George Osborne's botched Budget sends Conservative ratings to a new low

The Independent's 'poll of polls' gives Labour its biggest lead since February last year

The Conservative Party has been hit by a backlash from voters after last month's Budget and is less popular now than at any point since taking office, according to the latest "poll of polls" for The Independent.

It puts the Tories' level of support at its lowest since the 2010 election, while Labour's six-point lead is higher that at any time since February last year.

George Osborne appears to have sparked a decline in Tory fortunes by combining a cut in the 50p top rate of tax with a so-called "granny tax" for pensioners. Senior Tory MPs have protested to David Cameron that the two measures, while justified, should not have been announced in the same package. "The communications around the Budget were dreadful," one said.

The Conservatives may also have angered the public by sparking panic buying at the petrol pumps ahead of threatened strikes by tanker drivers.

"March was very much a month of two halves," said John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who compiles the monthly weighted average of surveys conducted by ComRes, ICM, YouGov and Populus. In their polls before the Budget, Labour averaged 39 per cent and the Tories 37 per cent, but in their most recent surveys, Labour is up to 40 per cent, the Tories down to 34 per cent and the Lib Dems unchanged on 11 per cent.

Overall figures for March show Labour on 40 per cent, the Tories on 36 per cent and the Lib Dems on 11 per cent, enough to give Labour an overall majority of 16 in a general election fought on the proposed new constituency boundaries. Prof Curtice said: "Perhaps most disturbingly for the Tories, there are signs that their and the Government's reputation for competence have taken a knock."

There are signs of a decline in Mr Cameron's personal ratings; in the number of people who believe the Coalition Government is handling the economy well; those who have confidence in Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne and who think the Tories are capable and competent. However, there is little evidence of any advance in Labour's reputation. Ed Miliband is still less highly regarded than Mr Cameron and his standing is only marginally better than a month ago. Voters still think that the Tories can handle the economy better than Labour would.

"Labour's own reputation for general competence continues to lag behind the Tories' – and, in fact, also fell away at the end of the month, perhaps because of the adverse publicity generated by the Bradford West by-election result," said Prof Curtice. There is one positive sign for Mr Miliband: although fewer people blame the Coalition than Labour for the need to make public spending cuts, the proportion blaming the Coalition has crept up to a new record high of 28 per cent. The proportion blaming Labour slipped to a record low of 35 per cent, so the gap is closing.

Prof Curtice concluded: "The end of March witnessed an unwelcome political gale for the Conservatives. For the first time since the formation of the Coalition their competence and ability (as opposed to that of their Lib Dem partners) seems to have been called into question in the minds of the electorate. But perhaps their biggest reason for optimism is that Labour's poll lead still seems to be founded far more on discontent with the Government than any enthusiasm for the party as a potential alternative."

Yesterday Mr Miliband admitted that the Government's failure to bring about change had not translated into a boost for Labour. Insisting that his party was embarking on "real, deep, genuine change" to reconnect with disenchanted voters, he said: "People turning away from an unpopular government doesn't automatically mean they turn to Labour.... It certainly didn't turn out that way in Bradford West two weeks ago. The uncomfortable truth for Labour is that people turned to a protest party rather than to us."

Last night, the Labour leader made an unannounced visit to Bradford to keep his promise to learn from his party's surprise by-election defeat by George Galloway, leader of the Respect Party. "The fourth party who says 'a plague on all your houses' is an issue we've got to confront," said Mr Miliband.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Entry Administrator

£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee