Britons' Trust In Government To Run Economy Continues To Fall--Poll
First Published Saturday, 21st April 2012 08:38 pm - © 2012 Dow Jones
By Ainsley Thomson
Of Dow Jones NEWSWIRES
Britons' trust in the ability of Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to run the economy continued its steep decline in the wake of the controversial measures announced in last month's budget that led to four weeks of negative publicity for the government, a new opinion poll showed Saturday.
The poll, conducted by ComRes on behalf of the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror newspapers, found 54% of those surveyed don't trust Cameron and Osborne to make the right decision about the economy, while 25% trust them.
The gap between the proportion who declare their distrust in Cameron and Osborne and the proportion who trust them has widened to -29 from -20 last month. In August last year, the gap was -9.
Since they took office in 2010, Cameron and Osborne have enjoyed a big lead in the polls over the opposition Labour Party in terms of trust in their economic policies, but since the budget on March 21 that lead has almost disappeared.
ComRes found that 19% of those surveyed trusted Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and economy spokesman Ed Balls to make the right decisions, up from 15% before the budget, while 52% said they distrusted the pair, down from 59% before the budget.
As a result, the "trust gap" between the Cameron and Osborne team and Labour on the economy narrowed to four percentage points from 25 points before the budget.
Cameron and Osborne's difficulties began a month ago when Osborne delivered his annual budget statement and immediately unleashed a storm of indignation over the so-called granny tax--his plan to freeze tax allowances for pensioners--and the cut in income tax for the wealthiest Britons. Public uproar then followed over the government's plan to extend sales tax to hot take-away food. The government was then criticized over its handling of a possible strike by fuel tanker drivers, which sparked panic buying of gasoline in April and some petrol stations ran dry. In the past two weeks they have faced a backlash over Osborne's plans to limit tax relief on charitable donations.
And this weekend Osborne was facing criticism from within his own Conservative Party over the decision to loan an additional GBP10 billion to the International Monetary Fund as part of the global effort to boost the Fund's firewall.
The ComRes poll, which surveyed 2,048 adults on April 18 and 19, found the Conservative's overall poll rating has slipped three points to 34%, six points behind Labour at 40%. The Liberal Democrats, the junior partners in the coalition government, have risen one point to 11%.
More than half of the people polled, 54%, thought the decisions made in the budget were generally unfair, while 27% thought they were fair. The portion of people who believe Osborne is "on my side" when dealing with the country's economic problems also fell, dropping three points to 20%, while the number of people who believe the chancellor isn't on their side rose four points to 54%.
Osborne, who is in Washington attending the spring meeting of the IMF and Group of 20 industrialized and developing nations, Friday said he still believes the public still supports the government's austerity measures despite the flood of bad publicity stemming from the budget.
"I don't think there has been any loss of public support for the basic argument that Britain has a debt problem and we have to take difficult decisions to deal with that debt problem," Osborne told reporters. "All the evidence shows the British public completely understand that and are likely to go along with some very difficult decisions."
-By Ainsley Thomson, Dow Jones Newswires; 44 20 7842 9318; firstname.lastname@example.org