Party hurt by cuts, not by deal with Tories

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Voters have deserted the Liberal Democrats for endorsing public spending cuts rather than for entering the Coalition with the Conservatives, according to the latest "poll of polls" for The Independent.

It shows the Conservative Party on 38 per cent, just one point ahead of Labour on 37 per cent, while the Liberal Democrats have slumped to 15 per cent, equalling their worst "poll of polls" rating in the last parliament.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who compiled the figures, said: "Although the Lib Dems did lose ground after entering the Coalition, their problems really set in after the June Budget, which seems to have done them a lot of harm. Evidently there was a group of Lib Dem supporters who were willing to stomach a coalition with the Tories, but could not stomach 'Tory cuts' ".

If the latest party ratings were repeated at the next general election, Britain would still have a hung parliament but Labour, rather than the Tories would be the largest party, 13 seats short of an overall majority.

Labour would have 313 seats, the Tories 287, while the Liberal Democrats' ranks would be more than halved to 25 MPs and other parties would win 25 seats. "The fall in Lib Dem support is not just a problem for Nick Clegg – it is bad news for the Tories too," said Professor Curtice.

The study is based on a weighted average of the regular polls by ComRes, ICM, Ipsos MORI, Populus and YouGov. A ComRes survey for The Independent on Sunday yesterday found that four out of 10 people who voted for Nick Clegg's party at the general election would have backed another party if they had known he would join a coalition with the Tories.

However, the picture for the Liberal Democrats is brighter when "real votes" are measured because their support is holding up in local authority by-elections held since May.

The Tories have won 33 per cent of the votes cast (down two percentage points since the local elections in May), Labour 30 per cent (up two points) with the Liberal Democrats on 25 per cent (unchanged).

Since May, Labour has made a net gain of eight seats, the Liberal Democrats are up four seats while the Tories are down seven and others down five.

The figures were compiled by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, professors of politics at Plymouth University, who said: "The main losers have been the Conservatives, who are now struggling to hold on to seats won either on election day itself or at the time of their 2007 and 2008 local election triumphs."