Gordon Brown's poll ratings as a leader have continued to slide as he attempts to relaunch his premiership and Government after the setbacks of the autumn.
A Populus poll for The Times, the first of the new year, shows that David Cameron has overtaken Mr Brown in being seen to have what it takes to be a good Prime Minister after a big recent shift.
Six months ago, just after becoming Prime Minister, Mr Brown was ahead of Mr Cameron by 56 to 32 per cent on this measure. Now, the Conservative leader is ahead by 44 to 40 per cent. Much of the decline has happened in the past two months.
There have been similarly large shifts against Mr Brown on other measures of leader image, cutting his previously large lead on being strong from 32 to six points, while Mr Cameron has moved even further into the lead on charisma and likeability.
Mr Brown's leader index has also dropped sharply since June, to well below Mr Cameron, and to a level only once breached by Tony Blair. Mr Brown's rating is down by 0.89 points to 4.60 ( on a 0 to 10 scale), behind Mr Cameron on 5.07. While the Tory leader has recovered from mid-summer low of 4.81, his leader index is still slightly below its level a year ago.
The poll, undertaken over the weekend, shows that the election of Nick Clegg as Liberal Democrat leader three weeks ago has given his party a three point boost to 19 per cent, all at the expense of the Tories, down three points to 37 per cent. Labour has remained almost unchanged, up a point at 33 per cent.
The main parties are now back to where they were a year ago before Mr Blair resigned in late June and Mr Brown enjoyed his brief honeymoon with voters and the press.
Mr Clegg comes in lowest on the leader index, at 4.40, factionally higher than Sir Menzies Campbell, his predecessor last July, But 39 per cent of voters say they do not know how good or bad a leader he is, compared with only 9 per cent who say this about Mr Cameron and 5 per cent about Mr Brown. However, Mr Clegg's index rating among Lib Dem supporters is, at 6.5, appreciably higher than his predecessor's 5.63 among party supporters last June. ( Times )