Voters turning on Labour as hard times get harder

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Indy Politics

Voters are turning against Labour as the recession bites, according to the latest "poll of polls" for The Independent. Gordon Brown's initial response to the economic crisis enabled Labour to close the gap with the Tories to five percentage points in December, when David Cameron's party led by 39 per cent to 34 per cent.

But the weighted average of the polls in January shows that the Tories now enjoy a 12-point lead. They are on 43 per cent, Labour on 31 per cent and the Liberal Democrats unchanged on 16 per cent. The figures would give Mr Cameron an overall majority of 62 at a general election.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who compiled the "poll of polls", said: "The over-optimistic hopes that were aroused among Labour MPs when Tory support slipped before Christmas have now been dashed." He said Labour's recovery last autumn was founded on its ability to present itself as an effective government. "The inevitable danger [now] is that the Government does not seem to have a grip on events after all," he said.

Mr Brown's personal popularity has fallen to where it was after Labour's conference last September. Mr Cameron has recovered from a dip but he is not as popular as he was for most of last year. Confidence in Labour's ability to handle the economy has declined, but the Tories have not established a decisive, consistent lead on the issue. Professor Curtice said that would give Labour hope that it might still win the next election.

Yesterday Mr Brown said the Government's actions had been misunderstood. He told the BBC's Politics Show: "We didn't save the banks. We saved the people from the banks. We protected people from the mistakes of the banks, by taking action to deal with it. So every saver and every deposit is safe."

He insisted that the rise in personal debt in Britain was "not the cause of the crisis". He added: "What nobody banked on was that the very systems designed to spread risk across the world, actually spread contagion across the world."