Labour have moved ahead of the Conservative Party for the first time since Boris Johnson became prime minister, an opinion poll has indicated.
The survey by Opinium for The Observer newspaper gave Labour a three-point-lead over the Tories, with 42%, compared to 39%.
It suggested Labour was ahead for the first time since July 2019 – when Theresa May’s time in office was nearing an end – and that there is more support for Opposition Leader Sir Keir Starmer than Mr Johnson.
The poll also found 55% of voters think Sir Keir is ready to lead the country and 40% believe Labour is equipped to form the next government.
It is the latest poll to suggest waning public confidence at Mr Johnson’s – and the wider government’s – handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier in the year, 65% of voters surveyed backed the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, but in June, a YouGov poll for Sky News found the majority of Britons (51%) believed the government was handling it poorly.
And the latest poll showed that approval for the Johnson administration’s management of the pandemic had dropped to 30%.
Sir Keir’s poll ratings rose significantly in the first 100 days since becoming Labour leader.
A YouGov survey in June found he was most likely to be compared to Tony Blair by voters and is already seen as a clean break from Jeremy Corbyn, who led Labour to its worst election defeat in decades in December.
Sir Keir’s time at the helm has been dominated by COVID-19, over which he has pinned Mr Johnson down on detail at Prime Minister’s Questions and argued the UK government was “slow into lockdown, slow on testing, slow on tracing”.
He has also implemented swift and decisive reforms to his party’s image – replacing the powerful general secretary with a more centrist figure, cracking down on antisemitism and firing Corbyn loyalist Rebecca Long-Bailey from the shadow cabinet.
When he took over his party’s leadership from Corbyn in April, Sir Keir told Sky News he would be different by “demonstrating what an effective opposition looks like”.
He vowed to work with Mr Johnson to “do whatever we can to defeat the coronavirus crisis” by “pulling together” and “being constructive”.
The promise not to attempt to score political points over the pandemic was popular among voters, polls suggested.
But he has recently become increasingly critical of the government’s decision-making.
“I’m quite prepared to accept that a government will make mistakes in a pandemic like this and one or two U-turns are probably a sign of a government listening and then changing,” Sir Keir recently told Sky News presenter Kay Burley.
“But when you’ve got 12 in a row, the only conclusion is serial incompetence… Our country is better than that, we deserve better than that.”