Relief for Cameron as the Tories regain lead in polls
THE Conservatives have restored their lead in the opinion polls following the Liberal Democrat resurgence, according to a poll last night.
ComRes for 'The Independent' and ITV News put the Tories nine points ahead of their Labour and Lib Dem rivals -- the biggest Conservative lead since March, before the general election was called.
It shows the Tories on 35pc, up three points on the last ComRes poll yesterday, while Labour and the Lib Dems both slipped two points to 26pc.
ComRes calculated it would give the Conservatives 299 seats in the new parliament -- still 27 short of an outright majority -- with Labour on 233 and the Lib Dems on 86.
The findings -- if broadly repeated by other polls -- will come as a huge relief to the Tories who have been struggling to counter the upsurge in support for the Lib Dems following Nick Clegg's success in the first leaders' debate.
They will hope their message that anything other than an outright Conservative victory on May 6 could see Gordon Brown returned to No 10 has been getting through.
ComRes interviewed 1,012 adults by telephone on last Sunday and Monday.
Yesterday Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg launched a blistering attack on "reckless and greedy" bankers, seeking to capitalise on his party's remarkable upsurge in the opinion polls.
He insisted that only the Lib Dems had the policies needed to ensure that the banks could never again "hold a gun to the head" of the rest of the economy.
Tory leader David Cameron, meanwhile, was highlighting Conservative plans to cut the benefits of claimants who refuse work. But Children's Secretary Ed Balls last night claimed the Tories were in a state of "collapse" after seeing their opinion poll lead almost wiped out in the majority of polls in the wake of the Lib Dem surge.
These polls from the end of last week showed the Conservatives just slightly ahead of the Lib Dems. Two weekly polls underlined the transformation in the political landscape since Mr Clegg's success in the first of the televised leaders' debates.
Party strategists will be watching closely over the coming days for any signs that support for the Lib Dems has reached a high watermark and is beginning to recede. Mr Cameron responded last night to the recent Lib Dem upsurge by scrapping a planned party election broadcast to issue a direct appeal to voters that they risk getting "stuck" with Labour if there is a hung parliament, as the polls are suggesting.
But Mr Clegg also found himself on the defensive yesterday over expenses for his second home. The Liberal Democrat leader said his Sheffield constituency home was in a state of "complete disrepair'' when he bought it. Speaking in Westminster, he defended his claims for work on his garden, saying it was a "complete eyesore'' when the home was bought.
He was questioned over claims including a new kitchen, gardening work to prune apple and plum trees, a new garden wall and a shopping trip to Ikea for items including cushions.
The Lib Dem leader also had to repay the cost of international phone calls claimed in error.
Mr Clegg said: "I am the MP for Sheffield Hallam. I used the allowance to keep a home in Sheffield."
He added: "I have said very clearly and very openly that my approach to this is that's not my home, it's a home on loan to me from the taxpayer and that when it's sold every single penny of value gained is returned to the taxpayer."