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Changing the Narrative: The Challenge of the 2015 Budget

17/03/2014 15:07 GMT | Updated 17/05/2014 10:59 BST

While the big set pieces like the Budget and Queen's Speech excite those of us who closely watch and follow politics, they are of only passing interest to the wider public. Certainly voters take note of the headline Budget media coverage - after last year's budget, 49% of people told the Populus Top Ten Most Noticed News tracker it was the story they had most noted - but it would be an unusual person indeed who recalled the details of last year's surprise cut in beer duty or the exemption for the pottery industry from the climate change levy.

If not specifics, then, what will the Chancellor be hoping to achieve with the Budget? He will want to try and convince voters that the economic recovery is bringing some benefits for them, their families and their households. It is a consistent narrative of British politics - seen in Populus, YouGov, and Ipsos Mori polls - that while people increasingly accept that there is a recovery underway in general terms, that they are less likely to say they are personally feeling the benefits. Should people begin to feel the recovery is one that is benefitting them personally, the Chancellor will hope, they might reconsider voting Conservative and to judge years of austerity and often unpopular cuts to public services worthwhile.

The Conservatives sit within touching distance of Labour in the polls - on Monday of this week, Labour's lead was 4%, having fluctuated between 1% and 6% in February and March - and the potential prize for a well-received Budget, of catching or overtaking Labour, must be an appealing one. A sense of personal prosperity would help reinforce too one of the Conservative's electoral strengths; they, and George Osborne, are consistently - albeit modestly - rated as better when it comes to managing the economy than Labour and Ed Balls.

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One final observation: the economy, both macro and people's perceptions of their own micro conditions, is of particular importance to the key Calm Persistence swing voters all parties need to appeal to. Segmenting the voters of Britain into distinct groups identifies about three-in-ten voters as belonging to a group of hard-working, coping but not comfortable, voters who are not loyal to any particular party. Convincing this reservoir of potential support that the recovery is real - and means something for them - represents a potential wealth of support for the Conservatives. With about a year to the start of 2015 General Election campaign, the Budget represents one of the last opportunities to persuade them.

This article was written for the MHP Communications Political Insider newsletter. For more information visit mhpc.com