Labour's hopes of a pre-election revival have been dampened by a new poll which shows the Conservatives extending their lead to 11 points.
The Independent on Sunday/ComRes poll put the Tories up two points to 41 per cent, with Labour slipping two points to 29 per cent and the Liberal Democrats up two to 21 per cent. Other parties are on 9 per cent, down three points.
If repeated at a general election, the latest figures would give the Tories a Commons majority of 26. The findings will reassure party strategists who had been troubled by a series of polls showing a hung parliament was increasingly likely after the election.
But the ComRes poll also suggests that significant doubts remain over David Cameron's leadership. With an election just months away, 56 per cent of voters agree with the statement that the Tory leader is a "slick salesman, but I worry about what he is like underneath". Thirty-six per cent disagree with this.
Last night, in an internet broadcast, Cameron made a direct appeal to Labour voters to support his party, even if they had not done so before.
"The hopes you had with Labour -- that Britain would become a stronger, fairer society -- those hopes don't just die just because Labour haven't achieved them," he said.
"They're alive with us in the modern Conservative party."
Labour's fall in the polls means that Gordon Brown is now unlikely to hold an election before 6 May -- the same date as the local elections.