GORDON Brown has been dealt a blow by a poll that questions his prime ministerial credentials on the eve of his final Budget.
The ICM poll for ITV News found that 48 per cent of respondents do not believe Mr Brown "has what it takes" to be prime minister. Only 37 per cent supported the Chancellor for the top job.
Mr Brown will deliver his 11th Budget on Wednesday, his last such speech before replacing Tony Blair in the summer. With little scope for generous giveaways, Mr Brown is likely to make a virtue of necessity by squeezing public spending and cutting more civil service jobs.
Mr Brown is trying to broaden his appeal as polls suggest he is less of a vote-winner than Mr Blair or David Cameron, the Conservative leader.
Another opinion poll yesterday, by YouGov, found the Tories have increased their lead over Labour by a point since last month - with 38 per cent support compared with 32 per cent for the government. The gap would widen if Mr Brown were leading Labour, with the Tories on 41 per cent and Labour dropping to 31 per cent.
â€¢ Mr Blair and Mr Brown are today due to unveil a joint government paper sketching out the principles that will drive continued reform of public services after the Prime Minister steps down.