( AFP ) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown would be dumped out of office by the Conservatives if opinion polls were replicated at a general election this year, The Independent said Thursday.
The weighted average of monthly polls by six organisations up to the end of 2007 puts the Conservatives on 41 percent, with Labour on 32 percent and the Liberal Democrats on 16 percent, it said.
That would give the Tories a 16-seat majority (333 seats) in the House of Commons if the results were repeated at the ballot box. Labour would win 258, the Liberal Democrats 28 and other parties 31.
John Curtice, a professor of politics at Strathclyde University who compiled the figures for the newspaper, said the results indicated that Brown has a tough 12 months ahead.
"For the first time in 15 years we have to take seriously the possibility that the Conservatives could win an overall majority," he was quoted as saying.
But a Labour recovery or a Tory failure to build on their strong position could lead to a hung parliament, where no one party has an overall majority, he added.
Brown does not have to call a general election until May 2010 at the latest, but he has suffered a poll slump since deciding not to capitalise on his early popularity and call an early vote late last year.
His own personal ratings have also been hit because of the Northern Rock bank crisis, the government's loss of sensitive personal data for 25 million Britons and a new row over allegedly illegal donations to the Labour Party.
Brown said in his New Year's message at the weekend that his agenda for 2008 would depend on weathering the predicted economic storm in the next 12 months, saying the economy was robust enough to ride out the turbulence.
Thursday's Financial Times, however, said battles with business, lingering questions over the government's economic competence and a potential backlash over new anti-terrorism plans left him with "an intray of banana skins".
Curtice told The Independent that playing the economic competence card would be more difficult given the Northern Rock crisis, after taxpayers propped up the ailing mortgage lender when it was forced to apply for emergency loans.