Nick Clegg nearly as popular as Winston Churchill

Jonathan Oliver and David Smith, Times Online

NICK CLEGG, the Liberal Democrat leader who until a few days ago was little known to voters, is now the most popular party leader since Winston Churchill, a new Sunday Times poll reveals.

Following his decisive victory in last week’s television debate, Clegg has surged to a higher approval rating than Tony Blair at the peak of new Labour’s popularity.

Last night, as the YouGov survey showed that the three parties are almost neck and neck, Labour and the Tories desperately tried to respond to the Clegg phenomenon.

The general election has become a genuine three-way contest with the Lib Dems, on 29%, enjoying their strongest support in almost 30 years.

Clegg’s party is one point behind Labour on 30%, with the Tories on 33% having a slender lead of three points. The poll suggests David Cameron’s Tories are on course to secure 239 seats, only 46 more than they have now.

Labour, despite being second in terms of the popular vote, would get the most seats, with about 287 MPs, giving Gordon Brown a fighting chance of clinging on as prime minister.

The number of Lib Dem MPs would increase from 63 to 93, putting them in a strong position to dictate terms in a hung parliament.

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