Peterborough by-election: Brexit Party loses to Labour in tight race

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Peterborough, United Kingdom (CNN) Britain’s opposition Labour Party have held on to the parliamentary seat of Peterborough in eastern England in a tight by-election race, denying Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party a first seat in parliament.

Despite winning huge support across the UK during last month’s European election, the Brexit Party was edged out by Labour by a margin of 683 votes.

Addressing supporters following the count, Labour candidate Lisa Forbes hailed her party’s victory as a sign that the “politics of division” would not triumph.

Forbes, a union activist, won 10,484 votes, beating the Brexit party’s Mike Greene, who took 9,801 votes. Prime Minister Theresa May’s governing Conservatives came third with 7,243 votes, while the Liberal Democrats took 4,159 votes. Turnout was 48%.

The result is something of a set-back for the insurgent Brexit Party, which since its launch in April has moved to harness dissatisfaction among traditional Labour and Conservative voters, many of whom have grown frustrated at the inability of traditional parties to deliver Brexit.

Led by Nigel Farage, the former head of the UK Independence Party, the Brexit Party has advocated for a no-deal departure from the European Union. At last month’s European Parliament election in the UK, the party secured 31.71% of the overall vote — the largest share for a single political party.

Peterborough voted overwhelmingly for Brexit during the 2016 referendum and again for the Brexit party at the recent European elections.

In comments posted to Twitter Friday, the Brexit Party played down the narrow loss, describing the result as “remarkable” and promised that the party was “here to stay.”

Unsurprisingly, the issue of Europe had dominated the run-up to the polls, with the Conservatives, in particular, viewing the by-election as something of a bellwether in light of the party’s own upcoming leadership race.

The failure of the Conservatives to secure a higher share of the final vote could now galvanize those inside the party who feel that in order to beat Labour at the next general election — and neutralize the threat posed by Farage — they must move to back a more hard-line supporter of Brexit.

For Labour supporters, the result will likely provide a boost following the party’s poor showing at the European elections — and help ease pressure on leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In a statement posted early Friday morning UK time, Corbyn declared the result a rejection of “Tory austerity” and praised what he described as the party’s “people powered campaign.”

“Despite the divisions and deadlock over Brexit, when it comes to issues that directly affect people’s lives, Labour’s case for real change has strong support across the country,” said Corbyn.
The by-election was triggered when the incumbent Labour lawmaker, Fiona Onasanya, was ousted by constituents in a recall petition, owing to a conviction in relation to a speeding offense.

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