Britain's economic rebound helps PM Cameron pull level: poll

LONDON Thu Oct 17, 2013 11:10am EDT

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at the Conservative Party's annual Spring Forum, in central London March 16, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at the Conservative Party's annual Spring Forum, in central London March 16, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's economic recovery has helped Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives to pull level with the Labour Party, an opinion poll showed on Thursday, with about 18 months to go before an election in 2015.

The Ipsos MORI survey for the Evening Standard newspaper put Labour on 35 percent, down two points since September and level with the Conservatives, who rose one point.

After trailing Labour in the polls since the last election in 2010, Cameron is hoping that signs of a solid economic recovery will underpin his campaign to secure a second term.

The next election is likely to be decided by the strength of the rebound. Party leaders are trying to persuade voters that they will secure the recovery and ease the burden of weak wage growth and high bills, particularly for energy.

"We have seen the Conservatives' vote share rise in recent months in line with economic optimism," said Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI. Labour's poll lead over the Conservatives has been as high as 15 points this year.

Cameron, who formed a coalition with the smaller Liberal Democrats after the inconclusive 2010 election, argues that he has rescued the economy but needs more time to finish the job.

Miliband accuses Cameron's government of prolonging the downturn with public spending cuts and says the coalition has created a cost of living crisis.

Successive polls suggest voters trust Cameron and his finance minister George Osborne to do a better job with the economy than Miliband and his finance chief Ed Balls.

Labour's credibility was damaged during its last term in office when it oversaw a record peacetime budget deficit. The Conservatives also criticize Labour for failing to do more to foresee and mitigate the financial crisis.

Beyond the economy, Cameron faces an electoral threat from the UK Independence Party, whose call to leave the European Union and tighten immigration controls has split the right-wing vote.

The latest poll provided some good news for Miliband.

His promise last month to freeze energy bills for 20 months if he wins power in 2015 was the most popular new policy announced during the recent party conference season.

The percentage of people satisfied with Miliband's performance rose to 36 from 24 in September. Cameron's rating also climbed, to 39 from 36 percent.

Four in ten (42 percent) believe the economy will improve in the next 12 months, while 27 percent think it will worsen. Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,004 adults by telephone on October 12-15.

(Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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