Labour faces disaster as voting looms
THE LABOUR party’s European election hopes suffered another blow yesterday, as an opinion poll showed it lagging behind both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats for the first time in 22 years.
According to the ICM poll, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s party is set to suffer a significant defeat in the European elections on Thursday – with only 17 per cent of those polled backing Labour, versus the Tories on 29 per cent and the Liberal Democrats on 20 per cent.
In a further sign of voters’ dwindling support for the government, 54 per cent wanted Brown to call a general election by the end of the year, with most backing Cameron’s call for an immediate national poll.
The poll results suggest that the reputation of the Labour party has been hard hit by the scandal about MPs’ expenses claims, and will heighten speculation over Brown’s position as party leader.
The prime minister is expected to reshuffle key ministerial posts on Friday in an attempt to reassert his authority and rekindle the voting public’s faith in his party. And yesterday there was speculation that he is lining up close friend and ally, school secretary Ed Balls, to replace Alistair Darling as chancellor.
Darling was once again under fire last night, amid reports that he claimed expenses for a flat that he let to tenants while also claiming living allowances for his grace and favour home in Downing Street.
But the promotion of Balls, a highly divisive party member, would be a gamble on the part of Brown and could cause a backlash from within the party.
Health secretary Alan Johnson, the man considered Brown’s likeliest successor, last week called for Brown to offer a “genuine radical alternative”, proposing a referendum on proportional representation should be held along with a general election.