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British Prime Minister Cameron reeling after 'catastrophic' week

LONDON -- British Prime Minister David Cameron is under pressure to reassert his authority over a Conservative Party reeling after a week which saw the resignation of a senior minister and claims of incompetence and elitism at the heart of his government.

After one of the most bruising weeks for the center-right party since it took power in a coalition in 2010, the Conservatives have slipped further behind their Labour rivals, polls showed on Sunday. The next election is due in 2015.

Cameron will try to regain the initiative on Monday with a speech setting out a tougher stance on crime after a series of policy missteps, U-turns and embarrassments since an unpopular budget in March.

Veteran Conservative member of the House of Lords Norman Tebbit, one of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's closest allies, attacked what he called “this dog of a government.”

“The abiding sin of the government is not that some ministers are rich, but that it seems unable to manage its affairs competently,” he told the Observer newspaper.

Education Secretary Michael Gove dismissed headlines talking of “Meltdown” and a “Catastrophic Week” as the passing “froth of political life” that affects all leaders, including ex-Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, who won three elections.

“I remember reading about Tony Blair's worst week ever. No matter how many of these worst weeks he had, no matter how many apparently tough headlines there were, he came surging through with landslide majorities because the fundamental policy decisions ... mattered more than the reporting of personality issues,” he told Sky News.

Voters are more interested in the improving economy and falling hospital waiting lists, he added. Figures on Thursday are likely to show Britain has emerged from recession.

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