Tory efforts to snatch key marginal seats in the North needed for a general election victory appeared to be working today as a poll showed they had secured an eight-point swing.
A survey of voters in 32 Labour-held constituencies by YouGov for the Daily Telegraph put David Cameron's Conservatives on 42 - a lead of six points compared with a 10-point deficit in 2005 (34 per cent to 44 per cent).
The turnaround is greater than across the country as a whole and would be enough to defeat Labour MPs in every one of the seats which are being targeted by a drive from Tory HQ.
Nationally, the poll gave the Opposition a 10-point lead by 39 per cent to 29 per cent - insufficient for a working majority in the Commons if repeated across the country.
But the poll will be seen as evidence that a strategy, led by party vice-chairman Lord Ashcroft, of targeting campaigning on key marginals is working.
It also suggests that the Tories are tapping into the working class vote, trailing by just two points among that section of the marginal seat voters by 40 per cent to 38 per cent.
However, 61 per cent said the Tory plan to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1million showed they "mainly want to help the rich, not ordinary people".
While Mr Cameron enjoyed a 13-point lead over Gordon Brown as the person who would make the best prime minister, marginal voters did not feel he understood their problems any more than his Labour rival (37 per cent each).
Nor do many expect a Cameron-led government to improve education (26 per cent), the NHS (22 per cent) or crime (19 per cent)
They were also gloomier than the national average over the prospects for their personal finances and 40 per cent said they believed government policy would make no difference or make things worse.