| Tony Blair (left) and Gordon Brown in London. (Reuters)
London, March 18: Gordon Brown has overtaken Tony Blair as Labour's main electoral asset only weeks before an expected general election, according to a post-budget YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph.
With a broadly favourable response to Brown's ninth budget, the poll suggests that Labour would stand a better chance of securing a record third term in power if the chancellor, not Blair, was Prime Minister.
According to YouGov, 63 per cent see Brown as an 'asset' to Labour compared to 34 per cent for Blair. Asked who is doing the better job, 52 per cent say Brown compared to 17 per cent for Blair.
The findings are understood to be reflected in private polling conducted by the Tories. As a result, they have abandoned an earlier campaign strategy of suggesting that it would be a 'vote Blair get Brown' election ' implying that the chancellor would take over after a third poll win.
Because of Brown's growing popularity with the voters, the Tories are now concentrating all their firepower on trust in Blair, which they see as the weak point of Labour's campaign. The poll shows general satisfaction with the budget, with 44 per cent regarding it as 'fair' and more people still preferring increased investment in public services to tax cuts.
But Michael Howard's charge that it was a 'vote now, pay later' budget, with tax rises deferred until after the election, has struck a chord with voters. Sixty-three per cent believed Brown knew that taxes would have to go up to fund his spending plans but was putting off any increases until the election was over.
The sharp drop in public confidence in Blair is a further blow to Labour's faltering election campaign. Brown has been sidelined in Labour's campaign but the poll is likely to increase demands for him to be brought back in a front-line role.
Labour was on the back foot again yesterday after attempts to portray the Conservatives as a party of 'savage' public spending cuts backfired. Blair and Brown launched a post-budget offensive by unveiling a poster alleging that the Tories planned to 'cut' '35 billion from public services.
According to Blair that was equivalent to sacking every teacher, family doctor and nurse in the country, but he was forced to admit that the '35 billion did not refer to current spending. Instead, it was a projection of how much less a conservative government might be spending in 2011-12 compared to a Labour administration.