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UK Labor Party Suffers Historic Election Defeat

Posted June. 09, 2009 07:18,   


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is under heavy pressure to resign after his ruling Labor Party suffered the worst election defeat in its history yesterday.

The party received 15.3 percent of the vote in the elections to the European Parliament, the first time the party’s share of the vote hovered around 15 percent in a nationwide election since the 1920s.

The party also lost ground to the opposition Conservatives in Wales, a traditionally pro-Labor area.

The Conservatives came in first with 28.6 percent, followed by the anti-European UK Independence Party with 17.4 percent.

The Sunday Times said the Conservatives will likely take over as the ruling British party by claiming 34 seats more than half of the combined number of seats (323), and the Labor Party will lose 140 seats or 40 percent of its 350 seats won in 2005. The Labor Party had suffered a huge blow Thursday when it lost all 34 county councils.

Labor’s defeat was largely attributable to a scandal over excessive expense claims by lawmakers that have swept the British House of Commons for more than a month. After reports said lawmakers got reimbursed for mortgages already paid off or for lavish home furnishings with taxpayers’ money, House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin resigned, the first speaker in 314 years to be forced out.

Around 20 lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties also dropped out of the next general elections. Labor sees no hope in Brown’s leadership and finds itself under internal strife with 10 incumbent ministers including Cabinet Minister Hazel Blears and Labor Minister James Purnell resigning. An anti-Brown contingent in the party has also hurled personal attacks at the prime minister.

The Sunday Telegraph even suggested a conspiracy behind the “coup within the party” instigated by supporters of former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Brown pledged an all-out confrontation by announcing a Cabinet reshuffle in response to the minister walkout Friday. When the European Parliament election results came out Sunday, he said his government cannot avoid blame while Britain deals with the impact of the global economic crisis.

Seventy Labor lawmakers who oppose Brown are scheduled to release a statement demanding his resignation.

The New York Times said Brown has 12 months left in his term until next year’s elections, but it remains to be seen how many more weeks he can hold on.