Brown losing out to Cameron on poverty front, poll finds

Published 22 September 2008
|PIC1|A new poll from Christian development agency World Vision has found waning public confidence in Gordon Brown's ability to secure greater action from other international leaders on poverty.

Although Mr Brown has put the poverty issue consistently high on his political agenda, a new poll from the ICM on behalf of World Vision found that less than a third of people believe he can influence other leaders into delivering on promises to the world's poorest children. The poll found that almost 40 per cent, however, did believe that Tory leader David Cameron could foster such commitment if he were prime minister.

The poll findings were published just ahead of a special UN session instigated by Brown to discuss action on poor countries and reinvigorate commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. The UN General Assembly meeting this week in New York will focus on boosting funds towards development in Africa in light of the global financial crisis.

The special session on the MDGs follows a speech by Brown to the UN General Assembly last year in which he warned that the goals, supposed to be reached by 2015, were a "million miles" from being met.

The poll reveals, however, that people are more likely to put their faith in Cameron to make progress on poverty at the international level.

ICM asked a random sample of 1,002 voters whether they believed Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg would be most able to get world leaders to deliver on the promises they have made to improve the health of the world's poorest children.

In response, 39 per cent said they felt Cameron would be most able to, whilst 32 per cent said Brown would, and just six per cent felt Clegg would succeed in influencing world leaders to deliver on their promises. Twenty-three per cent said they did not know.

Poverty has long been close to the heart of Brown, the son of a Church of Scotland minister. During his time in office as Chancellor, he spearheaded efforts to secure 100 per cent debt relief for poor countries and, at the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005, called for a "Marshall Plan for Africa". He reaffirmed his commitment again upon becoming Prime Minister when he declared he would "wage an unremitting battle" against the poverty and disease which has "fallen to our generation to eradicate".

He said that this Thursday's special UN session would be an opportunity for world leaders to "redeem the pledges that have been promised".

Patrick Watt, Head of Public Affairs and Campaigns at World Vision, said: "If this poll is to be believed, the government risks squandering its legacy on development unless we see concrete action from New York.

"During a time of global economic downturn, there is pressure on rich countries like the UK to do less development when, in fact, there is an urgent need to do more.

"The biggest victims of rising food and fuel prices are people in the world's poorest countries.

"It's absolutely essential that all political parties continue to stand by commitments to increase aid and focus development efforts on the poorest people," he concluded.

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