No winners in poll of polls as Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats fail to seize initiative

The Independent’s survey shows it has not been a good year for the three main Westminster parties

Deputy Political Editor

The Conservatives have halved Labour’s opinion poll lead over the last year, while support for the UK Independence Party has slowly ebbed away from a dramatic peak in the spring, The Independent’s latest poll of polls discloses on Tuesday.

As the political parties enter 2014, the findings will provide David Cameron with grounds for cautious optimism that the Tories can claw back the narrowing Labour advantage by the time of next year’s general election.

A weighted average of last month’s polls puts the Conservatives on 33 per cent (up one point since December 2012), Labour on 38 per cent (down three), the Liberal Democrats on 10 per cent (down one) and Ukip also on 10 per cent (up two).

Labour’s lead under Ed Miliband was nine points at the turn of last year and grew to 13 points by February, but stands on Tuesday at just five points.

That would still be enough to propel the Labour leader into Downing Street with an overall majority of more than 50 seats, but the gradual softening of the party’s vote over the last 12 months will alarm Labour strategists.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who calculated the averages, said 2013 had not been good for the Tories, Labour or the Liberal Democrats, who had all been “left in the shade by the most serious independent fourth party incursion in British political history”.

Although many Conservative MPs believe the best they can hope for after the May 2015 election is another Tory-led Coalition, they are optimistic that their support can be bolstered during the next 16 months if the economic recovery gathers pace.

The Prime Minister and Chancellor George Osborne plan a series of events in the coming months in an effort to turn the political spotlight on to the economy and growing levels of employment.

Meanwhile, Labour aims to intensify its focus on falling living standards as prices continue to outstrip wages, with Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, due to spell out the party’s economic message in a major speech in three weeks’ time.

Its problems are underlined by the continued grim personal ratings for Mr Miliband, although they have recovered marginally in the final months of 2013.

The latest poll of polls also brings renewed gloom for the Liberal Democrats, who show no sign of recovering from a catastrophic collapse in their support at the end of 2010, just six months after they entered the Coalition.

On their current polling they could lose more than half of their 57 parliamentary seats, although the party insists the incumbency factor will help its MPs. It has also been heartened by a recent increase in membership.

Ukip ends 2013 level-pegging with the Liberal Democrats, underlining its argument that Britain now has a four-party system.

However, its support peaked at 15 points in May and has fallen back by one-third since then, suggesting it could have been affected by rows over the views of prominent members.

Nigel Farage’s party is hoping for a renewed boost by topping the poll in May’s elections for the European Parliament, a result that would intensify Tory nerves if the Conservatives are relegated to third place.

Ukip said on Tuesday that its membership had risen by two-thirds to 32,500 over the last year.

All parties are anxiously waiting to see whether there is any political fall-out from the lifting on Wednesday of the transitional controls on workers from Romania and Bulgaria.

“This has, in truth, not been a good year in the polls for any of the three main Westminster parties. None can claim to have made significant progress,” said Professor Curtice.

He added: “In 2014 the Westminster parties enter what is always relatively difficult territory for them – European elections.

“Voters have previously demonstrated a relative willingness to leave their Westminster loyalties behind in such elections.

“Now that those loyalties look weaker than ever, the gap between the preferences of voters and the preoccupations of Westminster may be about to become even starker.”

He continued: “Tory MPs should not be comforted too much by the fact that their party remains ahead of Labour on the economy; dissatisfied voters have decided that alternatives other than Labour are available instead.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015
Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall