by Ray Fleming

Yesterday's Guardian/ICM poll could not have been more disappointing and worrying for David Cameron on both the national and Eastleigh by-electoral fronts. Without breaking political sweat Labour have a 41-29 point advantage over the Conservatives, an increase of three points over the comparable January poll.

Yet during that time Mr Cameron was thought to have managed his EU sceptics problem rather well by making a conditional promise of a Yes-No referendum on Britain's EU membership and to have been “victorious” in the EU budget negotiations at the end of last week. The poll was taken on 8'9,10 February so some at least of the praise for his Brussels performance should have shown through. But apparently not. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that just now the British public does not think much of Mr Cameron and his party.

That's not surprising since it is a party in disarray. At Westminster there is almost nothing substantial on which the coalition parties agree and at Eastleigh, a by-election of critical personal importance to the prime minister, the Conservatives have selected a candidate, Marina Hutchings, who openly disagrees fundamentally with Mr Cameron on gay marriages, abortion, and EU policies. She also refuses to follow the party's official campaigning line of emphasising how Chris Huhne had “sold a lie” to his constituents before his forced resignation. A mess.