More poll misery for Brown

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is facing another disastrous setback in next week's crucial by-election battle, according to polls.

Despite a surprise tax cut and frantic campaigning by senior government ministers, the Conservative Party have doubled their lead in Crewe and Nantwich over the past week.

There was no comfort for the Prime Minister at a national level, with a separate survey giving opposition leader David Cameron a massive 20-point advantage.

The figures will reinforce Labour's gloom after a massacre in the May Day local elections, and a series of humiliating policy climbdowns by the Government.

Research by ICM for the News of the World found that 45% of Crewe and Nantwich constituents are planning to vote Conservative, compared with 37% backing Labour.

If repeated on Thursday, the result would destroy Labour's 7,000 majority and deliver Mr Cameron a new MP by a margin of more than 1,000.

The survey suggested that this week's "mini-Budget", which handed a £2.7bn (€3.4bn) windfall to basic rate taxpayers, had backfired.

Nearly half of voters said the package - designed to defuse anger over the abolition of the 10p band - was the right thing to do.

But 59% also viewed the move as a cynical pre-election bribe, and 24% claimed it would make them less likely to support Labour.

Just under two-thirds were convinced that the British government would have a better chance of winning a General Election without Mr Brown in charge.

Meanwhile, a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times put the Tories on 45% to Labour's 25%, with the Lib Dems on 18% - up two points since last month.

Around four in five people thought Brown was performing badly, with 59% insisting he should step down before the next General Election.

Traditionally, premiers do not make campaign visits to constituencies ahead of by-elections.

However, Mr Brown has ordered his ministers to descend on Crewe and Nantwich in force over the next few days in a last-ditch bid to rescue the seat.

For his part, Mr Cameron has instructed all frontbenchers to visit the area at least twice, and the Lib Dem presence has also been strong.

If Labour is defeated and Mr Brown goes on to lose a crunch Commons vote on 42-day detention of terror suspects next month - as is expected - his position could be under serious threat.

Gwyneth Dunwoody, who died last month, held Crewe and Nantwich by 7,078 votes at the 2005 General Election. Her daughter, Tamsin, a former Welsh Assembly member, is fighting to keep the seat for Labour.

The Conservative candidate is barrister Edward Timpson, part of the family which founded the Timpson shoe chain.

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