Blow for David Cameron as popularity falls to lowest level since general election as polls show Ukip are favourable to Liberal Democrats for first time

Dismal performance in local elections could reignite internal dissent over David Cameron's leadership

Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a blow ahead of Thursday’s local elections as new figures showed his popularity had fallen to its lowest level since the last general election.

The Prime Minister now lags behind Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, in public esteem in a monthly survey of voters’ attitudes to the main political leaders.

As the Conservatives brace themselves for heavy losses in local elections taking place across much of England, a dismal performance could reignite internal dissent over Mr Cameron’s leadership.

The Prime Minister’s sliding popularity was revealed by the monthly National Policy Monitor study carried out by YouGov for the University of Essex.

Asked to rate political leaders on a scale of one to ten, voters awarded the Prime Minister an average ranking of 3.5, compared with 5.1 in May 2010.

While Mr Miliband hardly receives an enthusiastic endorsement from the public, his rating of 3.75 puts him comfortably ahead of the Tory leader.

Nick Clegg receives the lowest score of the party leaders with just 3.05.

Paul Whiteley, the monitor’s director, said: “The popularity of the party leaders plays a key role in influencing how people vote in elections in Britain. The leader in front will do best, even though he may not be that popular.”

The finding is a setback to Conservative strategists as they believe they can successfully contrast Mr Cameron’s leadership abilities with Mr Miliband’s.

The latest poll of polls for The Independent shows the Tories narrowed Labour’s lead during April and for the first time puts the UK Independence Party (Ukip) ahead of the Liberal Democrats.

It puts Labour on 39 per cent (down one point since March), the Conservatives on 31 per cent (up two), Ukip on 12 per cent (unchanged) and the Liberal Democrats on 11 per cent (down one).

The Tory mini-revival follows George Osborne’s well-received Budget and the death and funeral of Baroness Thatcher.

The poll of polls is compiled by John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University. It shows that Ukip’s support has quadrupled since January 2012 and is consolidating.

Repeated in a general election, those figures could send Mr Miliband to Downing Street with a parliamentary majority of more than 80.

More immediately, they underline that the Conservatives are certain to suffer a wave of council losses on Thursday.

The seats being contested were last fought in 2009 when Gordon Brown’s government was at the depth of its fortunes.

Election experts predict the Tories will lose around 310 of the 1,485 seats they are defending; losses on a larger scale will dismay Conservative headquarters.

Labour are forecast to make about 350 gains and will need to point to victories in counties such as Essex and Kent to prove Mr Miliband is reaching out to voters in the South-East.

Ukip are tipped to win about 40 seats, although if they manage to pick up around 12 per cent of the vote their presence could deprive the Tories of holding on in many more council wards.

On current form, the Liberal Democrats would lose about 130 seats but are aiming to limit their losses to less than 100.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little