26 Jul 2009

PM blamed for by-election defeat

6:46 am on 26 July 2009

Some senior Labour Party members have accused British Prime Minister Gordon Brown of being out of touch with the electorate after a by-election defeat in England.

Senior Labour MPs have accused Gordon Brown of being directly responsible for the party's crushing defeat in the Norwich North by-election.

The Conservatives overturned Labour's majority of 5549 at the last election in 2005 to take the seat by 7348 votes on Friday. Turnout in the poll was about 45%.

Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke blamed the result on Mr Brown's "incompetent" treatment of the former MP for Norwich North, Dr Ian Gibson.

Dr Gibson resigned after being told he could not stand for election again by the "Star Chamber". He had claimed almost £80,000 in expenses on a London flat which he later sold cheaply to his daughter.

Senior backbencher Barry Sheerman said the result was a "self-inflicted wound" and warned Mr Brown had until the end of the summer to reconnect with voters.

Left-wing Labour backbencher John McDonnell said the prime minister had made a "terrible miscalculation" in his handling of the episode. Another Labour backbencher, Kate Hoey, told the BBC that Mr Brown needed to re-examine his leadership techniques.

Mr Brown has acknowledged the by-election result was affected by the anger of many local supporters at the party executive's treatment of their former MP.

He claimed none of the main parties could take "any cheer" from the result, with only the fringe parties picking up more votes than previously.

However, Mr Sheerman says morale among Labour members was low and that the party was in a "desperate situation".

16.5% swing

The by-election saw a swing from Labour to the Tories of 16.5% as they garnered more than 13,500 votes.

The Lib Dems came third with 4,803. The UKIP received 4068 votes.

It was only the second loss of a Labour seat to the Tories in 27 years.