Labour's core vote strategy, much contested within the party, appears to be reaping some dividends. After a period when the Conservatives were ahead in the north of England (as recently as October), Labour has taken a 44 per cent to 28 per cent lead according to an ICM poll in mid-December.
It is, of course, no great surprise that any Labour recovery should occur first in its northern heartlands. Dave goes down well in Southern England, but less well the further north you go where he can be portrayed as a 'southern softie'.
I recently watched a re-run of the 1959 general election and early results from places like Salford showed Labour gaining ground. Indeed, Labour did do quite well in the north in that election, but no avail in terms of the overall results.
The Conservatives are well ahead in key southern marginals. A minor concern here might be UKIP chipping away at the vote. Of more concern would be any Liberal Democrat revival which reduced the number of seats the Tories could take off them. Nick Clegg will gain the oxygen of publicity from the party leader debates, although he is quite capable of not making best use of the opportunity.
It seems likely that the Conservatives will make substantial gains in the south and less so in the north, making the Midlands a vital battleground, including seats such as Warwick and Leamington where there is a re-match of the 2005 contest.
Dave Cameron has done a good job at re-positioning the Conservatives and making them more appealing to the central portion of the electoral spectrum. However, some older votes retain a residual suspicion of the Conservatives from the Thatcher years.
Voters are faced with a difficult choice between a Labour Party that may not have the bottle to make necessary public expenditure cuts or at least would make them in a way that protected their client groups and a Conservative Party that might be tempted to undertake a 'slash and burn' approach to public services.
At least in principle that should leave an opening for Nick Clegg and some of the things that the Lib Dems have been saying about public expenditure and taxation are quite sensible. However, one should never underestimate their ability to suddenly turn themselves into the 'very silly' party and shoot themselves in the foot.