Poll of polls shows Labour at its most unpopular since 1935

Gordon Brown is leading Labour to its worst electoral defeat since the 1930s, according to a new "poll of polls" for The Independent. On current levels of support, Labour would lose almost half its MPs at the next election and David Cameron would become Prime Minister with an overwhelming majority.

The backlash against Labour has left the party with the support of just 27 per cent of voters, the weighted average of last month's polls for The Independent shows. The Tories are on 44 per cent, with the Liberal Democrats on 18 per cent. If that were reflected in a general election, the Tories would have 391 MPs and Labour would be banished to its heartlands with just 195 MPs. The cabinet ministers Alistair Darling, Jacqui Smith, Ruth Kelly and John Hutton would be among the prominent figures to lose their seats. The last time so few Labour candidates were returned in an election was in 1935.

Mr Cameron's majority would be 132 – close to Tony Blair's margin of victory in the 1997 and 2001 Labour landslides – almost certainly enough to assure a decade of Conservative government.

The Liberal Democrats, under threat from a reviving Tory party in dozens of seats, would fall from 63 to 33 seats, piling pressure on Nick Clegg's leadership.

The figures confirm the trend of the past three months, during which Labour has been defeated in two by-elections in previously safe seats and lost hundreds of councillors in the local elections. They provide further ammunition for Labour rebels planning an attempt to remove Mr Brown from office next month.

The Prime Minister's popularity ratings continue to plumb the depths, with Michael Foot the only recent Labour leader to be as unpopular. Critics will argue that public opinion of his abilities is so low that he cannot recover.

As Mr Brown plans an economic recovery package, the research demonstrates that the Tories consistently outpoll Labour for perceived economic competence.

But in a further blow for Mr Brown, it was reported last night that David Miliband had lined up the former cabinet minister Alan Milburn to be Chancellor of the Exchequer if he takes over from Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. The Daily Telegraph claimed the Foreign Secretary had been holding talks with the former health secretary about a senior role in a Miliband government.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who compiled the "poll of polls", said: "Claims by Labour that Mr Brown is best able to steer the country through the economic crisis are simply not believed. Labour's reputation for economic competence has been torn to shreds." Professor Curtice said the Tories were viewed as a government-in-waiting for the first time in 10 years. "Labour now finds itself facing a serious and respected opposition for the first time."

Less than 20 per cent of voters think Mr Brown is doing a good job and about the same number are dissatisfied with Labour's record. Levels of disillusionment with the Government are as high as they were with Margaret Thatcher's administration shortly before she was deposed in 1990. By contrast around half are expressing approval of the Tory leader. Professor Curtice said: "Mr Cameron remains relatively popular, and is thought more capable than Brown, but not all the stardust has transferred to his party."

Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, admitted yesterday Labour had lost the "conviction and zeal" that helped it win three elections under Tony Blair. But he insisted Mr Brown was the right person to lead the party.

The party's darkest days

The prospect of winning fewer than 200 seats will revive memories of Labour's darkest days in the 1930s. Following the great depression, the second Labour government imploded in 1931 after two years' rule when Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald joined a National Government.

He was expelled from Labour and the events almost destroyed the party. Almost 80 per cent of Labour MPs, including their new leader, Arthur Henderson, lost their seats at that year's election with only 52 surviving the electoral massacre as theNational Government under MacDonald took power.

Labour was then beset by bitter rows over foreign policy which led to a party split. Henderson was succeeded as leader by George Lansbury, who was in turn replaced by his deputy, Clement Attlee. Under Attlee, the party managed a partial recovery in the 1935 election, when it won 154 seats with 38 per cent of the vote, as a National Government now led by the Tory Stanley Baldwin held on to power. Eight more were returned under the National Labour banner, along with four who stood for the Independent Labour Party.

Since then, the party has never had fewer than 200 representatives in the Commons, although it came close in the 1983 election when, under Michael Foot's leadership, it could only manage 209 seats at the height of Margaret Thatcher's Tory administration.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor