Labour extends its lead in poll
Labour has consolidated its lead over the Conservatives as anxiety grows about the Coalition Government's economic strategy, according to a poll released today.
As the political leaders depart for their August break, there are reasons for optimism as well as cause for concern for Prime Minister David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
It is probably the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, who has the most grounds for cheer. His party enjoys 40% support in The Independent poll, the eighth month it has been at or above that mark.
The Tories are four points behind on 36%, with the Liberal Democrats increasing slightly to 13%.
Mr Miliband appears to have thrown off doubts over his leadership with his strong performance over the hacking scandal, but will be under pressure to push the poll ratings higher as spending cuts bite.
The Prime Minister will be relieved that Tory support is at the same level as at last year's General Election.
For Mr Clegg, meanwhile, there are signs that the Liberal Democrats are beginning to recover from a haemorrhage of support at the end of last year, although they remain 10 points down since the election. John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who compiled the "poll of polls", said the economy was a "darker shadow threatening to hang over the Coalition".
He pointed to YouGov surveys showing that confidence in the handling of the economy by Mr Cameron and the Chancellor, George Osborne, had fallen to a new low.
Professor Curtice said more people still blamed the last Labour administration rather than the current government for the cuts to public spending, adding: "It will soon prove increasingly difficult to lay the blame for the current state of the economy at Labour's door. Mr Osborne's economic judgment may be about to be tested."
The surveys were taken before last week's announcement that economic growth remained sluggish at just 0.2% in the second quarter of the year.
The Confederation of British Industry today gave a downbeat assessment of the economy, predicting growth will be "lacklustre" for the rest of the year.