Nick Clegg Is ‘Out of His Depth,’ Half of U.K. Voters Say in Populus Poll

U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is “out of his depth,” according to half the respondents in a poll, and his Liberal Democrat party has failed to influence the Conservative-led government’s policies, two thirds said.

The erosion of support for Clegg one year into the first coalition administration since World War II was also reflected in his party’s overall standing with voters in the Populus Ltd. poll published in the Times newspaper in London today. Support for the Lib Dems was unchanged from last month at 11 percent, with only a third of voters who backed them at last year’s election saying they would support them again.

As junior partners in the coalition, Clegg’s party has borne the brunt of popular discontent over the imposition of the deepest postwar cuts in public spending. The Liberal Democrats have also been hit after policy U-turns that included the ditching of a pledge not to increase college tuition fees.

Support for Clegg’s Conservative coalition partners was up one percentage point at 37 percent in the poll, while the Labour Party fell one point to 39 percent. Three quarters of those who said they voted Conservative last year would back them again, while four fifths who backed Labour would cast their vote in the same way, the survey showed.

More than a third of voters surveyed said Clegg is weak, while 17 percent said he is dishonest.

Backing among Lib Dem supporters for the coalition’s plans to eliminate almost all the budget deficit by 2015 has also weakened. Populus said 46 percent back the deficit-reduction plans compared with 61 percent in February.

Clegg has vowed to have a “louder voice” in government after the Liberal Democrats suffered the worst local-election results last week since the party was formed in 1988.

In those elections, Clegg’s party lost 748 seats in England, while Cameron’s Conservatives gained 86 and Labour added 857 seats. A referendum on the voting system, a Liberal Democrat condition of last year’s coalition agreement, saw voters reject the overhaul proposed by Clegg and opposed by Prime Minister David Cameron by 68 percent to 32 percent.

Populus interviewed 1,504 voters by telephone on May 6-8.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gonzalo Vina in London at gvina@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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