Labour panic after Tories take first poll lead in two years

The Tories have taken a shock lead over Labour for the first time in over two years, according to two new polls.

The polls reveal a dramatic collapse in support for Ed Miliband's party.

An ICM poll for the Guardian found that just 31% of voters intend to vote for Labour at the general election, with 33% intending to vote for the Conservatives instead.

This is a drop in 6% from last month.

Another poll commissioned by former deputy Conservative chairman Lord Ashcroft found the Tories ahead on 34%, with Labour crashing down to just 32%.

The results of tthe two polls, if repeated at a general election, would probably still see Labour winning the most seats, but stopping short of an overall majority.

However, they come at a difficult time for Ed Miliband as he comes under fire from many in his own party for his mishandling of Labour's election campaign.

The party's recent party election broadcast, which focused on Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was panned by many both in and outside the party.

The broadcast was followed by an election poster campaign focusing on the government's increase to VAT.

The impact of the campaign was severely blunted after it was pointed out that almost all of the items in the poster were zero-rated for VAT.

Many in Labour believe Miliband is failing to do enough to capitalise on the unpopularity of the coalition government. They claim he has allowed Ukip to take many of the protest votes that might otherwise have gone Labour's way.

Today's Ashcroft poll found Ukip are on 15% of the vote with the Lib Dems on just 9%.

Other pollsters have found Nigel Farage's party on as much as 20% in national polls.

Some Labour MPs believe Miliband is intent on winning solely on the back of disaffected former Lib Dem voters. This strategy known as the "35% strategy" has been consistently denied by the Labour leadership.

However, not everyone is convinced.

"I believed them when they said there wasn't a 35% strategy," one MP told the New Statesman. "Now I'm convinced there is".