Labour's Lisa Forbes thwarts the Brexit Party in Peterborough.
Lisa Forbes after having to apologize for liking anti-Semitic sentiments put up a strong performance in the Peterborough by-election and held
the seat for the Labour Party and in doing so gave Nigel Farage's Brexit Party their first taste of defeat.
The turnout was just over 48% which is actually quite high for recent by-elections and this turned out to be a very closely contested election, moreso than the polls suggested. There may be some credence to several factors having significant bearing on the result. Firstly, the Labour Party's ground game was very effective and well targeted. They knew where they had to get the votes from and it has been reported they had over 100 pairs of boots on the ground on election day getting people out to vote. The Labour Party election team in Peterborough also had the advantage of experience in this seat. They had to contest it as recently as 2017 when they also were victorious. The Brexit Party is only two months old and well behind on the ground and depend on social media and news forums. Secondly and somewhat surprisingly and in disagreement with headlines claiming the Tories were crushed and humiliated, the Conservative vote held up better than expected. They did not win this seat in 2017 so it is not a shock that they lost this by-election. And whilst not claiming the 7,000+ votes was responsible for Lisa Forbes' victory this must have been unexpected by the Brexit Party.
What does this tell us going forward? How does it impact on the future of Brexit? Does it affect the Conservative leadership election? I think it would be a mistake for any of the main parties to rest satsified with the result. The Labour Party while rightly being happy about retaining the seat still have to wrestle with Corbyn's reluctance to give a definitive party policy on Brexit in fear of losing Labour Leavers. The Conservative Party leadership contest is no clearer because of a better than expected result and still have the Soft Brexit/Hard Brexit/No Deal conundrum to solve. It is is not certain that whomever they elect as leader will have the full support of the party. Remarkable as it is that a party in existence for only two months can have made such strides, the Brexit Party have to recognize that if they are to contest future Parliamentary elections they have to better mobilize their supporters. Peterborough was a 60% Leave city and voted quite strongly for the Brexit Party in the recent European Parliament elections, but it is clear and not unexpected that they were out worked by Labour. However, that said, should there be a second Brexit Referendum it would be much easier to fight that battle. The choices are much simpler. Leave or Remain. Perhaps it would be in the main interest of the main establishment parties to avoid a second referendum and defeat the Brexit Party in local and Parliamentary elections by virtue of their long standing election machines.
But next up.....the Conservative Party Leadership contest. Could this be a crown of thorns for the winner of that contest. How much support and loyalty can they expect from their party?