December 15, 2010 / 9:09 AM / 9 years ago

Support for Lib Dems slumps - Reuters/Ipsos MORI

LONDON (Reuters) - Support for the Liberal Democrat party has slumped to its lowest level in two years, after a tumultuous month in which the party has been vilified for breaking its promise to oppose higher university fees.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is driven into The Houses of Parliament in central London November 29, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The Lib Dems are the junior partner in the coalition government. Support for their leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has also deteriorated, the latest Reuters/Ipsos MORI political monitor showed on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, support for the Labour party remains at its highest level for three years, and pollster Ipsos MORI said Labour had gained from the Lib Dem’s falling support.

The Lib Dems pledged before May election to oppose moves to raise university tuition fees, but then reversed their stance after joining the Conservative party in a coalition government when neither party won an outright majority in the polls.

If there was an election tomorrow, 38 percent of people say they would vote for the Conservatives, 39 percent for Labour and only 11 percent for the Lib Dems, down from the roughly 24 percent who voted for them in May, Ipsos MORI said.

The government has since announced a raft of spending cuts aimed at tackling Britain’s record budget deficit, including plans to almost triple tuition fees to as much as 9,000 pounds a year in a move to shift the burden of education costs from the state to students.

Students feel particularly aggrieved by the Lib Dems’ policy reversal. Demonstrations by students and others in recent weeks have seen running battles with police, the Conservative party headquarters and the Treasury broken into and a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife Camilla attacked.

Much of the students’ anger was directed at the Lib Dems and Clegg, an expensively educated politician who has gone from enjoying widespread support before the election to having his effigy burnt in protests and excrement shoved through his door.

He and his party are in danger of suffering lasting damage which may translate into election losses and even spoil the party’s appetite for its role in the coalition government.

“Nick Clegg is now the least popular party leader,” Ipsos MORI’s Tomasz Mludzinski said.

“This does represent a marked decline; between May 2009 and April 2010 he was consistently more popular than the other two main party leaders,” he added.

Prime Minister David Cameron, head of the Conservative Party, has the highest approval rating at 48 percent.

Britons continue to have a negative outlook on the economy, and only 29 percent think it will improve in the next year. The public was divided on whether Britain should loan money to other countries in financial difficulty, as it did with Ireland.

Technical note

- Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,004 adults aged 18+ across Britain.

- Interviews were conducted by telephone between December10-12.

- Data are weighted to match the profile of the population

Editing by Ralph Boulton

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