The Lib Dems have replaced the Tories as Britain's least favourite party

New polling shows that 49% would not consider voting Lib Dem, compared to 43% who would not consider voting Conservative.

If you glanced at today's Sun you could be forgiven for thinking that UKIP had become not just Eastleigh but Britain's second party. "PM feels heat as UKIP support hits 38 per cent" reads the paper's attention-grabbing headline. But the stat turns out refer to the party's potential level of support, not its current level (12 per cent in today's YouGov poll). Asked whether they would consider voting for UKIP if it had "a realistic chance of actually winning in your local area", 38 per cent say they would, 10 per cent say they would "probably not" and 43 per cent say they would "definitely not". A separate question which asks whether people would consider voting for the party, regardless of its chances of success, found that 36 per cent would and 44 would not. 

The level of "considerers" is viewed by all parties as an important measure of their potential to expand their support, so how do the rest compare? It's Labour that comes out on top, with 46 per cent saying they would consider voting for the party and 35 per cent saying they would not. The party's large pool of potential voters is one reason why some Labour MPs (see Peter Hain's Staggers piece yesterday) are confident their party will be the largest after 2015. 

The Conservatives are in second place, with 40 per cent saying they would consider voting for the party. But worryingly for David Cameron, 43 per cent of all respondents say they would "definitely not" vote for the party. For a large section of the electorate, the Tories remain too toxic to touch. 

But it's the Lib Dems who are now Britain's least favourite party. Only 30 per cent would consider voting for them and 49 per cent would "definitely not". The finding contrasts with an earlier YouGov poll in September 2011 which found that 36 per cent would not consider voting Lib Dem, compared to 42 per cent who would not consider voting Tory. While the Lib Dems are often accused of retoxifying the Conservative brand, the poll reminds us that coalition government has been most toxic for them. 

Here are those figures in full. 

Labour

Actual support: 40%

Potential support: 46%

35% would "definitely not" vote for the party

Conservatives

Actual support: 31%

Potential support: 40%

43% would "definitely not" vote for the party

Liberal Democrats

Actual support: 12%

Potential support: 30%

49% would "definitely not" vote for the party

UKIP

Actual support: 12%

Potential support: 36%

44% would "definitely not" vote for the party

 

David Cameron and Nick Clegg attend a press conference at 10 Downing Street to mark the halfway point of the coalition government on January 7, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.