Blair is blamed as Labour loses once-safe Welsh seat

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Labour put a brave face on its failure to win back what was, until recently, the safest seat in Wales. The Welsh First Secretary, Rhodri Morgan, admitted that defeat in the Blaenau Gwent by-election was "a massive disappointment", but claimed that it could also be a "therapeutic experience".

Others took the gloomier view that Labour was in line for more defeats at least until Tony Blair carried out his decision to step down.

Dai Davies, an independent, won Bleanau Gwent with a 2,484-vote majority, in a by-election triggered by the death of the previous independent MP, Peter Law, who won the seat in 2005.

The Labour Party chairman, Hazel Blears, claimed that the result was "coming in the right direction", because Mr Davies' victory was less overwhelming than that of Mr Law, who won in 2005 with a 9,121-vote majority. Mr Law was a Labour councillor who ran as an independent in protest against a decision to impose an all-women shortlist.

Mr Morgan claimed that defeat had taught Labour that "you have to listen to what people say on the doorstep". But the rebel Welsh Labour MP Paul Flynn called for Mr Blair to resign in the autumn, to allow the Labour Party to recapture its lost support. "There are many people in Blaenau Gwent who said it broke their heart to vote against Labour last time and they were desperate to come home to Labour," he said.

But Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, warned against a return to the left-wing ideas that prevailed in the 1980s. Mr Johnson described Labour as "firmly based on the centre-left" and said: "We vacate that territory at our peril."