New by-election headache for Brown after Fife MP dies

THE Labour Party is facing another by-election, this time in the Prime Minister's backyard following the death of Glenrothes MP, John MacDougall.

The news will increase pressure on Gordon Brown just three weeks after the Glasgow East by-election saw the SNP snatch victory in the safe Labour seat.

Adding to the Mr Brown's worries, a survey today showed that his right-hand man, Chancellor Alistair Darling, could lose his parliamentary seat in Edinburgh South West at the next election.

The YouGov poll of voters' intentions suggests that Scotland could see a massive swing towards the SNP at the next Westminster elections, with Edinburgh East MP Gavin Strang and Nigel Griffiths in Edinburgh South also in danger of losing their seats.

The Glenrothes seat was won by Mr MacDougall with a majority of 10,664 at the General Election in 2005 and would be another major blow for the Prime Minister if it was to be lost.

A by-election fought in the Dunfermline and West Fife constituency in February 2006 saw Liberal Democrats seize power in what had been a strong Labour seat.

The Prime Minister, who represents the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency, paid tribute to Mr MacDougall, who he said was a "good personal friend" and a "true servant of the people".

Mr Brown visited him in hospital on Monday.

He said today: "John MacDougall gave more than thirty years of distinguished public service to Fife. A very popular, diligent local Member of Parliament, he served Fife with great distinction in all the roles he played.

"In Fife he pioneered free travel for the elderly, led Scotland and Britain with nursery education for three and four year olds; was successful in pressing for new jobs and investment to replace thousands of jobs lost in mining and at Rosyth naval base, and was well known for his support for all local causes."

Mr MacDougall, a former oil rig construction yard worker also served as the director of Glenrothes Development Corporation and Fife Enterprise before being elected to the House of Commons. He was first elected to Parliament in the Central Fife in 2001, which with boundary changes later became Glenrothes.

He was diagnosed with the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma more than two years ago and underwent surgery at Guy's Hospital in London to try to treat the condition. He lost his fight for life at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy this morning.

Edinburgh East MP, Gavin Strang, paid tribute to his Labour parliamentary colleague: "It's a very sad day. John had a record of many, many years of service. He was a genuine person who people respected and liked."

Mr MacDougall is survived by his mother Barbara, his wife Cathy and two grown-up children, Scott and Julie.