LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s opposition Conservatives, whose overall opinion poll lead has narrowed in the run-up to an election, have fallen behind the ruling Labour Party on the key issue of economic trust, a poll found on Friday.
Britons are more likely to trust Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government than the Conservatives to run the economy, which has just emerged from its deepest recession since World War Two, the ComRes poll showed.
The poll, conducted after finance minister Alistair Darling’s annual budget on Wednesday, found 33 percent of those questioned trusted Brown and Darling most to run the economy.
That compared with 27 percent who favored Conservative leader David Cameron and his finance spokesman George Osborne, and 13 percent who favored the Liberal Democrats.
The last time this question was asked in a similar poll on December 10, the Conservatives led with 33 percent and Labour was on 26 percent, with the Liberal Democrats on 19 percent.
Brown’s reputation for economic competence, built during a decade as finance minister, took a knock following the banking crisis of 2008.
In this week’s budget, Darling promised a 2.5 billion pound ($3.7 billion) package to boost economic growth, higher taxes for the well-off and lower borrowing than predicted three months ago.
Eighteen percent of those polled thought the budget would be good for Britain, 12 percent bad, and 59 percent thought it would make no difference.
Economic management is set to be the key battleground in the election. Labour and the Conservatives clash over the urgency and depth of budget cuts needed to rein in a deficit of more than 12 percent of GDP, a record peacetime high.
The government has promised to halve the deficit by 2014 if re-elected but is keen to postpone major spending cuts until 2011 when it hopes the economy will be stronger. The Conservatives have pledged to act sooner to bring the deficit under control.
ComRes conducted the poll for the BBC’s Daily Politics program and spoke to 1,003 voters between March 24 and March 25.
Reporting by Christina Fincher; editing by David Stamp