Cameron Suffers Setbacks in U.K. Opinion Polls
British opinion polls showed Prime Minister David Cameron losing ground to his Labour opponent Ed Miliband after weeks of setbacks took their toll on a coalition government seeking to refocus on deficit cutting.
A YouGov Plc (YOU) survey in the Sunday Times yesterday showed the Labour Party leader with a higher approval rating than the Conservative premier for the first time in a year. A separate poll by the same company for the Labour-linked Fabian Society research group published in the Observer showed Miliband’s opposition with an eight-point lead.
The results signal the backdrop of voter disquiet faced by Cameron after more than a month of discomfort that began with a poorly received budget on March 21 and culminated in losses in local elections on May 3. Last week, the government unveiled 31 legislative proposals for the next year ranging from a new banking law to labor market measures as it sought to regroup.
“Bad polling is something that party chairmen don’t like and we’ve had a local election recently which hasn’t been the best of results,” Sayeeda Warsi, co-chairwoman of the Conservatives, said on Sky News. “We never formed this coalition because it was going to be in the best interests of us as a party. We knew there was a tough job to be done.”
The Sunday Times poll showed 32 percent of those questioned said Miliband is doing well and 55 percent said he is doing badly, giving a net approval rating of minus 23. That beat Cameron’s score of minus 29. YouGov sought responses from 1,663 adults on May 10 and May 11.
The Observer said that the YouGov poll of 2,000 people for the Fabians, taken in April before Cameron’s local election setback, showed Labour with 41 percent support, compared with 33 percent for the Conservatives and 10 percent for their Liberal Democrat coalition partners.
“The idea that a government enjoys popularity in the midterm when it’s doing tough things, especially the things we’re having to do in the present economic crisis as a result of world events and also the mess the last government left us, the idea that we’re going to be popular at this stage is cloud cuckoo land,” Paddy Ashdown, a former leader of the Liberal Democrats, told Sky News.
Labour lawmaker Jim Murphy, who speaks for the party on defense issues, said that there has been a “dramatic collapse” in government support, and added to criticism that the legislative program lacks measures to aid growth.
“There isn’t an austerity way out of what this country faces at the moment,” he told Sky News. “Of course there needs to be cuts, of course there needs to be savings, but it’s also about growth.”
House of Lords
The program of legislation includes a proposal to alter the make-up of the House of Lords, Parliament’s upper house, reflecting concerns of the Liberal Democrats. Ashdown insisted that this should be a priority, contrasting with the Conservatives’ approach that deficit cutting should take precedence.
On the continent of Europe, “what you see very clearly there is a crisis of the economy, but also a crisis of democracy,” he said. “Unless you can put our government and politicians in touch with people they simply don’t have any trust that you’ll make the decisions about tackling the economy effectively. You can’t separate these two.”
Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, a Conservative, said that changing the composition of the House of Lords isn’t a big priority for the electorate, and said that proposals to legalize gay marriage shouldn’t be pushed through for now because of the controversy they would provoke.
“The government has got to show over the next couple of years that it is focused on the things that matter to people in this country,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show. “Things that will affect the long-term competitiveness of this country and, thus, the long-term prosperity of our people.”
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