May 17, 2009 / 3:53 AM / 9 years ago

Voters to punish big UK parties over expenses-polls

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s main political parties are likely to cede ground to marginal groups at next month’s European elections because of public anger over a far-reaching expenses scandal, opinion polls showed on Sunday.

Newspapers reported Queen Elizabeth had expressed concern to Prime Minister Gordon Brown over the disclosures, which have stained parliament’s reputation and angered Britons at a time when many are losing their homes and unemployment is soaring.

The ruling Labour party has been hardest hit by disclosures in the Telegraph newspaper of extravagant and at times bizarre expenses claims made by members of parliament. Labour has suspended two MPs and a junior minister is under investigation.

A ComRes poll for the Independent on Sunday showed two in five voters would abstain or back a minor party rather than vote for Labour, the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats.

“I can’t remember any time when the minor parties were at anything like this level,” ComRes boss Andrew Hawkins said.

A BPIX poll for the Mail on Sunday newspaper showed Labour falling to stand level with the anti-European Union UK Independence Party. Both parties stand to win 17 percent of the vote in European elections on June 4, the poll showed.

A week ago, Labour was predicted to win 23 percent and UKIP stood to win just 10 percent. Support for the main opposition Conservatives has slumped to 30 percent from 36 percent.

The Green party and the far-right British National Party also stand to benefit, a poll showed.

In the parliamentary election due by June 2010, polls point to a big win for the Conservatives as voters grow increasingly dissatisfied with a Labour government in power since 1997.

Pressure is mounting on the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, over his handling of the expenses affair.

“The Speaker should have been at the forefront of finding a solution, but has sadly become part of the problem,” Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson told the Observer newspaper. “It is time for him to go.”

The Times newspaper said a motion of no confidence against Martin could be tabled by some MPs as early as on Monday.

The Telegraph on Sunday, embarrassing lawmakers across the political spectrum for the 10th successive day with details of exotic and excessive expenses claims, focused on those of a senior Labour election co-ordinator.

Fraser Kemp MP claimed for two DVD players a month apart from each other and 16 bedsheets in seven weeks. He has promised to pay the money back, the Sunday Telegraph said.

Previous expenses claims listed by the Telegraph included the cost of cleaning a moat and several hundred bags of manure.

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