LONDON - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has lost support for his handling of the economy, two polls showed on Tuesday, the eve of what is expected to be one of the bleakest budgets in decades.
With an election due by June 2010, the ICM survey for the Guardian newspaper said 35 percent of voters trusted Brown and his finance minister Alistair Darling to run the economy, compared to 45 percent for the main opposition Conservatives.
In January, the Conservatives' leader David Cameron and his finance spokesman George Osborne led by just two points on the economy. In January 2008, Brown's ruling Labour Party led by seven points.
The ICM poll showed little change in the parties' overall ratings, although the Conservatives' 10-point lead was the smallest since December.
The Conservatives slipped two percentage points to 40 percent compared to last month, with Labour unchanged on 30.
Darling's second annual budget on Wednesday will be a crucial test for Labour as it struggles to lift the British economy out of recession and prepares for next year's election.
Darling is likely to say that the economy will shrink at its fastest pace in over 60 years, but that he expects a recovery to begin by the end of the year.
A separate poll conducted by Ipsos MORI found only 25 percent felt Brown's Labour government had the best economic policies, down from 29 percent in January.
The same survey also found that almost as many said they were undecided on which party was best for the economy -- 29 percent -- as the 30 percent who backed the Conservatives.
The poll found the public had become less pessimistic about their personal prospects and the wider economy since January, with the proportion fearing losing their jobs falling to 44 percent from 49 percent.
Brown, a former finance minister, enjoyed a boost in the polls thanks to his early response to the global economic crisis but his ratings have since fallen.
He won praise for his hosting of the G20 summit of world leaders in London earlier this month. However, his government has since been bogged down in a series of domestic problems.
The British economy went into its first recession since the early 1990s in the last three months of 2008, bringing higher unemployment, lower house prices and falling industrial output.