As we pointed out here on ConservativeHome, this week’s Budget secured George Osborne plenty of encouraging headlines.
If the Chancellor employed the same criteria for political success as Yes Minister’s Jim Hacker – who measured his career in column inches – then Wednesday was a quiet triumph.
However, whilst the Budget is doubtless very important to the nation it is difficult, despite all the sound and fury, to credit it with any immediate political impact. Not that this has prevented people from trying.
This morning’s Times (£), for example, declares that: “Voters have overwhelmingly backed the chancellor’s measures, giving the Tories a two-point lead over Labour, according to the YouGov survey.”
It is true that YouGov has found a two-point Conservative lead in the aftermath of the Budget, and that this represents the gradual overturning of a narrow Labour lead over their last few daily polls.
However, another post-Budget poll from Populus finds the Conservatives falling back three points to hand Labour a three-point poll lead, from being neck and neck previously.
So one polling company finds a Labour lead of one turn into a Tory lead of two, and another a first-place tie turned to a Labour lead of three.
Such perfectly balanced evidence is not a foundation on which confident projections about a “post-Budget bounce” can be easily made.
As the election looms, and the polls remain tight, the temptation is great to latch onto single data points and try to attach great meaning to them (so long as they’re points we like).
But the great majority of one-off polls will not tell us very much on their own. What matters is the trend, and it is too soon to measure the impact of the Budget on the long-term polling trend which already appeared – just – to be tipping towards the Conservatives at last.
Even then, the ever increasing sophistication of political polling is robbing Conservatives of the false comforts of superficially positive returns: for example our failure to translate commanding leads on leadership and the economy into actual vote preferences.
Or as Lord Ashcroft found in his latest round of constituency polling, the fact that our hard-won poll lead appears to be making no appreciable impact in the sort of critical Tory-Labour marginals which may decide the election.
It will thus be some time yet before we can start to really assess how the Budget has been received in the country, and take more time still to see if CCHQ can translate such an ‘air war’ success into the concentrated shifts in opinion that the seat-by-seat fighting of this campaign requires – and it’s only 48 days to polling day.