British PM Brown suffers opinon poll setback

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London, Nov 25: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's hard-won reputation for reliability in running the economy suffered a dent in a poll today, but he insisted Britain could weather the worldwide credit turmoil.

Brown, who took over from Tony Blair in June after a decade as finance minister overseeing steady economic growth, has had to grapple with a banking debacle and Britain's biggest identity fraud crisis.

Two months ago, his ruling Labour Party enjoyed a 12 percentage point lead over the opposition Conservatives on the economy.

Today, that was wiped out in a poll published by the News of the World newspaper, which showed them running neck and neck on 38 per cent.

The poll gave Conservative leader David Cameron an 8 per centage point lead over the prime minister -- he was on 46 per cent compared with 38 percent for Brown.

It was the latest in a series of gloomy poll findings for Brown who a few months ago contemplated calling a snap election after a honeymoon start to his premiership with appreciative voters.

That popularity has evaporated after mortgage lender Northern Rock was hit by Britain's first run on a bank in 140 years and the revelation that almost half the country's population may have been put at risk of identity fraud.

Britain's tax authority admitted that the records of 25 million people had gone astray on two missing computer discs.

Brown insists the economy is not in for a rough ride, which could torpedo his electoral prospects.

The cautious Scot, who does not have to call an election for two years, said yesterday the global credit crisis would hit the US and European economies, but said Britain could steer a stable course through the financial turbulence.

''There is absolutely no doubt that the American economy now will slow. It will have an effect on the European economy over these next few months,'' Brown told a news conference on the sidelines of a summit of the 53-nation Commonwealth in Uganda.

Brown, seeking to steady Labour nerves after the worst week of his premiership, said: ''What I'm saying about Britain is that it's possible for us, having taken the right decisions on monetary policy ... to steer a course of stability through these difficult times.''


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