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UK

Budget cuts knock confidence - Reuters/Ipsos MORI

LONDON (Reuters) - Support for the Labour party is at its highest level for three years as public confidence about the economy -- and the private sector’s ability to mop up laid-off public sector workers -- continues to ebb.

Satisfaction with the coalition government, which has announced a raft of austerity measures since last month’s Reuters/Ipsos MORI political monitor, has dropped significantly in the past month.

The November monitor shows only 28 percent of the public believe the economy will improve in the next year, and four out of every five doubt the private sector will be able to absorb public sector employees laid off under government plans.

The government, led by the Conservative Party, last month unveiled deep public spending cuts to help tackle a record budget deficit close to 11 percent of national output, risking a public backlash and union unrest.

Dissatisfaction with the government has risen to 55 percent this month from 45 percent just before austerity measures were unveiled in a spending review on October 20.

If the public were to vote now, the Labour party would take more of the vote (39 percent) than the Conservatives (36 percent) or the Liberal Democrats (14 percent), and poll data showed that support for Labour this month was strongest since October 2007.

“The (poll) in November shows high levels of concern about the effects of the spending cuts, particularly to university tuition fees, local public services and policing,” said Ipsos MORI’s Helen Cleary.

SUPPORT FOR NICK CLEGG FALLS

The Lib Dems have been damaged by their reversal on an election pledge to block a rise in university tuition fees, and while support for the party is unchanged from October, net satisfaction among Lib Dems with leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has almost halved since last month.

Many Liberal Democrats feel that the left-leaning party is compromising its principles to work with the right-leaning Conservatives, and among the public in general, about two thirds believe it is the Conservatives that call shots.

Among supporters of the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and Labour, the Conservatives are happiest with their leader, Prime Minister David Cameron. However, his support among the overall public has fallen to 46 percent from 52 percent in October.

“Satisfaction with the government, Cameron and Clegg continues to fall. People still think that no party having an overall majority is a bad thing for the country, and there is widespread belief that the Conservatives are making most of the decisions in the coalition,” Cleary said.

Despite falling confidence in the government, the majority of the public still agrees that there is a need to cut spending on public services to pay off the national debt.

Technical note

- Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,005 adults aged 18+ across Britain.

- Interviews were conducted by telephone between November 12-14.

- Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

Reporting by Mohammed Abbas: Editing by Jodie Ginsberg

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