Labour has established its biggest opinion poll lead since the general election as Britain's economic woes deepen and coalition tensions intensify, according to the latest poll of polls for The Independent.
With political leaders preparing for their summer break, the latest snapshot of their parties' electoral health underlines the backlash faced by the coalition partners this year.
Labour's support rose to an average of 42 per cent last month, nine points ahead of the Conservatives on 33 per cent. The Liberal Democrats slipped back to 11 per cent.
A nine-point advantage would be enough to secure a convincing overall majority of 86 for Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, in an election fought on the proposed new constituency boundaries, while the Liberal Democrats would face electoral meltdown.
Mr Miliband's margin of victory would be even bigger if – as looks increasingly possible – the next election uses the current boundaries. David Cameron is keen to settle a key coalition flash-point before he leaves for his post-Olympics holiday by announcing that plans for a part-elected House of Lords are being scrapped. The Liberal Democrats are threatening in response to veto plans to cut the number of parliamentary constituencies.
Talks are continuing between the parties over the issue, with the aim of announcing a compromise ahead of moves to give fresh impetus to the Coalition in the autumn. Sources in both parties dismissed suggestions yesterday that Downing Street had begun informal discussions with senior Conservatives over splitting the Coalition early.
According to one report, the Liberal Democrats would pull out a year before the election due in May 2015 and support the Tories on a "confidence and supply" basis – only in a no-confidence vote or over Budget measures. But a senior Liberal Democrat source said: "The Coalition is here to stay until 2015." However, the idea was given credence yesterday by Brian Paddick, the party's candidate in the last two elections for London Mayor.
Mr Paddick said the Liberal Democrats had done "tremendous things" in office, such as bringing in the pupil premium for disadvantaged children and linking pensions to inflation. But he told Sky News: "In the run-up to the next election, the two parties have got to separate themselves to present two different manifestos, two different options to the public."
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