The cash-for-access scandal engulfing David Cameron has inflicted deep damage on the Conservative Party's standing, according to a ComRes survey.
The polling gives Labour a 10-point lead over the Tories, the highest in a ComRes survey for seven years. But, significantly, in interviews conducted since the affair emerged on Sunday, Labour was a remarkable 17 points ahead.
In the 337 interviews conducted on Saturday, before the cash-for-access revelations, Labour enjoyed a lead of only four points. But in the 350 interviews that took place on Sunday and yesterday, after the disclosures, Labour was 17 points ahead. Labour was on 47pc, the Tories on 30pc and the Liberal Democrats on 11pc.
The survey also found two out of three people regard the Tories as "the party of the rich" as a result of last week's Budget, which cut the 50p top rate of tax on incomes over £150,000 (€179,340) a year while imposing a 'granny tax' on pensioners.
Tory modernisers fear Mr Cameron's drive to 'detoxify' his party could be undermined by the combination of the budget and the revelation the Tories' treasurer Peter Cruddas offered potential donors dinner in Mr Cameron's apartment if they gave £250,000 (€299,000) to the party.
Mr Cameron tried to draw a line under the affair by publishing a list of Tory donors he entertained at both No 10 and Chequers, his official country residence. But he was criticised for refusing to make a Commons statement on the affair or take questions from journalists on it.
Labour will today keep up the pressure on Mr Cameron by challenging him over Mr Cruddas's suggestion to undercover reporters from 'The Sunday Times' that the Tories might be able to find a way round the law banning foreign donations. It also emerged that:
• One of Mr Cameron's dinner guests runs an oil trading company that stands to make millions from the new British-backed government in Libya. He had given £50,000 (€59,780) to the party.
• Another invitee gave an interview in which he said he "had it first-hand" from "very senior" members of the government that Mr Cameron would oppose a financial transaction tax.
• Christopher Kelly, chairman of the anti-sleaze watchdog, rejected as "much too high" Mr Cameron's proposal to bring in a £50,000 (€59,780) cap on individual donations to parties.
On a torrid day for the Conservatives, Downing Street was forced to release a list of 12 major donors who were invited with their partners to four dinners in Mr Cameron's flat. Between them the guests had given or lent the party almost £18m (€21.5m) since Mr Cameron became leader. A second list of five donors invited for lunches at Chequers was released later.(© Independent News Media)