Tories take nine-point poll lead as recession catches up with Brown

David Cameron benefits as public confidence in the Government wanes
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Indy Politics

The Conservatives have opened up a nine-point lead over Labour amid signs that voters are beginning to blame the Government for the economic downturn, an IoS poll shows today.

With figures likely to confirm this week that Britain is officially in recession, the ComRes survey puts David Cameron's party into an election-winning position. The Tory advantage is a leap from a one-point lead a month ago, when the "Brown bounce" was helped by a 2.5 per cent cut in VAT in the pre-Budget report.

But now, as household budgets are strained after Christmas, the Conservatives are up four points on 41 per cent, Labour down four on 32 per cent, and the Liberal Democrats are up one on 15 per cent.

As the Government prepares for more measures to help the economy, the survey suggests voters, after rewarding Gordon Brown for his handling of the crisis, are now turning away from his Government as the recession hits home.

The figures would give a Conservative majority of 26 in a general election. If the Lib Dems increased their support by 5 per cent and the two main parties' shares remained the same, it would lead to a hung Parliament.

The Prime Minister will attempt to get back on the front foot this week after the embarrassment of his close aide and Business minister, Baroness Shriti Vadera, declaring she could see "a few green shoots" in the economy.

Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, yesterday warned the Labour Party must not use the recession as an excuse to put up taxes on the rich and revert to the "politics of envy".

Speaking at a Fabian Society conference on fairness, Lord Mandelson added that the prospect of "dragging down" the wealthy with burdensome taxes was "ugly". His remarks will be seen as a warning for the Government not to go further than the 45 per cent tax on those earning more than £150,000 from 2011.

Mr Cameron is expected to build on his party's new lead by carrying out a wide-ranging reshuffle this week.

But the poll suggests the Conservative leader still has some work to do to persuade voters his party is ready to run the country. Some 50 per cent of people – including 24 per cent of Tory voters – agree with the statement that "the Conservative Party is not yet ready for government", compared with 41 per cent who disagree. In September, 46 per cent of people agreed with the same statement.

Labour is in the lead among 18-24-year-olds, the only age group where the party has majority support. Some 47 per cent would vote Labour, while 25 per cent would vote Tory. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have been desperate to court the youth vote. Last week the Tory leader launched a poster featuring a baby, with the message that every child is born with £17,000 of debt because of Labour policies. And yesterday, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said 16-24-year-olds would bear the brunt of the recession and risked being left on the "scrapheap".

The poll shows 95 per cent of those who voted Conservative in 2005 would vote Conservative now, while just 74 per cent who voted Labour at the last election would do the same now – a swing of 14 per cent from Labour to the Tories. Nearly two-thirds – 63 per cent – of people think the Labour Party was more united under Tony Blair than now. Meanwhile, some 47 per cent believe Barack Obama will have a better relationship with Mr Brown than he would with David Cameron if he were prime minister.

And 74 per cent say they were confident that the incoming US president will live up to the expectations people have that he will be a force for good in the world. Women are more likely to have confidence in president-elect Obama than men.

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