Labour surges to biggest ever lead

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The Independent Online
LABOUR commands more widespread support than any party since polling began by Gallup 57 years ago, according to an opinion poll.

The party has a 33.5 per cent lead over the Tories - the largest margin either of the major parties has enjoyed over the other, a Gallup survey in today's Daily Telegraph shows.

It describes John Major's administration as being in the sort of electoral trouble approached only by Harold Wilson's Labour government in May 1968, following steep tax increases.

The poll also endorses the Labour leader, Tony Blair. Forty-five per cent think he would make the best prime minister compared with 15 per cent who come down equally for Mr Major and Paddy Ashdown.

Asked which party they would support if there was a general election tomorrow, 56.5 per cent said Labour (up 5.5 per cent since early July, before Mr Blair's election), 23 per cent Tory (down 3.5 per cent) and 14.5 per cent Liberal Democrat (down 3 per cent).

The figures will come as a further blow to Mr Ashdown who is under increasing pressure after three of the original SDP 'Gang of Four' urged closer ties with Labour.

The figures are deeply worrying for the Conservatives, whose only consolation is that they overcame what was then a record Labour lead to win the last the general election.

Professor David Butler of Oxford University, speaking on Channel 4 News, said: 'A month ago - just before the European elections - there was a Gallup poll putting Labour 30 per cent ahead, and when people actually voted a week later, Labour was only 18 per cent or so ahead.'

The poll is the first conducted since Mr Blair was elected party leader on 21 July. Figures are based on a sample of 1,161 electors from across the UK.

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