Brexit Party at the gates of Westminster

Staff Writer | Jun 08, 2019
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party has made its first onslaught on Westminster, narrowly missing securing a beachhead in the British Parliament.

A constituency by-election in Peterborough this week revealed the strength of the Brexit Party’s appeal, with the Labour Party retaining the seat only by a slim margin. 

The seat fell vacant after the recall of sitting Labour Member of Parliament (MP) Fiona Onasanya, who had been found guilty of perverting the course of justice by lying to the police to avoid being prosecuted for speeding. 

The by-election was narrowly won by Labour candidate Lisa Forbes, who gained just over 30% of the vote (compared to the nearly 50% Labour won in Peterborough in the 2017 general election). Mike Greene, the candidate for the Brexit Party, won only 600 votes fewer than Forbes in a poll of nearly 35 000 ballots. The Conservatives saw their vote share collapse to 21%, compared to over 45% in 2017.

This by-election shows that the Brexit Party could have a real chance of securing seats in a general election. The collapse of the Conservative vote will also doubtless be of grave concern to that party over what is to come. 

In addition, given that most people who vote for the Brexit Party will have been disaffected Conservative voters, this splitting of the vote could help the Labour Party in a general election. 

The Westminster system (where representatives are elected from geographical constituencies rather than being selected by the parties based on proportional representation) often leads to splitting of the vote between parties with similar ideologies. 

In Peterborough, the combined vote total of the Brexit and Conservative candidates would have been enough to easily beat Forbes, but the splitting of the vote between the two saw Labour win narrowly. This could be replicated across the country in a general election – which, given the current chaos in British politics, is likely in the near future.

 

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