Lib Dems lose ground to Conservatives

The Liberal Democrats have lost ground since Michael Howard took over the Tory leadership from Iain Duncan Smith, a poll found last night.

Labour had also made gains in the past month, according to a Times Populus poll taken at the weekend. Labour was at 40 per cent, the Tories at 35 per cent and the Liberal Democrats at 18 per cent. The Tories rose two points on the previous month, Labour rose four points but the Liberal Democrats were down four points.

Two thirds of respondents - 66 per cent - also believed that Tony Blair would leave Downing Street either "straight after the next election" or "later in the next parliament".

¿ The former cabinet minister Robin Cook warned Mr Blair yesterday that he must stop picking fights with Labour and turn his guns on Mr Howard's revitalised Tories. He said it was time Mr Blair grasped "that his opponents are now in front of him, not behind him".

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