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Gordon Brown's bloody nose

GORDON Brown is about to be given a bloody nose by voters — losing a previously safe seat to the Tories in this week’s vital by-election.

The latest ICM poll shows the Tories are set to overturn Labour’s solid 5,459 majority in Norwich North by grabbing 34 per cent of the vote.

Labour are likely to trail in second after getting 30 per cent, with the Lib Dems third on 15 per cent — just one per cent ahead of the Green Party, the poll of local voters has revealed.

If repeated at the general election, the figures would mean that the neighbouring MP, ex-Home Secretary Charles Clarke, would also lose his Norwich South seat.

The by-election was caused by the resignation of the previous MP, Dr Ian Gibson, after Labour’s so-called “star chamber” found him guilty by of misclaiming on his expenses — a charge he continues to deny.

And it has turned into a major headache for the Prime Minister, who was desperate to avoid another referendum on his leadership so soon after the attempted coup by Ministers after the local and European elections.

With a general election less than a year away, a lot rests on the outcome of the vote for this seat, regarded as one of the safer Labour ones in East Anglia.

The Tories have thrown everything into the by-election campaign — seeking to retake a constituency they have not held since 1997 — with up to 40 Conservative MPs canvassing in the city each day.

Conservative leader David Cameron has also made several visits . . . while Gordon Brown has stayed away.

But local voters have shown little interest in the campaign and a low turnout is expected for Thursday’s election. One debate among the candidates was cancelled on Tuesday night because only three people turned up.

A lot depends on whether Labour’s core voters bother to turn out or whether they stay at home or even switch sides.

ICM’s poll says just over half of voters who backed Labour in the 2005 election will vote for them again, compared to 91 per cent of Tories and 64 per cent of Lib Dem voters who will stay loyal.

And with the scale of voter disillusionment with the Westminster parties, and lingering anger at the treatment meted out to Dr Gibson, there’s an expectation that the Greens and UKIP will pick up ex-Labour voters.

Labour have made a series of claims that the Tories will slash public services, cutting job creation schemes and even ending free TV licences for pensioners.

They are expected to employ them in next year’s general election — but a heavy defeat will put further pressure on Gordon Brown to drop the strategy.

In any event, Mr Brown’s former Cabinet colleagues believe he has now run out of any ideas that could win them the next election.

Ex-Pensions Secretary James Purnell, who resigned in June, yesterday said he lost faith in Gordon Brown as leader six months ago.

Mr Purnell said he had been considering resigning since December because he no longer believed Mr Brown could win the next election.

He also urged Labour to recapture the idealism of its first days in power.

And ex-Defence Secretary John Hutton said Mr Brown had “many, many talents“ but warned it was a “tragedy“ voters did not see them.



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