LONDON (Reuters) - Gordon Brown’s personal popularity ratings have plunged further and faster than any other British prime minister since polling began in the 1930s, a poll revealed on Sunday.
Brown is facing a rough ride as the global lending squeeze tightens its grip on the economy and the housing market could head into a sharp downturn.
Although he does not have to call a national election until 2010, Brown also faces a tough parliamentary battle against rebels in his own Labour party over his plans to extend the time terrorism suspects are held from 28 to 42 days.
The latest YouGov poll in the Sunday Times showed the resurgent Conservatives on 44 percent with Labour on 28 percent and the centrist Liberal Democrats on 17 percent.
But the biggest blow was delivered on Brown’s personal ratings, which have fallen from plus 48 last August to minus 37, on a zero midpoint scale.
“The collapse is the most dramatic of any modern-day prime minister, worse even than Neville Chamberlain who in 1940 dropped from plus 21 to minus 27 after Hitler’s invasion of Norway,” the paper said.
Brown, hailed as a steady hand on the economic tiller in his decade as finance minister, took over as prime minister in June last year from Tony Blair.
His reputation for economic competence crumbled when the country’s fifth largest mortgage lender collapsed in the credit crunch. Housing prices have just recorded their biggest monthly fall since 1992.
Brown, who is set to have talks with leading executives from London’s financial district on Tuesday before flying to the United States, has urged banks to own up to the scale of their debts in the credit crunch.
Writing in Sunday’s News of the World tabloid, he promised new measures to ensure that Bank of England interest rate cuts are passed on to mortgage holders. The Bank of England has made funds available to try and ease the crunch and has cut interest rates three times since December.
But Brown complained that commercial banks “have not always been passing those reductions to their customers”.
Editing by Michael Winfrey