Flash: McBride protest plays role in by-election shock
British Prime Minister Tony Blair suffered a significant
electoral defeat on Friday, while an Irish human rights
campaigner made her point in the political heat of a British
The north London seat of Brent East should have been safe
for Blair's Labour Party, which has held it for years. But the
count in the early hours of Friday morning showed a huge
decline in its vote, handing victory to Liberal Democrat Sarah
At the 2001 election, Labour enjoyed 63 percent of the vote
and a majority of over 13,000. The Lib Dems, fast becoming
Britain's second party ahead of the ailing Conservatives,
overturned that and secured a majority of 1,118.
Blair had not previously lost a by-election seat held by his
party since taking power in 1997.
Irish independent candidate Kelly McBride stood in the
by-election to protest the failure of the British military to
dismiss two soldiers convicted of the cold-blooded murder of
her teenage brother.
One of the strongest independent candidates, she polled 189
votes. She took crucial votes from the Labour candidate and
serving another reminder of the McBride family's enduring
campaign for justice.
A good evening for Kelly and her supporters was evidenced by
the cheers that greeted her result. But it was a terrible
evening for Tony Blair, who now seems to be facing the
beginning of the end of his stranglehold on power.
The political damage to Blair will be heavy at a time when
opinion polls show most Britons no longer trust him and his
annual Labour Party conference looms.
Mary Farrell, a London-Irish pensioner, summed it up for one
reporter: "We voted Labour and we put in Tony Blair and nobody
likes what is happening now. We are disgusted and fed up. We
want to send him a message and the only way to do that is to
vote for someone else."