David Cameron fifth in poll of PMs of past 50 years

New survey has the Prime Minister ahead of only John Major and Gordon Brown

David Cameron has come equal fifth in a poll which ranks the eight prime ministers of the past 50 years, ahead of only Sir John Major and Gordon Brown.

A ComRes survey for The Independent on Sunday revealed that Margaret Thatcher comes top of premiers since 1964, scoring 23 points more than the current inhabitant of Downing Street.

The two-times Labour PM, Harold Wilson, came second, 10 points ahead of Mr Cameron, while Tony Blair is third on four points. The Prime Minister is beaten even by Sir Edward Heath, the one-term Conservative premier, who is ahead by one point.

James Callaghan scores the same as Mr Cameron, while Sir John Major is four points behind. Last of the league table is Gordon Brown, who is ranked 17 points lower than Mr Cameron.

There is some good news for the Prime Minister, however, with the Conservatives running close to Labour on voting intentions. Compared with other polls which have put 12 clear points between the two parties, today's survey keeps the gap at only five points, the same margin as a month ago. Labour is down one point, on 36 per cent; while the Tories are also down one, on 31 per cent.

Support for Ukip continues to rise, with the anti-European party up one point to 14 per cent. The Liberal Democrats have faced the most dramatic fall in support, down three points to 8 per cent.

The figures suggest that a general election tomorrow, under current constituency boundaries, would result in Labour wining a majority of 60 seats, with 79 seats wiped off the Conservatives' tally. Nick Clegg's party would lose 36 MPs and retain only 21 seats.

Mr Cameron and George Osborne remain ahead of Ed Miliband and Ed Balls on the question of trust on the economy. Net trust in the Prime Minister and Chancellor's handling of the economy is minus 24 per cent, up six points. For the Labour leader and Shadow Chancellor it is minus 35 per cent, down four points. Nearly one in five – 18 per cent – of Labour voters do not trust the Labour pair on the economy.

However, the poll was taken on 13 and 14 February, meaning that Mr Miliband's pledge on Thursday to restore the 10p tax rate is unlikely to have registered with voters.

A quarter of Conservative voters have abandoned the party since the 2010 election, with 17 per cent of their support switched straight to Ukip.

As Tory backbenchers begin to raise concerns about the possibility of losing the next election, voters are apparently not yet ready to place Mr Cameron in the pantheon of great prime ministers. Some 45 per cent of Conservative voters think he is a better PM than Sir Edward Heath. However, exactly the same proportion of Tory voters think he is a worse prime minister than Baroness Thatcher. A significant minority of 16 per cent of Labour voters think Mr Cameron is better than Mr Brown.

Who is the fairest of them all?

1. Margaret Thatcher +23

"Surely this statesman is not the heir to Blair, but the heir to Thatcher," cried Peter Bone, Tory MP, welcoming the PM back from his Brussels triumph. Nope, say the British voters.

2. Harold Wilson +10

In the week of the 50th anniversary of his election as Labour leader, the PM who kept us out of Vietnam and in Europe comes an unexpected second.

3. Tony Blair +4

And in the week of the 10th anniversary of the mass demo against the Iraq war, people still give the three times winner an on balance benign rating.

4. Edward Heath +1

Just one point ahead of Cameron, the chortling bachelor conductor and sailor PM took us into the European Community in 1973.

=5. David Cameron 0

Well down the ratings, and slipping four points since two years ago, the "heir to Blair" no longer matches his hero.

=5. James Callaghan 0

Cameron must be surprised to find himself sharing fifth place with the three-year PM who ushered in 18 years of Tory rule.

7. John Major -4

The last Tory PM to win an election, Major lost control of his party over Europe. Last week, he endorsed his successor's promise of a referendum.

8. Gordon Brown -17

He won enough respect at the last election to deny Cameron a majority, but still takes most of the blame for the present state of the UK's finances.

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