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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence