A majority of supporters of Britain’s governing Labour Party want Prime Minister Gordon Brown — in the job for barely a year — to step down, a poll for the Times newspaper showed yesterday.
The Populus poll suggested 55 percent of Labour voters think they would be more likely to beat the main opposition Conservatives at the next general election if Brown made way for a “younger, fresher, more charismatic alternative.”
Fewer than two-fifths (38 percent) disagreed. Voters in southeast and southwest England and Wales were the keenest for Brown to go (60 percent each) in what the Times called a “collapse of confidence” in the prime minister.
Brown, in office since last June, last week saw Labour slump to its worst local election results in 40 years, including the ouster of London mayor Ken Livingstone, as the Tories surged back in to town halls in England and Wales.
He went into the elections suffering severe criticisms over his botched tax reforms, the government’s recent economic record, a wave of industrial unrest and increasing doubts about his personality and ability to lead.
Talk has increased since last week about whether he should face a leadership challenge, although Labour insiders have dismissed the idea, amid much soul-searching among lawmakers about how Labour can reverse the slump.
The leader of Labour in Scotland, Wendy Alexander, has also said she backs a referendum on Scotland’s future as part of the UK, in a move designed to head off the separatist drive by the Scottish National Party.
Her comments were interpreted by newspapers on Tuesday as a further blow to the authority of Brown, a staunchly pro-union Scot. The Times poll suggested a further slump in popularity for the center-left party, which has been in power since 1997: Labour had lost four points over the last month to 29 percent.
The center-right Tories, boosted by a London mayoral win that is being seen as the blueprint for a future government under leader David Cameron, were ahead on 40 percent — their biggest lead in five years of Populus polls.
The smaller opposition Liberal Democrats put on two points to 19 percent.
Voters also appeared less confident in the ability of Brown and his finance minister Alistair Darling to deal with the present economic downturn. Only 30 percent expressed confidence, 13 points down from mid-March.
The number trusting Cameron and his finance spokesman George Osborne most on the economy is now 40 percent, up from 27 percent from last September. Brown’s own popularity rating was significantly lower than other party leaders.