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Cameron Faces Test as Tory Lawmaker Quits U.K. Politics

Conservative Party Lawmaker Louise Mensch
Conservative Party lawmaker Louise Mensch said, “I am very sorry that despite my best efforts, I have been unable to make the balancing act work for our family.” Photographer: Stefan Wemuth - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Conservative Party lawmaker Louise Mensch unexpectedly resigned from U.K. politics today to move to New York, creating a test for Prime Minister David Cameron who may struggle to retain the seat she narrowly won two years ago.

Her decision will trigger a special election for the parliamentary district of Corby and East Northamptonshire in central England, which she gained with 42.2 percent of the vote at the 2010 general election. The Labour Party, which had held the seat since 1997, got 38.6 percent.

“I am very sorry that despite my best efforts, I have been unable to make the balancing act work for our family,” Mensch, 41, said in a letter to Cameron. The mother of three has been forced to divide her time between the U.K. and the U.S., where her husband manages bands including Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The Conservatives have lost support after a string of policy U-turns and are trailing behind the Labour opposition as the recession deepens and government austerity measures bite. Labour has argued that Cameron is out of touch with ordinary voters since the March budget cut taxes for the highest earners and raised them on the elderly.

The race to replace Mensch, who is best known as a member of the parliamentary committee that investigated the phone-hacking scandal, will also provide a test for Ed Miliband. The Labour leader will need to win the seat to answer his own critics and demonstrate he is able to beat Cameron at the next general election in 2015.

Labour Lead

Cameron has the backing of 33 percent of voters compared with 44 percent who say they back Miliband, according to an Aug. 4 poll of 1,787 people by YouGov Plc for the Sunday Times newspaper.

Cameron noted in his reply to Mensch that her seat had been Labour for 13 years before her election and that he supported her decision “only because I wish to support you in acting in the best interests of your family, which must come first.”

Labour’s election campaign will focus on “two wasted years of Tory policies,” said Andy Sawford, the party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Corby.

“This will be a tough election for Labour but we are determined to hold this Tory-led government to account by showing the disastrous impact of their polices on the people of Corby,” he said in a statement released by the party.

A possible date for the vote is Nov. 15, when elections for police commissioners in England Wales are due to take place.

Attack on Labour

Mensch, an author and active user of social media sites such as Twitter, most recently spoke out against Labour lawmakers during a probe into the phone-hacking scandal. She and other Tories refused to back a May 1 parliamentary report that said News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch is “not a fit person” to run the company.

She attacked five Labour members, including Tom Watson, and one Liberal Democrat for going beyond their mandate.

Mensch has faced difficulties because of her social-media profile. This month police said that a 60-year-old man was charged with threatening her using e-mail and a social-networking site.

Mensch told followers of her Twitter account on Aug. 21 she had received e-mails threatening her children, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph newspaper at the time.

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