British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has lost support for his handling of the economy, a poll showed on Tuesday, the day before his government delivers what is expected to be one of the bleakest budgets in decades. With an election due by June 2010, the ICM survey for the Guardian newspaper said 35 per cent of voters trusted Brown and his finance minister Alistair Darling to run the economy, compared to 45 per cent for the main opposition Conservatives.
In January, the Conservatives' leader David Cameron and his finance spokesman George Osborne led by just two points on the economy. In January 2008, Brown's ruling Labour Party led by seven points.
Darling's second annual budget on Wednesday will be a crucial test for Labour as it struggles to lift the British economy out of recession and prepares for next year's election. Brown, a former finance minister, enjoyed a boost in the polls during his early response to the global economic crisis but his ratings have since fallen.
He won praise for his hosting of the G20 summit of world leaders in London earlier this month. However, his government has since been bogged down in a series of domestic problems.
One of Brown's close aides left his post after he was caught trying to smear political rivals, while Home Secretary (interior minister) Jacqui Smith apologised after submitting an expenses claim that includeded adult films watched by her husband.
The ICM poll showed little change in the parties' overall ratings.
The Conservatives slipped two percentage points to 40 per cent compared to last month, with Labour unchanged on 30. The 10-point gap between the top two parties is the smallest since December.
The British economy went into its first recession since the early 1990s in the last three months of 2008, bringing higher unemployment, lower house prices and falling industrial output.