible jokes on his lectern. He still has a slightly sinister habit of grinning at the wrong moment, for instance during a discussion about child abuse.
Tips for the final debate
He has to show why, after 13 years, it is still not time for a change. To do this, he must play up his experience (easier during the last debate, which will be on the economy) and reinforce the fears of some voters that the Conservatives remain the nasty party that will prioritise looking after the rich.Reuse content