Labour has achieved a stunning victory in the Peterborough by-election just two weeks after the Brexit party romped to victory in the European Parliament elections – increasing the party’s majority compared to the 2017 general election.
The bookmakers’ odds on the result swung wildly as the count progressed:
The last week has seen Labour written off and Corbyn’s ‘LOTO’ team subjected to a relentless series of coordinated attacks in an attempt to isolate the Labour leader from his most loyal aides by blaming them for the very policies that have seen Labour win in leave-stronghold Peterborough.
Peterborough was a tight marginal in the ‘Corbyn surge’ of 2017, with Fiona Onasanya winning then by only 607 votes – the party’s 14th most vulnerable seat and number 13 on list of potential Conservative gains. It has been a largely Tory seat since 1950 – yet tonight Labour’s majority stands at 683 – on a lower turnout than in the 2017 general election (although still high for a by-election).
After Onasanya was convicted and removed and with Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents on either side of the Brexit spectrum pushing simplistic messages to damage the party, the odds were stacked against Labour.
The party’s victory on Thursday was therefore massive evidence of Corbyn’s stature and his determination to bridge the divide and work for the 99%, not just the 52% or the 48% – especially only a couple of weeks after Labour received only 17% on a low turnout and the Brexit party 38% in the EU elections.
This result shows that in spite of all the divisions and difficulties the country has had over Brexit, when it comes to a vote on the issues that directly affect people’s lives, on the need to invest rather than cut services, Labour’s message can cut through.
The people of Peterborough have responded positively to Labour’s policies and its strong candidate Lisa Forbes and see Labour as their only option to end austerity and to start investing in this country’s people and services again.
Peterborough is one of the Tories’ top Tory target seats, yet they came third tonight.
The Brexit Party had a simple message, and while it worked for them well in the single-issue European elections that were treated by the media as a proxy referendum and appealed to a lot of Tory voters, Labour voters tonight have rejected Farage’s divisive politics.
Voters are also rightly protective of the NHS and they saw this week that with Trump, Farage and Johnson, the NHS is only safe in Labour hands
Brexit has been a very difficult issue. Labour has sought compromise on Brexit and to represent those who voted leave and those who voted remain. Voters in Peterborough have looked seriously at what the parties offer and concluded there are no simplistic solutions of the sort offered by the Brexit Party.
The LibDems, meanwhile, wanted to turn the clock back as if the referendum never happened. They also received a clear message in Peterborough last tonight.
Those who have tried to paint Corbyn into a corner – and especially those who have exploited the damage the push for a new referendum caused two weeks ago to try to blame and force the sacking of the likes of Ian Lavery, Seumas Milne and Karie Murphy, three of Corbyn’s staunchest allies – must now hang their heads in shame and eat their words.
Lavery in particular must receive huge credit – and a grovelling apology from his critics.
Those ‘Labour’ critics lost their spine when solidarity was needed – and they publicly called for the sacking of some of the finest socialists in the country. They have destroyed their own credibility and must accept that their push for a new referendum was an almost-disastrous error.
They – and those like Watson who have damaged the cause – must get out of the way of the party’s continuing push to serve the many. Labour – Corbyn’s Labour – is the only party with the wit, imagination and policies to do it.
(PS – the media are already downplaying Labour’s achievement and talking about the ‘lessons Corbyn needs to learn’. Surprise. Nigel Farage fled the waiting media without speaking.)
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