Ed Miliband's autumn offensive appears to be paying dividends with a new opinion poll suggesting he is catching up with or overtaking David Cameron in key personal ratings.

Virtually from the day he was elected leader, Miliband has struggled to match Cameron in the leadership stakes and has always polled worse than his party. Cameron, on the other hand, has always run ahead of both Miliband and the Tories in popularity.

But after his keynote conference speech and subsequent performance, it appears Miliband may be reversing the trend. Both leaders continue to poll negatively on all the indicators such as honesty or good in a crisis for example, which is in its own way a worrying judgement on the way voters view politicians.

But the latest figures by ICM for the Guardian suggest all Miliband's work over the summer and autumn is starting to pay dividends.

The Labour leader is ahead of Cameron on questions of "who best understands people like me" (36% to 25%) and "more honest than most politicians" (32% to 29%).

He matches the prime minister on questions of "having the courage to say what is right" (45% each) and "is backed by his party" (60% to 59%).

This is all undoubtedly good news for Miliband whose geeky image and previous inability to connect with voters or follow through on temporary advances appears to be reversing.

In particular, it suggests he is seen as more in touch with ordinary voters than the prime minister, a key plank of Labour's election campaign message

But there is one pretty big "but" in the new figures. And that is when it comes to the crucial question of "who makes the best prime minister". And on that question, Cameron has retained a significant lead of 5% over Miliband (32% to 27%).

Some of that can be put down to the fact that the incumbent always gets a better showing - prime ministers tend to look more prime ministerial than Opposition leaders do. But that is not enough to allow Miliband to relax.

The survey also bears out other recent polls suggesting Labour has an overall lead over the Tories, in this case 38% compared to the Tories 30%. The worrying thing for Cameron is that his party is four points down from the previous poll, suggesting Miliband's campaign is hitting the Tories' standing.

That is far from decisive and is also not enough to allow Miliband and his troops to relax.

The clear task for the Opposition now is to build on that overall lead, which may prove increasingly difficult as the economic recovery takes hold, and to get the required breakthrough for its leader.

And that second one is by far the most important and, potentially difficult. Can voters be persuaded to see Ed Miliband standing on the steps of 10 Downing Street as the British prime minister?