The Liberal Democrats have slumped to their lowest rating in a national opinion poll, as the party struggles against claims of a cover-up surrounding the alleged behaviour of its former chief executive, Lord Rennard.
The party is on just 8%, down two points from last month, while Ukip is on 9%, according to a survey for the Independent by ComRes. The poll shows Labour up four points on 43% and the Conservatives on 31%, down one point. Other parties are unchanged on 9%.
There was better news for the party in a separate poll conducted in Eastleigh, where a byelection will take place on Thursday to select a replacement for the constituency's former MP, Chris Huhne.
The poll, conducted by Populus for Lord Ashcroft, the Tory peer, shows the Lib Dem candidate Mike Thornton holding a five point lead on 33%. Conservative candidate Maria Hutchingsis second on 28%, while support for Ukip's Diane James is on 21%. Labour's John O'Farrell is in fourth place on 12%, while support for others is at 6%.
The survey appears to suggest that neither the Rennard accusations nor the downgrading of the UK's credit rating have had a significant effect on the Eastleigh campaign.
It also finds that efforts by the two main contenders have succeeded in reaching nine out of ten voters .In a commentary on the poll, to be published on Conservative Home on Tuesday, Lord Ashcroft said that the Liberal Democrats "have the edge" in the byelection with just two days to go.
"Crucially, the Lib Dems are well ahead on understanding the Eastleigh constituency and representing local people in parliament", he added. "Four in 10 of all voters in the seat think this, as do 90% of those who intend to vote for Mr Thornton. Nearly half of voters generally, and two thirds of Lib Dems, say getting the best local MP will be the most important factor in their voting decision."
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image: © Liberal Democrats