Mon, Jul 19, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Pollster says Blair could win again

REUTERS , LONDON

More than half of British voters would not trust Prime Minister Tony Blair to take the country to war again, but he will win a general election likely within a year, a leading pollster said yesterday.

The opinion poll findings followed a grim week for Blair: an official inquiry damned as flawed the reports he used to justify the Iraq war, and his Labour Party suffered a humiliating parliamentary by-election defeat and nearly lost another seat.

The YouGov poll for the Sunday Times showed 57 percent of voters would not trust Blair to lead Britain into war again.

The poll showed Blair's ruling Labour Party and the main opposition Conservatives with 33 percent each, with the Liberal Democrats gaining 22 percent.

But YouGov pollster Peter Kellner said he believed the prime minister once dubbed "Teflon Tony" would win a third term.

"The shine has gone off him. But on current form, Labour will still win the next election comfortably," Kellner said. "Voters are disillusioned with Labour, they distrust Blair, they are angry and disappointed and will do everything in their power to punish the government -- except to vote Conservative."

The two by-elections produced even worse results for the Conservatives, revitalized under new leader Michael Howard but still unable to convince voters they are a government-in-waiting.

In the inquiry led by Lord Butler, Blair was cleared of tricking Britain into invading Iraq, but he drew criticism for relying on deeply flawed prewar intelligence.

Howard, who in March last year backed the government in an eve-of-war vote, said he would not have done so if he had known the intelligence was flawed.

The poll showed 46 percent of voters believed the prime minister had deliberately distorted the flawed reports.

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