But today's MORI poll, which puts Paddy Ashdown's party in single figures, will have sent alarm bells through the Liberal Democrat high command because their rating usually rises during a campaign.
Senior Labour figures believe that they are picking up many Liberal Democrat supporters, as the general election battle shapes up into a presidential- style contest between John Major and Tony Blair.
But the Liberal Democrats said the poll findings were not supported by their experience on the ground.
A party spokeswoman said: "This poll is contrary to all the evidence we are getting from canvas returns and polling in target seats. It must be a freak."
The party's campaign manager, Lord Holme, claimed yesterday that they are ahead in Harrogate ,where the Conservative candidate is Norman Lamont, the former Chancellor.