Howard's rating as Tory leader falls to an all-time low, poll shows

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Satisfaction with Michael Howard's performance as Conservative leader has hit an all-time low according to an exclusive MORI poll for The Independent on Sunday.

Satisfaction with Michael Howard's performance as Conservative leader has hit an all-time low according to an exclusive MORI poll for The Independent on Sunday.

The poll found that the embattled Tory leader's personal rating is on the slide as his party is convulsed by fresh in-fighting. Mr Howard last week held a crisis summit with David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, in an attempt to calm a damaging public spat between their supporters. Mr Davis's allies suspect a clique of advisers around Mr Howard of briefing against him.

Today's poll, carried out last week, further undermines Mr Howard's position. Although it puts Labour just one percentage point ahead of the Tories, the result would still hand Tony Blair a majority of about 80 seats.

MORI's polling also shows a strong recovery in perceptions of the economy and of public services, with the electorate on balance expecting education, policing and the NHS to improve over the next year.

The worst news for the Tories, however, is the dramatic slide in Mr Howard's personal rating since the start of this year.

In January, his "satisfied" rating exceeded "dissatisfied" by 8 points. His rating turned negative in April, with a 2-point net "dissatisfied" rating, which increased to 12 points in June and stands at 16 points now.

When Mr Howard became leader last November, most voters had yet to make up their minds. But since then the undecided have moved steadily into the "dissatisfied" category.

His ratings dropped sharply last month even among Conservative supporters, after a poor Commons performance against the Prime Minister over the Butler report into pre-war intelligence on Iraqi weapons.

How would you vote if there were a general election tomorrow?

Labour: 32 per cent

Conservative: 31 per cent

Liberal Democrat: 24 per cent

Other: 13 per cent

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