Three weeks in and still the polls have Tories and Labour tied

Despite three weeks of intensive campaigning, neither of the main parties has been able to forge a decisive advantage in the bitter battle for No 10.

Polling box

Manifestos have been published, policy initiatives launched and attacks unleashed and yet still they remain stubbornly deadlocked in the polls, with no sign either will be able to achieve an overall majority on May 7.

The latest Press Association poll of polls puts Labour on 34.2% and the Conservatives on 33.8% - virtually unchanged from where they were when Parliament was dissolved at the end of March.

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As the campaign teams look back over the course of the struggle so far, they are likely to have distinctly mixed feelings.

After criticism that the Conservative campaign had been too negative, there was a notable change of gear with the manifesto launch at the start of week.

The attacks on “backstabber” Ed Miliband and the dire warnings of economic “chaos” under Labour were replaced with a series of eye-catching pledges to extend Right to Buy, scrap inheritance tax on family homes up to £1 million and to introduce a “tax free minimum wage”.

With David Cameron claiming the “good life” is finally in sight after the years of austerity, Tory strategists will be hoping that yesterday’s record-breaking jobs figures will finally give their campaign the traction it has so far failed to achieve.

For Labour, the biggest positive so far is likely to be the way that Mr Miliband has stood up to the scrutiny of the election spotlight despite predictions from critics that he would fall apart under its glare.

In contrast to the Conservatives, their manifesto launch was all about trying to convince sceptical voters that they could be trusted once again with the economy after the crash of 2008.

Their biggest headache has come from Scotland where the party is facing a potential bloodbath at the hands of a rampant SNP.

With polls suggesting that Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy and campaign chief Douglas Alexander could be among the casualties, the collapse in support in its former Scottish heartlands could yet cost Mr Miliband any chance of gaining an overall majority at Westminster.

Further, the prospect that a minority Labour government could be forced to rely on SNP votes in a hung parliament has been exploited by the Tories to try to undermine support for Labour among English voters.

Indeed, the Scottish Nationalists are the one party who can look back on the past three weeks with unalloyed glee.

Nicola Sturgeon has clearly relished the prospect of playing kingmaker in the new parliament with the SNP potentially on course to be the third largest party with a bloc of 40 or more MPs.

She has used her appearances in the television debates to threaten to “lock David Cameron out of Downing Street” while vowing to hold Mr Miliband’s feet to the fire over reversing coalition austerity.

As for the rest, there are signs that Ukip on 12.7% in the poll of polls has seen its vote squeezed slightly and will struggle to make the sort of breakthrough they were hoping for at the time of last year’s European elections.

The Liberal Democrats have seen their ratings remain virtually unchanged - hovering just below the 8% mark - and are predicted to lose around after their seats leaving them with fewer that 30 MPs.

The Greens - also pretty much unchanged during the course of the campaign on 5.5% - would also appear to be struggling to cut through.

It all suggests that the final two and half weeks will become a war of attrition as each of the parties searches for the crucial advantage that will make the difference come polling day.