Polls show a Tory majority of 92 after a general election

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Labour's rating has slumped below 30 per cent for the first time since last September as the recession bites, shows the latest "poll of polls" for The Independent. Gordon Brown's personal ratings have also fallen back to where they were when he launched an unlikely fightback last autumn after the Government rescued the banks.

In contrast, the second bailout last month did not halt Labour's slide; its ratings have fallen by three percentage points in the 11 polls taken since.

The weighted average of all the surveys in February puts the Conservatives on 43 per cent (unchanged since January), Labour on 29 per cent (down two points), the Liberal Democrats 17 per cent (up one point) and other parties on 11 per cent (up one). The figures would give David Cameron an overall majority of 92 at a general election, with 371 seats. Labour would have 217, the Liberal Democrats 31 and other parties would hold the same number.

"It seems Labour's fortunes are now intimately tied to future financial and economic developments," said John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who compiled the figures. "The Government will struggle to persuade people that it is taking effective action unless people see its actions beginning to have a beneficial effect."

Yesterday, Mr Brown took responsibility "for everything that's happened" while he was Chancellor and Prime Minister but again refused to apologise for the economic crisis. Answering BBC Radio 4 listeners, he was asked to say sorry but replied: "What nobody reckoned on was a banking crisis that reverberated right across the world. I have said that the regulatory system was not good enough. I have said it has got to change. It is a global freeze-up."

Outlining a new round of public service reforms yesterday, the Prime Minister promised "no cuts" in investment in services in the coming year. He said: "This moment of economic change is exactly the one when people want to know that the public services are there for them. Where there is insecurity, we will offer security."

He defended plans to cut the length of teacher training courses from 12 to six months for high-calibre recruits. He said it would make a "huge difference" and give teaching a higher status.

But teaching unions attacked the proposal. Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Teaching is not a profession that can be picked up at the drop of a hat."