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Prime Minister Tony Blair has signalled his readiness to listen to voter concerns after the Liberal Democrats seized one of Labour's safest seats in a key north London by-election.
Sarah Teather won the Brent East poll by more than 1,100 votes, overturning a 13,047 majority and marking Labour's first loss of a Commons seat in a by-election for 15 years.
The by-election, which saw London MEP Robert Evans knocked in to second place with 7,040 votes, compared with Ms Teather's 8,158, sent shock waves through the New Labour leadership.
Conservative chairman Theresa May said the result, which saw her party's candidate Uma Fernandes trailing in third place with 3,368 votes, marked a "devastating blow" for Labour in one of its "heartlands".
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy described the outcome as a "great fillip" for his party on the eve of its annual conference in Brighton next week.
But the poll prompted Labour former ministers Frank Field to warn that Labour could be at risk of losing the next General Election and Glenda Jackson to reiterate her call for Mr Blair to quit.
As all sides ruminated over the record 29% swing from Labour to the Lib Dems, Mr Blair's official spokesman said the prime minister "had made it clear that we need to listen and explain".
However, the spokesman insisted the government would not be diverted from its reform agenda - despite major concerns from within the Labour party.
But as Liberal Democrats celebrated, Labour chairman Ian McCartney admitted he was "very disappointed" to have lost the formerly rock-solid seat.
He joined Home Secretary David Blunkett in conceding that the war with Iraq may have been a crucial factor in the result.
Mr McCartney confidently predicted the seat would return to Labour at the next General Election, but acknowledge that it was time for his party to roll up its sleeves and learn lessons.
"What we have not done is be able to communicate on a regular basis and in an effective way," he told the BBC.
Despite the Tories defeat, Ms May said the party's vote had "held up" well in the face of predictions of a collapse in what had not been natural Tory territory in recent years.
She was upbeat about her party's future success saying Labour voters in Brent East had been looking for a Labour home and found that in the Liberal Democrats.
"We are still on course to show that we are the credible alternative to Labour at the next General Election," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
The by-election in London mayor Ken Livingstone's old seat took place on Thursday after Labour MP Paul Daisley died of cancer in June, aged 45.
Mr Kennedy said it was now clear to him his party was on course to over take the Tories as the real opposition to Labour.
"We have shown that there is no such thing as a no-go area for the Liberal Democrats," he said.
"In Britain's most diverse community, we have shown that we can speak for every section of society and the Liberal Democrat message is one they want to hear and support."
The party will now have 54 MPs in Westminster, with 29-year-old Ms Teather making the transition from being a councillor in Islington to become the youngest member of the Commons. However, with a turnout of 36.4%, senior Labour figures say many of the party's supporters simply did not vote.
Ms Teather said she was "absolutely elated" by the result, which came in at about 0230 BST on Friday, adding that both Labour and the Conservatives should take careful note of the outcome.
"Tony Blair, I hope that you are listening tonight. The people of Brent have spoken for the people of Britain," she said.
"They want you to listen. They want you to deliver.
"But there is no comfort in this result tonight for the Conservative Party. They are irrelevant to constituencies like this," she added.
"The tide may be turning against Tony Blair and New Labour, but the tide remains far out for the Conservatives in this country. "
Get the fuck out already Blair.
-------------------- The above is an extract from my fictional novel, "The random postings of Edame".
In the beginning was the word. And man could not handle the word, and the hearing of the word, and he asked God to take away his ears so that he might live in peace without having to hear words which might upset his equinamity or corrupt the unblemished purity of his conscience.
And God, hearing this desperate plea from His creation, wrinkled His mighty brow for a moment and then leaned down toward man, beckoning that he should come close so as to hear all that was about to be revealed to him.
"Fuck you," He whispered, and frowned upon the pathetic supplicant before retreating to His heavens.
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