LONDON Support for British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party has surged, according to an opinion poll published on Tuesday that put it in joint first place with the opposition Labour Party for the first time in over a year.
Midway through a third year of harsh spending cuts, the Conservatives, senior partner in Britain's two-party coalition government, have consistently lagged Labour in recent polls by up to 10 percentage points.
Britain's next national election is set for 2015.
However, the ICM survey for the Guardian newspaper showed both parties tied at 36 percent, with the Conservatives' share of the vote up 7 percentage points month-on-month.
Labour's support was unchanged, while the anti-European Union UK Independence Party (UKIP) slipped five points to 7 percent. The Conservatives' junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, were on 13 percent, up one percentage point.
Tuesday's poll diverges from other recent surveys, which have confirmed a comfortable lead for Labour. But it will fuel concerns that Labour is failing to capitalize on a typical mid-term drop in support for the incumbent party.
Labour has been beset by a furor over whether trade unions, its main source of funding, attempted to rig the selection of election candidates. The personal ratings of Ed Miliband, the party leader, have consistently lagged those of Cameron.
Earlier this year, support for UKIP's anti-EU agenda rose sharply, helping it to beat the Conservatives into third place in a May parliamentary by-election.
But since then the Conservatives have sought to assuage eurosceptical voters and party members by bringing forward draft legislation on holding a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Gareth Jones)