LONDON - The opinion poll lead of the Conservatives over the Labour Party has narrowed to eight percentage points, according to a poll published on Tuesday.
The Populus poll for the Times newspaper showed Labour on 30 percent, up one point from early November, with the Conservatives down one point to 38 percent and the Liberal Democrats up two at 20 percent.
Political scientists say because of the way the electoral system works anything less than a 10 point Conservative lead raises the possibility of a hung parliament if replicated in a general election, which is due by June next year.
The last hung parliament -- in which no party holds an overall majority -- was in 1974.
The figures are broadly in line with other recent surveys which show slight Labour gains, although most of the others including one released at the weekend suggested that the Conservatives would gain an overall majority.
Only one other poll, published in November, has shown a narrower gap between the two main parties over the last year.
The Populus survey of 1,505 people, carried out over the weekend, showed the number of voters expecting a Conservative overall majority has fallen 10 percent to 47 percent since October. However, 60 percent of people thought the Conservatives would be the largest party after the election.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown's announcement last week that British troop numbers in Afghanistan would be increased by 500 has divided voters, the newspaper said, with 44 percent supporting the decision and 48 percent opposing it.
But the poll showed his references to Conservative leader David Cameron's education at Britain's most exclusive private school -- widely interpreted as a move to paint Cameron as a friend of the rich -- had relatively little resonance.
Only 34 percent agreed that Cameron's Eton education and privileged upbringing meant his policies were aimed at helping rich people, rather than the whole country while 58 percent disagreed.
Of those who voted Labour in 2005 but now say they would back the Conservatives 78 percent disagreed, the newspaper said, while 22 percent agreed.
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by David Stamp)