The Prime Minister's attempts to stage a fightback in the run-up to the general election were boosted last night after a new opinion poll suggested that Labour had closed the gap on the Conservatives to just six percentage points.
In the days after Gordon Brown set out his legislative programme for the final days of this government, 31 per cent of those polled said they would vote Labour at the next election, compared to 37 per cent for the Conservatives. The deficit is the smallest for almost a year.
The Ipsos Mori survey for The Observer also put the Liberal Democrats on 17 per cent – meaning that David Cameron would be deprived of a majority if the projected share of the vote was reflected at the election.
The poll could signal a reversal of fortune for Mr Brown after months trailing the Conservatives. A similar Ipsos Mori survey carried out last month put Labour 17 points adrift, with just 26 per cent of the vote.
Significantly, the latest poll also indicated growing optimism among the public, particularly over the UK's chances of an early escape from the economic downturn. Some 43 per cent of those polled now believe the economy will perform better over the next year, compared to 23 per cent who say they think it will deteriorate.
However, the results do not present an entirely rosy picture for the Prime Minister, as his personal ratings remain stubbornly poor. Barely one in three people say they are satisfied with his performance, while 59 per cent are dissatisfied. Almost half those questioned said they were satisfied with Mr Cameron.
Ipsos Mori interviewed a representative sample of 1,006 adults by telephone between 13 and 15 November. Data was weighted to match the UK population.