LONDON (Reuters) - Chancellor Gordon Brown suffered a double blow on Tuesday with a damaging opinion poll and a scathing attack by a former colleague who accused him of "Stalinist ruthlessness" and cynicism.
On the eve of Brown's 11th budget, a poll showed that if, as expected, Brown replaces Tony Blair as prime minister, Conservatives would beat him convincingly.
The ICM poll for the Guardian showed that if Brown led Labour into an election battle against the Conservatives' David Cameron and Menzies Campbell of the Liberal Democrats, 43 percent would back the Conservatives against 28 percent for Labour -- a 15-point gap.
Brown also faced accusations that his behaviour during 10 years at the Treasury has been "Stalinist" and he has treated cabinet colleagues with "more or less complete contempt".
In an interview with the Financial Times, Brown's former top civil servant, Lord Turnbull, described how the man widely expected to be the next prime minister had a "very cynical view of mankind and his colleagues".
"He cannot allow them any serious discussion about priorities. His view is that it is just not worth it and 'they will get what I decide'. And that is a very insulting process," Turnbull told the paper.
Turnbull worked for Brown at the Treasury for four years before becoming the head of the civil service as Cabinet Secretary from 2002 to 2005.
"Do those ends justify the means?" Turnbull added. "It has enhanced Treasury control, but at the expense of any government cohesion and any assessment of strategy. You can choose whether you are impressed or depressed by that, but you cannot help admire the sheer Stalinist ruthlessness of it all."
The ICM poll showed that if an election was called tomorrow, 41 percent of people surveyed said they would vote for the Conservatives, up 1 percentage point from last month.
Labour was unchanged at 31 percent, while the Liberal Democrats slipped 1 percentage point to 18 percent.
Blair, who has led Labour to three general election wins, is expected to step down in June or July after a decade in power.
ICM interviewed 1,011 adults between March 16 and 18.
I am not at surprised, since Tony Blair models himself off of Adolf Hitler and Stalinism was the Soviet incarnation of fascism.