The first poll to be released since the formal start of general election campaigning gave the Conservatives a narrow two-point lead over Labour - but suggests Ed Miliband is closing the gap on David Cameron in personal terms.
Tory peer Lord Ashcroft’s latest weekly survey showed his party gaining three points to 36 per cent on last week - when the two main parties were neck and neck - with Labour up one on 34 per cent.
Liberal Democrats shed two points to stand at 6 per cent and Ukip suffered a similar drop to 10 per cent - its lowest since the weekly series of polls began in May 2014. The Greens leapt back in front of the Lib Dems, up two points to 7 per cent, while the SNP fell two points to 4 per cent.
It came as Labour’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls yesterday criticised his party’s election chief for suggesting the party may borrow more should it win the election. The shadow chancellor insisted the Opposition has no plans to fund manifesto proposals with “additional borrowing”, adding he was clear they wanted to not only balance the current budget but deliver a surplus in the next parliament.
The remarks follow Conservative accusations of Labour “letting the cat out of the bag” on plans to increase state borrowing, after election campaign vice-chairwoman Lucy Powell said the party “may use some investment borrowing”.
Unlike the Tories, who have committed to balancing the overall budget by 2017/18, Labour has promised only to eliminate the current deficit on day-to-day spending by the end of the next parliament, leaving open the option of borrowing money to invest in capital projects.
Meanwhile the Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy will today (Tuesday) a plan to end the need for food banks, as figures show more than 60 children a day are relying on food hand-outs.
Figures show that in 2013/14, 22,387 children used food banks in Scotland, equating to at least 61 youngsters a day, the party said.
The Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg ruled out any rise to VAT. He said: “Our plans don’t need any increase in VAT or the headline rates of national insurance, income tax or corporation tax,” he said.
The Lib Dems also said that five “five green laws” would be at the heart of any future coalition negotiations.
Labour unveiled its first high-profile celebrity endorsement yesterday with actors Martin Freeman and David Tennant appearing in its first party election broadcast - but the Tories immediately criticised the choice of Freeman following controversy over his partner Amanda Abbington’s tax affairs.
The Mr Selfridge star was declared bankrupt in 2013 over a £120,000 tax bill despite Freeman, with whom she has two children, possessing an estimated £10 million fortune.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies