Britain's ruling Labour Party lost a parliamentary seat in one of its traditional strongholds, a stinging electoral setback for Prime Minister Gordon Brown, results showed on Friday.
Defeat in Thursday's poll in the Glasgow East constituency, which Labour won with a huge 13,500 majority at the 2005 election, will fuel Labour discontent with Brown's leadership and could lead to moves to oust him, some analysts believe.
The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) scored a dramatic victory by a slim 365-vote margin as voters in Britain's third-largest city turned against Labour in droves.
The result, following a series of other recent Labour election defeats, will strengthen expectations that Labour's 11 years in power may be nearing an end and that it could lose the next general election, due by 2010.
"This SNP victory is not just a political earthquake -- it is off the Richter scale," jubilant SNP candidate John Mason said.
The defeat in what was considered Labour's third safest seat in Scotland was particularly galling for Brown because he is Scottish.
The result adds to the deepening sense of crisis enveloping Brown, whose popularity has slumped since he took over as prime minister from Tony Blair 13 months ago.
Brown and Labour have been hurt by the credit crisis, which has hit economic growth and sent house prices sliding, as well as by rising food and energy bills.
He has also made blunders, pulling back from calling a snap general election last year and pushing through tax reforms that hit low earners before he was forced into concessions.
Labour lags the opposition Conservatives by up to 20 points in national opinion polls, enough to give the Conservatives an easy victory at the next general election.
The SNP is Labour's main opponent in Scotland, where the Conservatives barely figure.
International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander, a close Brown ally, conceded it was a "bad result" for Labour but said the whole government, not just Brown, took responsibility.
"I don't think it's a night to say it's about one individual," he told the BBC, pledging Labour would reflect "long and hard on the result".
SNP leader Alex Salmond did not think Brown would quit. "I think he's much more likely to change policy, rather than change himself," he said.
The result will give an added edge to a Labour Party brain-storming session, starting on Friday, when Brown will face pressure from unions to adopt more worker-friendly policies.
Brown is set to shake up his cabinet in the autumn to try to reinvigorate his team, The Daily Telegraph reported on Friday. It said Des Browne, who doubles as Scottish secretary, was expected to be moved from his job as defence secretary.
Despite the SNP win, political analysts said support for Scottish independence was not central to its victory and voters were mostly sending a protest message to the government.
"I want to frighten Labour a bit. I would like the SNP to win, but I'm not voting for independence or separation (of Scotland from Britain)," voter Jean Watt said on Thursday.
The sprawling Glasgow East constituency has pockets of extreme poverty in which life expectancy is lower than in the Gaza Strip. Unemployment, alcohol and drug addiction in the area far surpass the national average.
The Glasgow election was held after the Labour incumbent stepped down due to ill health.
Last Mod: 25 Temmuz 2008, 16:06