George Osborne has won the confidence of a majority of businessmen but they are losing faith in Labour and the Liberal Democrats, according to a survey for The Independent.
The ComRes poll of more than 130 business leaders paints a picture of an economy with sluggish growth ahead of the Budget. Only 25 per cent of those surveyed say their own sector is growing while more (29 per cent) say it is not.
It emerged yesterday that the Chancellor will announce a crackdown on tax avoidance, doubling to £4bn the amount of revenue to be raised over the next four years. It will include measures to prevent the rich escaping tax through "disguised remuneration" schemes such as offshore trusts used to top up their pensions. Air passenger duty will be extended to private planes.
According to ComRes, 57 per cent of businessmen are confident in the Chancellor's abilities, while David Cameron enjoys a 68 per cent rating. In contrast, only 16 per cent have confidence in Ed Miliband, the Labour leader. The scores of Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, and Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, have fallen sharply since the polling company's previous survey of businessmen in December. Confidence in Mr Clegg has dropped from 55 to 34 per cent and in Mr Cable from 62 to 48 per cent.
Two out of three of those polled believe Mr Osborne understands business (65 per cent) and has the right ideas about how to manage the British economy (64 per cent).
Mr Miliband's poor rating amongst businessmen comes despite his party's lead over the Conservatives in surveys of the general public. According to the latest "poll of polls" for The Independent, Labour is on 41 per cent (down one point on the previous month); the Tories on 35 per cent (unchanged); the Liberal Democrats on 13 per cent (up one point) and other parties on 11 per cent (unchanged).
However, the headline figures mask doubts about Labour on the economy. John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who compiled the "poll of polls," said the party is struggling to make an impact on the public.
"Labour's lead in the polls is primarily the product of disenchantment among many Lib Dem voters with decisions made by the Coalition, and does not signify a restoration of public confidence in Labour's abilities,"he said.