Brown is urged to focus on domestic problems

Poll reveals even Labour supporters oppose the Prime Minister's emphasis on global solutions to economic crisis
Click to follow
Indy Politics

The public overwhelmingly wants Gordon Brown to turn his attention to the British economy rather than seek a global solution to the recession, according to a ComRes survey for The Independent.

The findings are a severe setback to the Prime Minister as world leaders fly in to London for the G20 summit he will chair on Thursday.

Some 72 per cent of those interviewed believe that he should focus more on a domestic solution than a global one. Just 22 per cent favour his global strategy. Even Labour supporters are not convinced about Mr Brown's emphasis: 66 per cent of them favour a more domestic approach.

The figures will fuel growing fears among Labour MPs, including some ministers, that Mr Brown is expending too much energy on his goal of a "global new deal". Some allies have warned him privately that there are "no votes in it" for him in Britain, while opposition politicians criticised his five-day, three-continent tour last week ahead of the G20 meeting.

According to ComRes, the public also opposes, by a margin of two to one, the Prime Minister's attempt to spend his way out of recession. Only 30 per cent agree that government borrowing should be raised to boost the economy if that means tax rises in future, while 62 per cent disagree.

Fewer than one in three people (31 per cent) agree that the Prime Minister has the right policies to get Britain out of recession, while 58 per cent disagree. And only 27 per cent are optimistic that the economy will improve before the end of this year, with 70 per cent disagreeing. Less than half of Labour supporters (46 per cent) believe things will get better by December, while Tory (22 per cent) and Liberal Democrats (24 per cent) supporters are even more gloomy.

ComRes puts the Conservatives 12 points ahead of Labour, down from 16 last month. The Tories are on 40 per cent (down four points on last month), Labour 28 per cent (no change), Liberal Democrats 18 per cent (up one point) and other parties 14 per cent (up three). At a general election, these figures would give the Tories an overall majority of 50.

According to ComRes, 93 per cent of people who voted Tory in 2005 would do so in an election held now, while only 75 per cent of Labour voters and 66 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters last time would stick with the same party. Some 12 per cent of Labour and 16 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters in 2005 would back the Tories. The Tories lead Labour among all demographic groups and all regions except Scotland.

Brown allies insist that he will switch his attention to the domestic political agenda after Thursday's summit, for which President Barack Obama arrives in London tonight. Although a further meeting of G20 leaders is expected to be held later this year, Mr Brown does not want to chair it. He hopes governments will be ready to consider a further fiscal stimulus for 2010.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, wants the G20 to meet after a session of the G8 wealthiest nations in Sardinia in July. Despite the poll findings, the Prime Minister is unrepentant in his view that the root causes of the crisis are global and require international agreement. In a speech at St Paul's Cathedral today, Mr Brown will insist: "I understand that people feel unsettled, and that the pain of this current recession is all too real."

He will defend open markets and free trade but say the old consensus in favour of free markets is over. "This is the great challenge of our generation: instead of the free market becoming a free-for-all, can we instead build anew a market system which respects the values we celebrate in our everyday lives?" he will say.

Last night, Mr Brown set five tests for Thursday's summit: extra money for bodies such as the International Monetary Fund; cleaning up the banking system; doing "whatever is necessary" to bring about growth; resisting protectionism and boosting trade; and delivering a low-carbon and sustainable recovery.

The Prime Minister said "a lot of work" was still needed to reach agreement, and called on the world to "rise to the challenge".

Speaking alongside the Mexican President, Felipe Calderon, in Downing Street, Mr Brown said: "This is a decisive moment for the world economy. We have a choice to make."

ComRes telephoned 1,002 British adults between 27-29 March. Data were weighted by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at