January 27, 2009 / 5:07 AM / 9 years ago

Economic woes erode support for Brown

LONDON (Reuters) - Voters lack confidence in Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s measures to tackle the economic crisis and the ruling Labour Party has lost more ground to the Conservatives, two opinion polls showed on Monday.

An ICM survey for the Guardian put support for Labour at 32 percent, down one percentage point from last month and 12 points behind the Conservatives, up six points to 44.

A poll in the Independent showed an even bigger gap of 15 points. The ComRES survey showed Labour support at 28 percent, down six points from its December poll, and the Conservatives on 43 percent, up four points from December.

The Labour Party has also been shaken by newspaper allegations that four Labour members of the upper house of parliament had been ready to try to get laws changed if they were paid large sums of money, which is illegal.

The government has promised a parliamentary investigation into the allegations, based on interviews with the Labour peers carried out by undercover newspaper reporters.

Brown has led a high-profile campaign to try to turn round the British economy before parliamentary elections due by May 2010, partly by taking stakes in some banks.

Brown and Conservative leader David Cameron have clashed repeatedly over the government’s handling of the economy, which plunged into recession in the last quarter of 2008 for the first time since 1991.

The ICM poll was conducted after Brown unveiled a second package of measures last week to increase bank lending to help companies and homebuyers struggling to get loans.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown listens to questions after his speech on "Britain and the Global Economy" in London January 26, 2009. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

Just 31 percent of those polled by ICM thought Brown’s latest action would make things better. Nearly two thirds (64 percent) thought it would achieve nothing or make things worse, according to results of the poll on the Guardian’s website (www.guardian.co.uk).

Just 43 percent supported the government’s decision to buy large stakes in several British banks, and only four out of 10 would support their nationalisation.

Among those who voted for Labour at the last election in 2005, only 48 percent thought the measures would be a success.

Asked by ICM who could best be trusted with the economy, Cameron and his finance spokesman George Osborne were two points ahead of Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling. Labour led the Conservatives by seven points on handling the economy in January 2008.

Only one third of those asked by ComRES thought Brown’s government had taken the right steps to fend off the worst effects of the recession, while 58 percent said it had not.

On Monday, Brown repeated his calls for an international response to the economic crisis. “The fragility of the global financial system must be addressed internationally,” he told reporters.

Cameron said the level of debt in Britain was “truly frightening” and public finances must be brought under control.

“In terms of personal and corporate debt, Britain is, I think it is true to say, the most indebted nation on earth,” he told Sky News in an interview.

* ICM interviewed 1,003 adults by phone between January 23 and January 25. ComRES polled 1,012 adults by phone between January 21 and January 22.

Reporting by Peter Griffiths and Kate Kelland; editing by Tim Pearce

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