The resignation of Maria Miller and allegations that MPs are embroiled in a "Sexminster" culture have handed Ukip their highest ever polling position, a survey for The Independent on Sunday reveals today.
Nigel Farage's party has been the only beneficiary of the twin scandals that have left trust in Westminster politicians at one of the lowest levels since the peak of the expenses affair five years ago.
The ComRes poll puts Ukip on 20 per cent, up four points from last month and its highest ever for this polling firm, while the Conservatives are down three to 29 per cent, their lowest rating in 2014.
Worryingly for Ed Miliband's attempts to set out to voters an alternative government, Labour remains unchanged on 35 per cent. The Liberal Democrats continue to struggle and are at their lowest rating on 7 per cent, down two points from last month. Under current constituency boundaries, Labour would win a majority of 74 seats. A quarter of Tory voters from 2010 say they would vote Ukip if there were a general election tomorrow.
Polling started within hours of Ms Miller's resignation on Wednesday morning over her expenses, after a week of hesitation by David Cameron. Some 62 per cent of voters said the Prime Minister had shown a "serious lack of leadership" over his handling of the affair, while only 15 per cent disagreed. Nearly 60 per cent of voters backed the right of constituents to re-call their sitting MPs for a by-election.
Mr Farage's party is also likely to have benefited from his victory over Nick Clegg in the party leaders' EU debate a week earlier. No 10 is likely to play down the surge for Ukip, with support for the Conservatives expected after a high-profile resignation. Some 27 per cent of voters say they are favourable towards Mr Farage, a rise of 7 per cent since February.
There is more bad news for the Government, with half of voters saying that, despite the economy's upturn, their personal finances are in a worse place than in 2010, while 20 per cent say their family is better off.
However, there is little comfort for Labour, with George Osborne seen as twice as likely to bring about full employment as Ed Balls if he were Chancellor – 27 per cent of voters versus 14 per cent. Only 23 per cent expect Mr Miliband to be prime minister after the next election.
In a display of the sense of anger that remains over MPs' expenses, a petition on the change.org website by a first-time voter launched hours after Ms Miller's downfall had gained nearly 100,000 signatures last night, one of the most popular petitions on the site. Uzma Chaudhry, who works for the volunteering charity vinspired, calls for major reform of the way MPs are scrutinised, including giving lay members on the Standards Committee a vote on reports.
In her petition, Ms Chaudhry wrote: "Next year I'll be eligible to vote for the first time. But, like my friends and thousands of other young people across the UK, I don't feel like there's much for me to vote for. This week we saw another expenses scandal almost go unpunished. In fact, if it wasn't for thousands of people coming together to show their frustration, then Maria Miller might have got away with it – something that couldn't happen outside the Westminster bubble.
"A generation of voters might be so put off politics that they never engage in democracy in their lifetime. I think this is a crisis and we need to fix the root of the problem.
"If young people like me are to put trust into Parliament, we need to know that MPs can be trusted. How can we have a system where MPs overrule the independent parliamentary commissioner and decide their own fines?
"I know that not all politicians are like this. I want to be able to tell my friends that voting is important and get people excited about getting out to vote. But what I hear from other young people is that the system is corrupt, there's nothing for them to vote for and MPs are out for themselves.
"We have a chance to change politics for the better. David Cameron should fix this now so that next year, when a new generation of voters go to the polling station... we can be confident the expenses scandal, which has destroyed young people's faith in politics, is truly a thing of the past."