David Cameron will enter the Conservative conference with his party at its lowest level of support since the 2010 general election, according to i's "poll of polls".
Since Ed Miliband surprised his critics with his well-received One Nation speech to the Labour conference, the Tories have dropped to 32 per cent (down one point on the previous month), with Labour unchanged on 41 per cent and the Liberal Democrats on 13 per cent (up one point). If these ratings were repeated at the next election, Labour would have a huge majority of 94.
The Tories are being damaged by a perceived loss of economic competence and Mr Cameron's personal standing is also on the slide. John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who compiled the figures, said it appeared that the Prime Minister is "getting much of the blame" for big mistakes made by his ministers in recent months.
In a trend that will worry Conservative activists as they begin their Birmingham conference on Sunday, Ukip is reaping the benefit from the Tory decline. The anti-EU party has doubled its average poll rating to 6 per cent since March as it picks up protest votes that might normally have gone to the Lib Dems. Professor Curtice said that, even if Mr Cameron hardens his promise of an EU referendum, disillusioned Tory supporters may not return to the fold unless the party restores its reputation for competence.
Yesterday, an Ipsos Mori survey found that the Conservatives are seen by the public as more divided and out of date than they were a year ago, and viewed as more extreme than Labour or the Lib Dems.
Meanwhile, YouGov reported that since his conference speech Mr Miliband has closed the gap in terms of who would make the best prime minister. Although Mr Cameron remains ahead, by 31 per cent to 27 per cent, his lead is the lowest since Mr Miliband became Labour leader.
Nick Clegg's apology over the introduction of tuition fees was welcomed by the public, but there is little evidence the move has boosted his ratings.