Honeymoon period over as Blair's rating takes a dive as the public

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR'S honeymoon with the voters may be over, with a disaffected electorate beginning to view him as just another politician, according to a poll published today.

An ICM survey shows sharp falls in his ratings for honesty, toughness and personality over the past 12 months, with an increase in the numbers who thought him arrogant.

But while Mr Blair's personality ratings have fallen 20 percentage points, the figure may have been unrealistically high at 80 per cent. His reputation for honesty also fell 20 points from 54 to 34 per cent

Other personal ratings, particularly those for empathy with the electorate and toughness, have plummeted with falls of up to 20 points since Labour's landslide last May.

Mr Blair's approval ratings have come down to levels enjoyed by John Major, although he is still seen as far more in touch with voters than his Conservative predecessor.

Yet although Mr Blair's popularity has been dented, the poll also shows that the Conservative Party leader, William Hague, has yet to gain support.

He barely registered with those questioned and appears to have made little progress during the past 12 months. The only attribute voters repeatedly mentioned about Mr Hague was that they saw him as arrogant (43 per cent).

Only one in 10 voters believe that the Tories will be returned to power at the next election and most believe they will be out of power for at least another nine years.

With the recent crisis in manufacturing, redundancies and volatile stock markets, the annual Guardian/ICM "state of the nation" poll showed that Labour's hard-won reputation for being the best party to manage the economy has taken a sharp knock, falling 15 points to 35 per cent of voters.

Blair's Britain is also seen by increasing numbers of people as becoming a less equal society, and the public has increasingly lost confidence in the National Health Service and schools.

The poll came as the Government's economic policies came under renewed attack from the trade unions.

Amid warnings of the growing possibility of industrial action, the public service union Unison registered its "grave concern" over the Chancellor of the Exchequer's three-year austerity package.

The requirement that pay increases should be self-financing would mean deep cuts to jobs and services, according to leaders of the union's key committee dealing with Labour Party policy.

A motion drawn up yesterday to be tabled at the party's annual conference next month spoke of the "demoralisation" of public servants.

Unison's strongly worded motion, which also accuses the Government of ignoring Labour's election manifesto in critical areas of policy, will ensure that the assembly in Blackpool will not be as submissive as party managers would have hoped.

n The Labour Party's tribunal inquiry into the suspended Labour MP Tommy Graham began in an atmosphere of bitter recrimination yesterday, with Mr Graham complaining of a "conspiracy" against him.

He said that if a tribunal expels him from the party, he will continue to sit as an MP, working for his constituents and aiming to clear his name.