Voters turned off by expense claims

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Indy Politics

The scandal over politicians' expenses is turning voters against both Labour and the Conservatives, a poll showed today, as a newspaper published more embarrassing details about lawmakers' claims.

A Populus poll for the Times found a shift towards the Liberal Democrats, and fringe parties such as the far-right British National Party and anti-European Union UK Independence Party.

The Conservatives led Labour by 39 percent to 26, enough to give them a landslide election win. But both parties' support was down four points from a poll in early April.

The Liberal Democrats gained four points to 22 percent and other parties added four points to 13 percent.

Some commentators say Labour, in power since 1997, are in danger of slipping to third place behind the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in June 4 local and European elections, possibly triggering a challenge to Brown's leadership.

The Daily Telegraph said Conservative politicians had received tens of thousands of pounds to maintain manor houses and stately homes.

One claimed 2,000 pounds for clearing the moat around his manor house. Another claimed for cleaning his swimming pool but told the Telegraph he would repay the money. A third claimed 380 pounds for horse manure for his garden.

The reports of how legislators have used allowances on top of an annual salary of almost 65,000 pounds -- more than double the national average -- are particularly damaging at a time when Britain is suffering its worst recession since World War Two.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologised on Monday for politicians' expenses to try to staunch a damaging parliamentary scandal.

The disclosures in the Daily Telegraph were the latest in a string of embarrassing headlines about expense claims by MPs, including Brown, his cabinet colleagues and opposition figures.

The reports have prompted widespread public anger and calls for an election, not required until mid-2010, to be held immediately.

"I want to apologise on behalf of politicians ... of all parties for what has happened," Brown said in a speech.

A parliamentary commission said on Monday it would do all it could to speed up publication of legislators' expense receipts, originally planned for mid-July, but spokesman Nick Harvey said it would still take "weeks and not days."