Tough Times for Britain's Prime Minister

If you think that U.S. politics is rough, spare a thought for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is virtually being mugged — not just by the usual opposition gang in Parliament but by his own Labour Party supporters as well.

A YouGov poll conducted earlier this week and published in the Sun newspaper has put Labour at 23 percent with the opposition Conservative Party at 49 percent.

Many of those defections came from Brown's own party. "He's done nothing for us working people to make us secure or keep us safe," David Kernaghan, 38, a carpenter and lifetime Labour voter, told ABC News. "He's doing nothing to combat crime or rising house prices."

It is Labour's worst rating since opinion polls were first published in the 1930s. And the Times newspaper of London published its own poll showing that more than half of Labour voters want to show him the door.

If new elections were held today it would not just be a landslide; it would be a tsunami that would wash the once-popular and confident prime minister into the treetops. It is a serious reversal of fortunes from eight months ago, when Labour support stood at 43 percent and the Conservatives were at 32 percent.

What happened? Brown used to be Mr. Money, Doctor Right and the Crown Prince of Labour all rolled into one. But those were the days when, as chancellor of the exchequer who presided over Britain's Treasury Department, he was understudy and heir apparent to then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. Brown looked like a golden boy along side Blair, who had grown deeply unpopular for his support of Bush's war in Iraq. And the British economy, like the world economy, was doing well, so Brown looked like a safe pair of hands to British taxpayers.

"Brown looked at Blair and said to himself 'how hard could that be.' Well, it is very hard," Simon Hoggart, political writer for London's Guardian newspaper, told ABC News.

Yet there seemed to be an inevitability and sense of destiny about Brown's ascension to 10 Downing Street last year without so much as a vote being cast for him by the general public. For the entire decade of the Blair government, there had been a running commentary on a legendary, Blair and Brown say mythical, secret deal struck between them over lunch when both were competing for Labour leadership. Blair is reputed to have said, in essence: "Look Gordon, I've got the party votes to be leader if you don't make trouble, and I help overthrow the Tories and get us voted into power. So, Gordon, I'll be prime minister for one five-year term while you run the Treasury. Then I'll step down just before a second election and you can take over and take Labour into the second election as prime minister."

Well, hardly ever has a lunch been chewed over so many times. Neither Blair nor Brown ever publicly confirmed what was said over lunch. But Brown's close supporters have always spun against Blair as a traitor for not stepping aside, instead running for, and winning, a second and a third term. It was only after being worn down by low opinion polls that Blair finally gifted Brown with the job of prime minister.

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