Brown suffers new opinion poll blow

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown slipped behind the Conservatives in an opinion poll published on Sunday, a new blow to hopes that his economic stimulus plan would revive his political fortunes.

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The Ipsos Mori poll for the Observer newspaper showed the Conservatives stretching their lead to 11 points.

An ICM survey for the Guardian newspaper on Saturday had given the Conservatives a 15-point lead.

The two polls are a sharp contrast with a YouGov poll on Wednesday which said Brown had actually cut the Conservative lead to just four points.

The Ipsos survey was conducted two days after the government announced plans for a 20 billion pound package to boost the economy, including a temporary cut in Value Added Tax (VAT) to 15 percent.

It put David Cameron’s Conservative Party on 43 points, up three, and Brown’s Labour Party down five to 32 points.

The lead, if repeated at an election, would give the Conservatives a substantial parliamentary majority. Brown does not have to go to the electorate until 2010.

To add to Brown’s woes, the survey also showed that only six percent of respondents would spend more after the VAT cut while 26 percent said they would reduce purchases.

According to the Mori survey, people are still pessimistic about their personal financial outlook, with 38 percent expecting things to get worse, 45 percent seeing no change and only 15 predicting better times ahead.

In an interview with the Observer, Darling said he would be taking more measures to bolster the economy. “You’d be very foolish indeed to say: ‘Well, that’s the job done.’ You know this is something that needs constant attention.”

“We’ve got the budget next year; we’ve got the pre-budget report (PBR) in 12 months time, the budget after that.”

“I put more money into the reserve on Monday (in the PBR) precisely because I know that we’re almost certainly going to be doing additional things. The people expect you to do that..”

He said next Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech, where the government puts forward its legislative programme for the following year, would include a law to force banks to treat their customers more fairly.

Darling said he was “totally focussed” on finding ways to force recalcitrant banks to start lending to small business struggling to survive in the credit crisis.

“You know they (the banks) are getting something from the government,” he said, referring to the 37 billion pound bailout provided by the government in October. “They have to realise that the taxpayer’s going to get something in return.”

Reporting by Frank Prenesti; Editing by Diana Abdallah