Ed Balls is the least popular Labour politician

Blow for leadership candidate as poll shows that he is significantly less popular than his rivals.

Opinion polls on politicians should always be treated with caution, for the simple reason that many of those surveyed will know little or nothing about the figures in question.

But with Labour immersed in its first leadership contest for 16 years, the latest PoliticsHome poll may make more of an impact. The poll found that Jon Cruddas is Labour's most popular politician, with an approval rating of +3. He is the only Labour figure with a positive rating, although only 27 per cent of the public had an opinion of him.

That Cruddas has never held ministerial office means that he has not been required to take the sort of decisions that can alienate the public. But I'd be surpirsed if his affable, open style didn't also benefit him.

Of the leadership contenders, Andy Burnham fares best, with an approval rating of -2, followed by Ed Miliband on - 5, David Miliband on -7 and Ed Balls on -39. Of the four, more of the public (61 per cent) had an opinion on Balls than any other candidate.

Findings like this should concentrate Labour minds. It would be politically irresponsible to elect a candidate so clearly disliked by the public.

Meanwhile, despite the noble efforts of my colleague Mehdi Hasan, Vince Cable remains Britain's most popular politician, with an approval rating of +24.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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We're running out of time to stop a hard Brexit - and the consequences are terrifying

Liam Fox has nothing to say and Labour has thrown the towel in. 

Another day goes past, and still we’re no clearer to finding out what Brexit really means. Today secretary of state for international trade, Liam Fox, was expected to use a speech to the World Trade Organisation to announce that the UK is on course to leave the EU’s single market, as reported earlier this week. But in a humiliating climb-down, he ended up saying very little at all except for vague platitudes about the UK being in favour of free trade.

At a moment when the business community is desperate for details about our future trading arrangements, the International Trade Secretary is saying one thing to the papers and another to our economic partners abroad. Not content with insulting British businesses by calling them fat and lazy, it seems Fox now wants to confuse them as well.

The Tory Government’s failure to spell out what Brexit really means is deeply damaging for our economy, jobs and global reputation. British industry is crying out for direction and for certainty about what lies ahead. Manufacturers and small businesses who rely on trade with Europe want to know whether Britain’s membership of the single market will be preserved. EU citizens living in Britain and all the UK nationals living in Europe want to know whether their right to free movement will be secured. But instead we have endless dithering from Theresa May and bitter divisions between the leading Brexiteers.

Meanwhile the Labour party appears to have thrown in the towel on Europe. This week, Labour chose not to even debate Brexit at their conference, while John McDonnell appeared to confirm he will not fight for Britain’s membership of the single market. And the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn, who hardly lifted a finger to keep us in Europe during the referendum, confirms the party is not set to change course any time soon.

That is not good enough. It’s clear a hard Brexit would hit the most deprived parts of Britain the hardest, decimating manufacturing in sectors like the car industry on which so many skilled jobs rely. The approach of the diehard eurosceptics would mean years of damaging uncertainty and barriers to trade with our biggest trading partners. While the likes of Liam Fox and boris Johnson would be busy travelling the world cobbling together trade deals from scratch, it would be communities back home who pay the price.

We are running out of time to stop a hard Brexit. Britain needs a strong, united opposition to this Tory Brexit Government, one that will fight for our membership of the single market and the jobs that depend on it. If Labour doesn’t fill this gap, the Liberal Democrats will.

Tim Farron is leader of the Liberal Democrats.