Expectations management by both Labour and the Tories sees them both privately spinning that it is on a knife edge that they fear they could lose or expect to lose respectively. Betting markets were neck and neck until a few weeks ago. Punters seem to think the Tories could steal it. A second visit to Hartlepool by the PM does suggest he is happy to own the outcome…
UPDATE: A recount shows this is the PM’s third trip. Despite No. 10 doing expectation management, it sounds like Tories on the ground are gaining confidence.
UPDATE II (21:50): Boris rallies the troops in a classic expectations management moment:
And I want to stress that a lot of people are talking about Hartlepool – I have just been there.
‘I think it’s important for people to understand this is not a seat that Conservatives have ever held.
‘This is the stamping ground of Peter Mandelson.
‘It’s very important for everybody to be aware of the deep psephological reality, it’s a massive, massive challenge, it would be a quite extraordinary thing in my view if that were to happen [a Conservative majority] – but that doesn’t mean that we’re not fighting for every single vote.’