By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
More woes for British PM Gordon Brown after nationalists snatch Scottish seat from Labour
Britain Election LO 5526205
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Labour Party leader addresses delegates at Labour's National Policy Forum at the Warwick University campus in Coventry Friday July 25, 2008. Brown suffered a fresh political humiliation Friday when his party lost in a Scottish stronghold it has held for more than 50 years, another crushing election defeat that sparked calls from opposition and Labour members for Brown's departure. - photo by Associated Press
    GLASGOW, Scotland — Britain’s governing party suffered a sobering election defeat in a Scottish stronghold Friday, a personal rebuke to Prime Minister Gordon Brown from voters in one of the country’s poorest districts at a time of growing economic uncertainty.
    Delegates meet in September for the governing Labour Party’s annual conference, but it’s unlikely they will stage a revolt against Brown. Choosing a new leader for Labour would be a gamble, given the small pool of successors who could actually beat the charismatic Conservative leader David Cameron in a general election, due by 2010.
    ‘‘I think the prime minister should have his (summer) holiday, but then I think we need an election,’’ said Cameron. ‘‘I think we need change in this country, and that’s how change should come about.’’
    Some in Brown’s own party even hinted he should resign before the next national election.
    ‘‘We need a new start and that can only come from a debate around the leadership. I hope those discussions will take place,’’ said Graham Stringer, a Labour lawmaker.
    For more than 50 years, the Labour Party had held the seat in its eastern Glasgow stronghold — a crime-infested maze of tenement housing where life expectancy is 63 years for men, the same average for Bangladesh. Unemployment has hovered at roughly 10 percent — twice the British national average — but around half of the working-age population is estimated to be jobless and receiving hefty government benefits.
    ‘‘I wanted to send shock waves through the Labour Party, to send a message to tell them to do something for us,’’ said John French, 45, who’s unemployed and voted for the Scottish National Party in the special election, which was prompted by a Labour lawmaker’s resignation due to health problems.
    Labour’s woes are reminiscent of the plight of the last Conservative government more than a decade ago — far behind in opinion polls and seemingly unable to win an election anywhere. That government, led by John Major, was swept away in a landslide in 1997 by Labour’s charismatic and young Tony Blair.
    The Labour Party’s popularity has since waned with a backlash over the unpopular Iraq war and mounting economic woes confronting Brown, a Scotsman known for his serious but stiff demeanor and rumpled appearance.
    ‘‘This is an indictment of what has gone wrong with Labour and what used to be known as the people’s party,’’ said John Mason, who captured the district’s seat by 365 votes for the Scottish Nationalist Party.
    Scotland has been part of the United Kingdom for 300 years. But it has its own legal system and an independent parliament that legislates on education, health, justice and some tax matters — power that has allowed it to freeze local tax increase in the past year, slash medical prescription charges and offer more free school meals in poor districts.
    London retains primacy on all matters relating to Britain as a whole, including defense, energy and foreign relations.
    ‘‘We understand and we hear people’s concerns,’’ Brown said on Friday, a day after the results from the Thursday ballot were announced. ‘‘We will do whatever is necessary over the next few months to help hardworking families through these difficult times.’’
    Brown chose not to call an early general last year — a decision that some say squandered his favorable ratings in the polls after his deft handling of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, flash floods and failed terror attacks in London and Glasgow.
    Labour still has more than 60 House of Commons seats over the combined opposition, so the loss isn’t likely to shake Labour’s hold on power. But it is the third special election defeat since Brown became prime minister.
    In May, Labour suffered a drubbing in local elections across England that also saw the party lose the London mayoralty after eight years. Three weeks later, Labour lost Crewe, a longtime northern England stronghold, to the Conservatives in a special election. And last month, in a special election in the Conservative-held seat of Henley-on-Thames, Labour slumped to fifth place.
    Labour won Glasgow East by more than 13,000 votes in the 2005 general election.
   Associated Press Writer David Stringer contributed to this report.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter