British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is on course for a drubbing in elections to the European parliament next week after a scandal over politicians’ expenses damaged him far more than his rivals, an opinion poll found Saturday.
His ruling Labor Party has slumped to third place, but the main opposition Conservatives also lost ground, although it retained a strong lead with 30% support.
The Populus survey for the Times newspaper said the UK Independence Party (UKIP), an anti-European body with no MPs in Britain’s lower house of parliament, had 19% support, an increase of 13 points.
Labor was third at 16%, just ahead of the Liberal Democrats, who have also been hit by the MPs expenses scandal. Support for the centrist party fell eight points to 12%.
If repeated at the polls on Thursday, that result would deliver a blow to Brown, who is struggling to lead Britain out of its worst recession since World War Two and facing opposition calls to hold a snap parliamentary election.
Support for Brown’s center-left government has crumbled after weeks of reports about lawmakers’ claims for public money to pay for everything from manure to swimming pool repairs.
Lawmakers from all parties claimed inappropriate expenses, triggering calls for widespread reform of parliaments, but the scandal has inflicted the most damage on Brown and Labor.
The Populus poll found that Labor had slipped to its lowest poll rating in the overall standings for the next parliamentary elections due by June 2010.
The standings for the next parliamentary election put the Conservatives at 41%, up two points since last month, with Labor down five points to 21%.
After more than three weeks of disclosures, the expense issue still dominated front pages on Saturday after a former Labor minister said he would step down as a lawmaker for claiming $25,660 for a home loan that had already been paid off.
Elliot Morley, former prime minister Tony Blair’s environment minister who has since repaid the money, said he did not want to undermine Labor ahead of the next election.
The Daily Telegraph, which broke the expenses story, published new details of how lawmakers profited from the rules governing their second homes.
Conservative Party leader David Cameron said that lawmakers who had used taxpayers’ money to pay non-existent mortgages should be “subject to the full force of the law”.
Brown wrote in the Sun newspaper that anyone who broke the rules would not stand again as a Labor candidate.