Poll: This is the least popular Labour government ever

Andrew Grice
Thursday 03 July 2008 00:00
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Gordon Brown now leads the most unpopular Labour government in history, according to a new "poll of polls" for The Independent.

The public approval ratings of his administration have sunk below the worst achieved during Labour's darkest days in power in the 1960s and 1970s, when the governments led by Harold Wilson and James Callaghan were engulfed by economic crises.

The figures will alarm already despondent Labour MPs because they call into question the Brown camp's claims that the Prime Minister can mount a successful political fightback if he steers the country through the current economic storm. Aides hope that he would then get the credit for enabling Britain to emerge from the global problems in a stronger position than its rivals because of his record during his10 years as chancellor.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who compiled the "poll of polls", said: "It is probably safe to say that Labour is now in a larger electoral hole than any previous Labour government, and that only John Major's Tory government ever had even less polling support. So much for New Labour's claim that it would avoid any repeat of Labour's record in the 1970s."

Only 17 per cent of people now approve of the Brown government's record, while 70 per cent disapprove. The low point for Jim Callaghan came in December 1976, when the Cabinet agreed huge public spending cuts in return for a bail-out by the International Monetary Fund.

At the time, 18 per cent approved of the government and 64 per cent disapproved. The Wilson administration had the same ratings at its nadir in December 1968, during a wave of strikes which led to an ill-fated attempt to curb the power of the trade unions.

The only crumb of comfort for Mr Brown is that his government is not the most unpopular of all time. According to Professor Curtice, its ratings are now as bad as Margaret Thatcher's shortly before she was ousted by her own party in 1990. But John Major holds the unwanted record: only 9 per cent approved of his Government and 84 per cent disapproved.

Mr Brown's personal ratings have also dropped to a new low. Only 22 per cent of people are satisfied with him, with 70 per cent dissatisfied. Tony Blair's low point was a score of 25 per cent satisfied and 68 per cent dissatisfied.

The Prime Minister's popularity rating is worse than those of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, almost as poor as Baroness Thatcher's in 1990 and not much better than Mr Major's. The Independent's weighted average of the polls taken in June puts the Tories on 45 per cent (up two points on the previous month), Labour on 26 per cent (down two points), and the Liberal Democrats unchanged on 18 per cent.

These figures would give David Cameron's party 409 seats, with Labour on 182 – fewer than the 209 it won under Michael Foot in 1983 – the Liberal Democrats 29 and other parties 30.

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