Poll deals blow to Tory hopes of limiting scandal

Exclusive survey shows two-thirds of voters now dismiss Conservatives as the 'party of the rich'

Two out of three people believe the Conservatives are the "party of the rich," according to a ComRes survey for The Independent, which suggests the cash-for-access affair has damaged David Cameron's party.

The poll shows Labour 10 points ahead, its biggest lead in a ComRes survey for seven years. Labour is on 43 per cent (up three points since the ComRes survey for this newspaper a month ago), with the Conservatives on 33 per cent (down four points), the Liberal Democrats on 11 per cent (down two points) and other parties on 13 per cent (up three points).

Worryingly for Mr Cameron, the findings suggest the disclosures about Tory fundraising may reinforce the perception given by last week's Budget that the party's focus is on looking after the interests of its wealthy backers. George Osborne, the Chancellor, was criticised by Labour for cutting the 50p rate of tax on incomes over £150,000 a year while freezing the tax allowances enjoyed by pensioners. Two-thirds of people (66 per cent) agree with the statement that "the measures announced in the Budget show that the Conservatives are the party of the rich", while 27 per cent disagree and 7 per cent don't know.

One in three (32 per cent) of the Tories' own supporters agree with this statement, while 62 per cent disagree. Seven out of 10 Liberal Democrat voters (70 per cent) view the Tories as "the party of the rich," while just 22 per cent do not. Among people who would vote Labour in a general election held now, 90 per cent see the Tories as the "party of the rich" while 8 per cent disagree.

Mr Osborne's controversial decision to impose a so-called "granny tax" is opposed by the public by a margin of almost 2-1. Some 59 per cent disagree with the statement that "the Government is right to freeze the personal tax allowances of pensioners to bring them into line with those for everyone else", while 31 per cent agree.

Conservative supporters are split over the Chancellor's move. Some 47 per cent agree with his decision while 46 per cent disagree. But it is opposed by a majority of Liberal Democrat and Labour voters. Only 31 per cent of Liberal Democrat supporters agree with it, while 52 per cent disagree. Among Labour voters, 27 per cent agree and 67 per cent disagree.

Perhaps surprisingly, pensioners are not markedly more hostile than the general public. People aged 65 and over disagree with the move by 61 per cent to 30 per cent. Similarly, the Tories have retained their lead among this age group, among whom they are on 42 per cent, with Labour on 35 per cent and the Lib Dems on 8 per cent.

ComRes interviewed 1,000 adults by telephone between 23 March and yesterday 26 March. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults and by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comres.co.uk

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