GLASGOW, Scotland Prime Minister Gordon Brown faced new political embarrassment Friday after his party lost a Scottish seat it had held for more than 50 years and both the opposition and some of his own Labour Party members urged him to step down.
Glasgow East a run-down district with high unemployment rates and soaring crime in Scotland's largest city turned against Labour in the special election, which was called to replace a Labour lawmaker who resigned for health reasons. Voters instead chose a candidate from Scottish National Party, which has called for Scotland's independence and one that recently won enough seats to control the Scottish Parliament.
The defeat represents a personal rebuke to Brown, himself a Scot.
"This is the first time I haven't voted Labour," said single mother Mhairi MacManus, 28. "I can't afford to go on holiday this year. I can't afford electricity and heating for my house and I'd be annoyed about the price of petrol but I can't afford a car."
When Brown took over from Tony Blair last year, the Labour party was already sagging in popularity largely because of the backlash associated from Britain's role in the Iraq war.
Now Brown faces even more problems as voters struggle with the global credit crunch, the rising cost of living and dramatic fuel hikes. Brown's persona serious, aloof and stiff hasn't helped.
Scottish nationalist John Mason captured the district's seat by 365 votes, saying his victory was "not just a political earthquake it is off the Richter scale."
Brown's party 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 followed Blair.
"My task is to get on with the task of getting us through these difficult economic times," Brown said Friday morning.
Labour won Glasgow East by more than 13,000 votes in the 2005, but the party is at a record low in popularity after more than a decade in power.
Conservative leader David Cameron used the defeat to press Labour to hold an early 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 party 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.
John Curtice, a political analyst at Strathclyde University in Scotland, said the result in Glasgow was a genuine surprise, but fit a wider trend of crumbling support for the Labour Party under Brown.
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.
Curtice said voters might believe that Labour is now in a hopeless decline."They will say this government is now in a rut it can't escape from," he said. "The issue of Brown's future is now in much sharper focus."
Associated Press Writer David Stringer contributed to this report.