Labour still has Scottish support but new poll deals further blow to Gordon Brown

THE Tories have extended their lead over Labour in the wake of last week's failed attempt by rebel former Cabinet ministers to oust Gordon Brown, according to an opinion poll last night.

The Populus survey put Labour on 28 per cent, down two percentage points on last month and 13 points behind the Conservatives, who were up three points to 41 per cent. The Liberal Democrats were down one point to 19 per cent.

The figures represent both the highest level of support for the Conservatives and the lowest for Labour since last September. However, there was some consolation for Mr Brown, with a sharp improvement in his personal rating – 41 per cent said they believed he was the best leader Labour could have at present, a rise of eight points since September.

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Among Labour voters the figure was 71 per cent – a nine-point increase – suggesting that there is little mood among the party's grass roots for change at the top.

Populus interviewed 1,509 adults between 8-10 January.

The poll followed another survey yesterday of more than 10,000 voters that laid bare the contrasting fortunes of Labour in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK.

Nearly half of those surveyed branded the party as "poor" or "terrible". After appearing to narrow the gap in recent months, Labour has fallen 12 points behind the Tories among voters across the UK. But the same poll, carried out by YouGov, showed the party holding its ground in Scotland.

Mr Brown yesterday tried to portray himself as a team player after last week's outburst of disloyalty. In his first meeting with Labour MPs since the foiled coup by former Cabinet colleagues Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, Mr Brown

appealed for party unity, saying: "I'm not a team of one, I'm one of a team."

Mr Brown would have been buoyed by the breakdown of the Scottish poll results, which showed Scottish Labour is still ahead of the SNP on voter intentions at Westminster.

According to the YouGov poll, Labour has the support of 30 per cent of voters across the UK, with the Tories ahead on 42 per cent and the Liberal Democrats on 16 per cent. But in Scotland, Labour is on a healthy 36 per cent with the SNP on 25 per cent and the Tories on 17 per cent, only two percentage points above the Lib Dems.

Russell Brown, the chairman of the Scottish Labour group of MPs, said: "The only poll that counts is on polling day, but this confirms that people are turning away from the SNP and see the election is a two-horse race."

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However, the wider YouGov poll shows most voters believe Labour caused the economic crisis. Across the UK, 67 per cent of respondents felt Labour is to blame for the recession and the rise in unemployment. North of the Border that figure fell to 61 per cent. But more Scots blame British banks for the recession – 91 per cent against 88 per cent in the UK as a whole.

Mr Brown shared a platform with Labour's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, and election co-ordinator, Douglas Alexander, at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party last night.

Lord Mandelson, who will play a pivotal role in the campaign, also stood beside the Prime Minister yesterday. The Business Secretary said the government was "getting through" the recession.

Mr Brown told MPs "the choice at the election will not be between change and no change but between the right kind of change and the wrong kind of change".

The recession had changed the political landscape, he admitted – a signal that Labour would have to water down its spending plans.