ED Miliband has defended his under-fire 50p tax rate pledge as "utterly fair and utterly reasonable" as Labour's lead over the Conservatives slipped to just one point, the lowest Comres poll lead for more than three years.

With inflation falling, take-home pay allegedly rising and growth returning to the economy, Prime Minister David Cameron is beginning to gain political traction on the cost of living crisis.

The snapshot showed 39% of people agreed that their family's finances would be better off with the Tory leadership but only 28% with Labour.

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Women were more likely to believe their family finances would be safer in Labour hands than Conservative ones; men largely felt the opposite.

The poll of 1000 adults put Labour on 33%, down four on last month, the Tories unchanged on 32%, Ukip on 14%, up four, and the Liberal Democrats also unchanged on 9%. Mr Miliband hit back at criticism from business leaders to his pledge to reverse the Coalition's cut to 45p on salaries over £150,000, insisting high earners must "bear the greatest burden".

The Labour leader accused the Conservatives of planning to reduce the rate even further to 40p after the Prime Minister refused to be drawn on calls by London Mayor Boris Johnson for a further cut. "We have set out a very clear choice and the British people know what that choice is," said Mr Miliband. "Labour protecting ordinary families, the Prime Minister saying 'let's cut taxes for the very richest'."

But Mr Cameron said: "I would argue that, just as what George Osborne and I did was right for the economy but politically difficult, Labour are now doing something that's politically convenient but is very, very bad for our economy."