Labour enters the new year one point ahead of the Conservative Party, according to the latest poll by CommunicateResearch for The Independent.
It puts Labour on 37 per cent (up one point on last month), the Tories on 36 per cent (up two points), the Liberal Democrats on 14 per cent (down three points) and others on 14 per cent (up one point).
The findings will provide some relief for Labour, which might have expected a dip in its fortunes following the bad headlines provoked by the "cash for honours" affair. They will disappoint the Tories who, having seen their ratings revive after David Cameron became leader a year ago, seem to have hit a plateau.
The CommunicateResearch survey is a setback for the Liberal Democrats, who seem to be making little progress under the leadership of Sir Menzies Campbell. His deputy, Vince Cable, denied at the weekend that the party faced a "major problem" but conceded that Sir Menzies' qualities of authority and maturity of judgement took time to get through to voters.
The poll calls into question other surveys suggesting that Mr Cameron is winning over women voters. Labour (38 per cent) has a two-point lead over the Tories (36 per cent) among women, while the two parties are neck and neck among men (on 35 per cent).
While the Tories are well ahead amongst the top AB social group (by 42 per cent to 26 per cent), Labour owes its overall lead to its advantage among the bottom two C2 and DE groups, where it is 19 and 15 points ahead respectively.
But the regional breakdown issues a warning for Labour. While the party is ahead in the North and Scotland, the Tories enjoy a lead in the South-east, the Midlands and Wales and the South-west.
CommunicateResearch's initial polling gave the Tories a two-point lead but this changed after a "squeeze question" designed to draw out people who are reluctant to disclose their voting intention.
This suggests that Labour may be experiencing a "spiral of silence" under which people are wary of admitting they will vote for the party. The Tories faced a similar phenomenon during their 18 years in power.
The three main parties will be worried by the strong showing for other parties, suggesting that a "none of the above" option is an attractive one for many.
The Green Party, on 5 per cent, appears to be making the most impact. The Scottish National Party and the far-right British National Party are both on 2 per cent, with Plaid Cymru and the UK Independence Party, which wants Britain to leave the European Union, both on 1 per cent, and others on 3 per cent.
Yesterday the Green Party dismissed the environmental policies of the three main parties as "soggy, muddled, and compromised".
Caroline Lucas, a member of the European Parliament, said there was "a gulf between rhetoric and reality" and accused them of lacking "political guts and courage" to discourage people from flying.
"We should be having a much more up-beat message, saying that the Green Party isn't about brown bread and it certainly isn't about wacky ideas - it's about practical solutions," she said.
CommunicateResearch, a member of the British Polling Council, interviewed 1,009 adults by telephone on 19-20 December. Data were weighted to represent all adults. The full tables are available online at www.communicateresearch.com.Reuse content