Labour has opened up an eight-point lead in the latest ComRes survey for The Independent as the Conservatives start to feel a backlash over spending cuts and the rise in VAT.
It shows Labour on 42 per cent, up three points since the most recent ComRes poll for The Independent on Sunday three weeks ago, the Conservatives on 34 per cent (down three), the Liberal Democrats on 12 per cent (up one point) and other parties 12 per cent (down one).
This is the biggest Labour lead, and the Tories' lowest share of the vote, in any poll since last May's general election and the largest Labour lead since ComRes began polling for The Independent in 2006. The figures would give Labour an overall majority of 102 at the next election if it were fought in the current first-past-the-post system.
Until now, the Liberal Democrats and their leader Nick Clegg had appeared to be suffering the pain for unpopular decisions, such as the hike in university tuition fees, while the Tories maintained their poll ratings. But the Tories are now two points below the 36 per cent they won in last year's elections.
According to ComRes, the Tories trail Labour among voters in every age group below 55 and in every region of Britain except the Midlands. Labour enjoys a narrow one-point lead among the AB top social group.
After last week's rise in VAT to 20 per cent brought home the Government's deficit-reduction plans to many voters, people appear to be cooling towards the Coalition. Asked whether Britain is better off with a Coalition Government rather than a single party with an overall majority, 58 per cent disagree and 32 per cent agree. This contrasts with other surveys last year, including the Liberal Democrats' private polls.
Although Labour will see the latest findings as a sign that it is gaining momentum under Ed Miliband's leadership, they appear to stem mainly from negative feelings towards the Government.
Labour has not yet won the key battle on the economy. Only 36 per cent of people agree that Labour would manage the economy better than the Coalition Government, while 54 per cent disagree.
Only 36 per cent believe Mr Miliband is proving a good leader of the Labour Party, while 42 per cent do not and 22 per cent reply "don't know". One in four Labour supporters (25 per cent) do not regard him as a good leader, but 24 per cent of Tory supporters and 39 per cent of Liberal Democrat supporters do.
More people have made up their mind about Mr Clegg. Some 37 per cent think that the Liberal Democrat leader is proving to be a good Deputy Prime Minister, while 52 per cent do not and 11 per cent don't know.
The survey provides more evidence of the Liberal Democrats' crumbling support. One-third (33 per cent) of those who voted for the party in last year's election would now vote Labour and only about half (49 per cent) would stick with the Liberal Democrats – another pointer to a Labour victory in Thursday's by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth, where Mr Clegg will campaign again today.
Meanwhile, fewer than half (46 per cent) of those who voted Liberal Democrat last year believe Mr Clegg is proving a good Deputy Prime Minister.
Yesterday, Mr Clegg admitted that the cuts would be "difficult" in what would be a "crucial year". He told the BBC there would be "some very challenging circumstances for millions of people in this country, but I hope the beginning of a real turnaround as we move forward and as we successfully implement the repair job on the economy."
Mr Miliband accused Mr Cameron of "deceit" for claiming that the current level of cuts was due to Labour's overspending rather than the global financial crisis. The Labour leader will admit that Gordon Brown's government took too long to acknowledge the need for cuts, while insisting that is a separate issue.
ComRes telephoned a random sample of 1,000 adults between 7 January and 9 January. Data were weighted to be representative of all adults and by past vote. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comres.co.uk