Business leaders losing faith in Brown and Darling, survey shows

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The Independent Online

Business leaders have lost confidence in Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling to lead the British economy through difficult times, according to a new survey.

A poll of 100 prominent businessmen and women by ComRes found three out of four believe the Tory opposition team of David Cameron and his shadow Chancellor George Osborne is the best one to steer the economy through global economic turbulence. Only 26 per cent favour the Brown-Darling double act, while 74 per cent prefer the Cameron-Osborne team.

The survey found that Mr Darling's "confidence rating" has fallen to 11 per cent, down from 17 per cent in January. Mr Brown's "confidence rating" fell from 26 per cent to 20 per cent.

Confidence in Mr Cameron has risen from 59 per cent to 62 per cent and in Mr Osborne from 48 per cent to 56 per cent.

The number of business leaders who think Mr Darling understands business fell from 23 per cent in January to 17 per cent now. The number who regard him as out of his depth rose from 59 per cent to 67 per cent.

"Mr Darling's personal standing as Chancellor is weak," said John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University.

However, The Independent's monthly "poll of polls", compiled by Professor Curtice, offers Mr Darling some comfort. It shows the Tories' hopes that the Government's decision to nationalise the Northern Rock bank would damage Labour had failed to materialise.

A weighted average of polls in February by Ipsos MORI, YouGov, ICM, Populus and ComRes put the Tories on 39 per cent (up one percentage point on January), Labour on 33 per cent (down one point) and the Liberal Democrats on 17 per cent (down one point). If an election were called that would mean a hung Parliament, with the Tories winning 302 seats, Labour 283, the Liberal Democrats 35 and others 30.

Professor Curtice said: "Arguably, the story of the month is the event that did not make political waves – Northern Rock. This clearly was not Labour's Black Wednesday moment."

Ipsos MORI found the net satisfaction rating of Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, was minus three points: lower than Sir Menzies Campbell (plus six) and Charles Kennedy (plus 13) after they had led the party for two months.