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Shock defeat for Labour in by-poll

Hasan Suroor

LONDON: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was on Friday urged to call a general election and seek a fresh mandate after the Labour Party lost one of its safest parliamentary seats in a by-election in his native Scotland reviving speculation about his political future.

In what was described as a “political earthquake”, a rejuvenated Scottish National Party snatched the Glasgow East seat from Labour overturning a majority of more than 13,000 on a massive swing of 22 per cent in its favour.

The election was caused by the resignation of sitting Labour MP David Marshall on health grounds.

SNP candidate John Mason called his victory over his Labour rival Margaret Curran, a high-profile member of Scottish Parliament, as an “epic win”.

“This SNP victory is not just a political earthquake; it is off the Richter Scale. It is an epic win and the tremors will be felt all the way to Downing Street,” he said.

Observers said a similar swing against Labour in a general election could see Mr. Brown lose his own seat. The defeat sent shockwaves through the Labour establishment with party MPs saying it could not be dismissed as just another aberration.

“We can’t dismiss this loss as just what happens to governments in their third terms. We are in trouble,” one Minister told The Guardian.

The party’s defeat in one of its key strongholds was attributed to a growing disillusionment with its performance among even traditional Labour voters. It was widely seen as a “protest” vote against the Labour government’s policies in one of Scotland’s poorest areas.

Conservative leader David Cameron whose party came third called for a general election saying the country needed a change.

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