The flagging popularity of Britain's ruling Labour Party was highlighted on Tuesday by an opinion poll that showed that the party led by Prime Minister Gordon Brown had slipped to third place in the estimation of the voter.
The Ipsos Mori poll, published on the day Brown is due to give a keynote speech to the annual Labour Party conference, put Labour at 24 per cent, the opposition Liberal Democrats at 25 per cent and the bigger opposition Conservative Party at 36 per cent.
A general election is due in Britain by June 2010. It is largely expected to end 13 years of Labour rule begun with the landslide victory of former prime minister Tony Blair in 1997.
The latest poll is the first ever to show Labour taking third place in the ranking of the three main political parties.
It compares with a survey last month which gave the Tories 43 percent, Labour 26 per cent and the Liberal Democrats 17 percent.
Brown, who has been battered by fresh criticism of his leadership, is expected to call on the party to "fight for its life" in the run-up to the crucial election.
But Tuesday's poll confirmed his low personal popularity rating. It showed that 41 per cent believe Conservative leader David Cameron would make a competent prime minister, while 24 per cent wanted Brown and 16 percent said Liberal leader Nick Clegg would make a good prime minister.