Labour faces tricky by-election in Brent

A parliamentary by-election that could be tricky for the Prime Minister will take place in Brent East on 18 September, the Labour Party announced yesterday.

The first Commons by-election for 18 months will provide an important test for Tony Blair, whose personal ratings have plummeted as voters lost trust in him over the Iraq war and the apparent suicide of Dr David Kelly.

The state of public services will also be a key issue in the by-election, which is being held because the former incumbent, Paul Daisley, died of cancer in June.

Mr Daisley had a majority of 13,047 at the 2001 general election and, although Brent East is regarded as a safe Labour seat, a sharply reduced majority would be embarrassing for Mr Blair.

The Liberal Democrat candidate is Sarah Teather, 29, a charity worker, and the Tory candidate is Uma Fernandes, 55, a community nurse.

Labour's candidate will be Robert Evans, a member of the European Parliament for the London region who lives in Weybridge, Surrey, and lists his interests as "mowing the lawn, hockey and theatre".

Ms Fernandes said: "The Labour Party candidate lives in 'millionaire's row' in Weybridge, and works in Brussels and Strasbourg - it is no wonder that he fails to understand how damaging his Government's failures have been to the people of Brent."

Labour sought to stress Mr Evans' local connections yesterday by saying he had represented Brent in the European Parliament since 1994.