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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 22:20 GMT 23:20 UK
Kennedy's 'honesty' pays off

Nyta Mann

As the election campaign nears its climax, Charles Kennedy is the party leader the voters are most impressed with, William Hague the least, and Tony Blair the one who would make the best prime minister, according to a new BBC News Online/ICM poll.

The Liberal Democrats' strategy of seeking to make a feature of their "honest" approach appears to have paid off, with 45% of those questioned judging Mr Kennedy the most impressive of the party leaders.

Mr Blair was chosen as most impressive by 23%, while only 18% picked Conservative leader William Hague.

Tax claims

Throughout the campaign Labour and the Tories have traded claim and counter-claim over tax, with each side denouncing the other for failing to rule out increases to various specific taxes.

Labour has also promised not to raise income tax rates for the duration of the next parliament. The Tories have pledged an £8bn tax cut, to be "refunded" to voters.

In contrast, a tax increase hypothecated for public services is a cornerstone of the Lib Dem manifesto. Mr Kennedy acknowledged early on in the campaign that he had no expectation of becoming prime minister on 8 June.

More bad news for Hague

When it comes to choosing which of the party leaders has least impressed them, the poll suggests more bad news for Mr Hague: 54% opted for the Tory leader. Mr Blair was picked by 28% of voters; Mr Kennedy by just 12%.

To compound the Conservative leader's poll misery, his rating in the "best prime minister" stakes also appears to have dropped: just 20% of voters said they believed he would make the resident of Number 10 - down two points from a week ago.

Q. Which party leader do you think would make the best Prime Minister?

The latest survey appears to put Mr Hague on equal footing with Mr Kennedy (20%). This marks a rise for the Lib Dem leader of three points over the past week, and follows Mr Kennedy's insistence that his party will form the "serious opposition" to a Labour government after polling day.

The survey's findings suggest a significant boost to Mr Kennedy's standing over the past fortnight. Two weeks ago, though already ahead of Mr Blair and Mr Hague in the "impressiveness" rating, 31% had chosen the Lib Dem leader.

According to this latest survey, however, while impressiveness ratings for the leaders of the two main parties remain steady, Mr Kennedy's has leapt by 14 points.

ICM interviewed 1,112 adults in England, Scotland and Wales between 29 May and 3 June, 283 by telephone and the rest by email.


BBC News Online poll questions

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