Voters are more likely to believe that Ed Miliband will bring down the cost of living and protect people's jobs than David Cameron, but still believe the Labour leader lacks economic credibility, a poll for The Independent on Sunday reveals today.
While the Labour leader is more trusted to make families better off, he and his party trail the Conservatives by 14 points on the ability to keep the economy growing.
The division suggests that, while voters believe Labour will look after them on everyday issues such as keeping prices down, the party still lacks the economic credibility that could deliver it to office in 2015. The survey by ComRes also shows that Labour policies, such as the energy-price freeze, are less popular with voters when Mr Miliband's name is attached to them.
The state of the parties in the ComRes survey will be just as troubling for Mr Miliband: Labour's lead over the Tories has shrunk from eight points to three points in a month – its narrowest since March 2012. Labour is down one point, to 35 per cent, while the Tories are up four points to 32 per cent. The Lib Dems are on 9 per cent, down one. Ukip's share has held up, down just one point to 16 per cent. Despite the narrow lead, Labour would still win the election with a 30-seat majority.
Mr Cameron and George Osborne believe voters will continue to shift to the Tories as the economy flourishes. Growth figures this week are set to bring more good news, with the fastest advance for the UK economy in more than three years expected.
Mr Miliband's proposed freeze on gas and electricity prices is popular when it is described as a Labour policy, with 71 per cent supporting it. But it becomes less attractive when his name is attached to it, although 65 per cent still back the policy.
By contrast, Mr Cameron's name makes Tory policies slightly more attractive. Eight out of 10 people back the policy for forcing energy companies to put all customers on the cheapest tariff when it is associated with the Prime Minister, while 79 per cent support it when it is described as a Conservative policy.
Labour has a 20-point lead over the Conservatives when voters are asked which party will keep gas and electricity prices down – 37 per cent to 17 per cent. When Mr Miliband and Mr Cameron are compared, the Labour leader has a 21-point advantage.
On ability to get the cost of living down, Labour has a nine-point lead over the Tories, 35 per cent to 26 per cent, widening to 10 points when it is Mr Miliband vs the Prime Minister. Labour's lead stretches to 16 points on the issue of protecting people's jobs – 39 per cent to 23 per cent.
But on the issue of keeping the economy growing, the Tories maintain a strong lead of 14 points over Labour, 40 per cent to 26 per cent. The lead is the same between Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband. And on the question of being tough on people abusing the benefits system, the Tory lead is vast – 39 points, or 55 per cent to Labour's 16 per cent. Mr Cameron's lead over Mr Miliband here is 39 points too: 53 to 14 per cent.
Figures from the House of Commons Library obtained by Labour show the UK has seen one of the biggest falls in real wages of any EU country in the past three years. After inflation is taken into account, UK wages have fallen by 5.1 per cent since the third quarter of 2010, with only Greece, Portugal, the Netherlands, Cyprus and Slovenia having a worse drop. Over the same period, wages in real terms in France and Germany have risen, by 0.9 per cent, and in Germany by 3 per cent.
Catherine McKinnell, shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said: "These new figures show the extent of the cost of living crisis facing Britain. David Cameron talks about the global race, but it's clear that when it comes to living standards Britain is losing."
But Business minister Matt Hancock said official figures showed that in 2012, disposable incomes rose by 1.6 per cent. He added: "We had the deepest recession in Europe under Labour but we are turning things round. We have cut income tax for 25 million people, frozen council tax and reduced fuel duty too."
Meanwhile, Nick Clegg will try to distance his party from the Tories on tax this weekend by pledging to increase the threshold for income tax from £10,000 to £12,500. In his weekly email to Lib Dem members and activists, he points out that Mr Cameron opposed the £10,000 pledge in the 2010 election TV debates before introducing it in the coalition Government. There are suggestions the Tories will also pledge to raise the income-tax starting rate to £12,500, around the minimum wage, but Mr Clegg insists his party has led the way on low tax.