The Conservative Party's lead has been cut but Labour is struggling to motivate its natural supporters, according to the latest monthly survey for The Independent.
The ComRes survey puts the Tories on 38 per cent (down three points on the previous month), Labour on 31 per cent (up one point), the Liberal Democrats on 17 per cent (unchanged) and other parties on 14 per cent (up two points). At a general election, those figures would result in a hung parliament, leaving the Tories 18 seats short of a majority.
The findings will disappoint David Cameron's party, which has enjoyed big leads of up to 16 points in other polls taken since last month's Budget, and raise Labour hopes that the Tories' lead can be clawed back.
However, the survey suggests Labour is not enthusing its core vote, echoing a warning at the weekend by the Health minister Ivan Lewis that the Government is "silent" on and "losing touch" with the daily realities facing families.
Only 49 per cent of Labour supporters are "absolutely certain" to vote in a general election, compared to 71 per cent of Tory supporters and 55 per cent of those who intend to back the Liberal Democrats.
Meanwhile, only 43 per cent of people who regard themselves as natural Labour supporters are "absolutely certain" to vote – compared to 67 per cent of Tory "identifiers" and 54 per cent of people who regard themselves as natural Liberal Democrats. Tory "identifiers" are more likely to stay loyal, with 94 per cent saying they will vote for Mr Cameron's party. For Labour, the figure is 83 per cent and for the Liberal Democrats 81 per cent.
Gordon Brown tried to rally MPs ahead of difficult local elections on 1 May when he addressed their weekly meeting last night. He said Labour should focus on areas where it is delivering – such as neighbourhood policing, pensioner bus travel, health check-ups and longer GP surgery opening hours. He insisted Labour was protecting people's homes, wages and jobs in the face of global economic problems.
In a speech to 700 civil servants today, the Prime Minister will say the global turmoil makes it "even more essential" that the Government presses on with "investment and reform" in public services. With budgets guaranteed until 2011, public sector workers can plan ahead with much greater confidence, he will say.
According to ComRes, there has been a modest shift among men away from the Tories towards Labour in the past month but little movement among women.
There has been a small shift among C2s and DEs to Labour – key target groups for the party. Labour has regained its lead in the North of England. Nationally, Labour is ahead in only one age group, 18 to 24-year-olds, only 16 per cent of whom are "absolutely certain" to vote.
ComRes phoned 1,004 adults on 28-30 March. Data was weighted by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council. Full tables at www.comres.co.ukReuse content