Peterborough by-election: Labour beats Brexit Party to hold seat


Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionLabour candidate Lisa Forbes addressed the count after her win

The Labour Party has narrowly seen off a challenge from the Brexit Party and held on to its seat in the Peterborough by-election.

Union activist Lisa Forbes managed to retain the constituency for Labour, beating Nigel Farage’s candidate Mike Greene by 683 votes.

Ms Forbes said her victory was “significant” and showed people had “rejected the politics of division”.

Brexit Party MEP Claire Fox hailed her party’s “amazing achievement”.

Labour and the Brexit Party had jostled for position as the bookmakers’ favourite up until the result was announced.

The recently formed Eurosceptic group was vying to secure its first MP after gaining 29 seats in the European elections two weeks ago.

But, as the winner was declared on Friday morning, a chant erupted from Ms Forbes’ supporters.

In a victory speech, she said her win had “shown that the politics of hope can win regardless of the odds”.

“The people of Peterborough have placed their trust in me and I will not let you down,” she said.

“I promise to work tirelessly for Peterborough to make it a city that we can all be proud of and that work starts now.”

A total of 15 candidates stood in the by-election, including Beki Selleck for the Lib Dems, and John Whitby for UKIP.

Paul Bristow for the Conservatives came in third place.

Turnout for the Peterborough contest was 48.4%, down from the 67.5% turnout for the 2017 general election.

Both Labour and the Conservatives campaigned hard ahead of the by-election, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, former prime minister Gordon Brown and Tory big guns Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt all visiting the city in the lead-up.

Brexit Party candidate Mr Greene said they could not match Labour’s organisation on the ground.

“Two parties have been ruling this country for decades,” he told Sky News.

“We were ahead of the Tories, only 683 votes behind Labour. They have decades of data. We had nothing just four weeks ago.

“We will be back. Let’s see what does happen in the next general election.”

Mr Corbyn said the Peterborough by-election result was a “great win” for a “people-powered campaign”.

“Peterborough has shown clear support for Labour’s programme to end austerity and invest in services and communities, rejecting a decade of Tory cuts and their disastrous handling of Brexit,” he said.

“In this key seat, the Conservatives have been pushed to the margins.”

The view from the count

By Ben Schofield, political correspondent, BBC Look East

The Brexit Party had hoped to campaign – and win – on national issues and discontent with the “Westminster elite”.

But by a majority of just a few hundred votes, the Labour machine has managed to win by campaigning on local issues.

Lisa Forbes told me her top three priorities in office will be education, crime and cleaning up the streets.

This was far from a Brexit Party landslide – and was a much closer contest than many had predicted.

The Conservatives won 7,243 votes, meaning their support didn’t collapse as much as Mike Greene and the Brexit Party hoped it would.

Likewise, the Lib Dems’ Beki Selleck more than doubled her vote tally compared with 2017.

The Europe issue

With the Brexit process currently deadlocked and the Conservatives searching for a new leader and prime minister, the issue of Europe dominated the campaign.

The city voted by a large margin to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum while the Brexit Party won twice as many votes in last month’s European elections as any other party.

Aside from Europe, other issues to have featured in the campaign include the need for more skilled jobs and affordable housing and concerns about fly-tipping.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The count got under way at Peterborough’s Kingsgate Centre on Thursday night

Previous MP ousted

The by-election was called after former MP Fiona Onasanya’s conviction for lying over a speeding offence.

Ms Onasanya was dismissed from the Labour Party in December 2018 and was jailed for three months in January.

She chose not to stand again after 27.6% of eligible constituents backed a recall petition, in excess of the 10% threshold required to force a by-election.

It was the first time the procedure had been successfully triggered since legislation was passed in 2015 to enable the public to hold MPs who had been found guilty of serious wrongdoing to account, without having to wait for another general election.

Ms Onasanya, a former solicitor, was expelled by Labour after she was sentenced to three months in jail in January for perverting the course of justice in relation to a speeding offence.

She lost her appeal against the conviction.

The ‘mother of all marginals’

The Peterborough constituency has long been a Conservative-Labour marginal and, despite boundary changes over the years, is still regarded as one of England’s bellwether seats.

The Conservatives held the seat throughout the 1980s before Labour won it in Tony Blair’s 1997 election landslide.

Image copyright PA
Image caption While Labour is hoping to retain the seat it won in 2017

It swung back to the Tories in 2005 before Labour won it again in the 2017 snap election.

The margin of victory in the seat has often been wafer-thin. The Conservatives won it by 22 votes in February 1974 and by just three votes in 1966.

Theresa May, who will officially resign as Conservative leader on Friday, has not visited the constituency during the campaign.

But Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid are among the contenders to succeed her who have hit the campaign trail.

The by-election candidates were:

Brexit Party – Mike Greene

Christian People’s Alliance – Tom Rogers

Common Good: Remain in the EU – Dick Rodgers

Conservatives – Paul Bristow

English Democrats – Stephen Goldspink

Green Party – Joseph Wells

Independent – Andrew John Moore

Independent – Bobby Smith

Labour – Lisa Forbes

Liberal Democrats – Beki Sellick

Official Monster Raving Loony Party – Alan “Howling Laud” Hope

Renew – Peter Ward

SDP Fighting for Brexit – Patrick O’Flynn

UK European Union Party – Pierre Kirk

UKIP – John Whitby

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *