+++Lib Dem vote quadruples at Peterborough. Labour wins while dumbstruck Farage leaves hastily by back door

Many congratulations to Beki Sellick and her team on nearly quadrupling the Lib Dem vote share at Peterborough. We won 12.3% of the vote – up from 3.3% at the 2017 by-election.

Here’s the full result from yesterday’s parliamentary by-election, following the recall of Labour’s Fiona Onasanya:

There was much campaign hoo-haa from the Brexit party about them gaining their first MP at this election. They failed, despite all the publicity surrounding their European election performance.

Dear old Nigel Farage was all ready and fired up to declare victory at the announcement. However, the Guardian reports that he was uncharacteristically struck dumb and left by the back door.

Nigel Farage, the Brexit party leader, left the count through a backdoor just minutes before the result was announced.

There has to be some relief here that Farage was not able to crow about victory. I might even be tempted to indulge in a little schadenfreude, but it is far too early in the morning for that sort of thing.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Parliamentary by-elections.


  • Venetia Caine 7th Jun '19 - 6:42am

    I wonder how many more would have voted Lib Dem had they not voted Labour tactically to keep Farage out.

  • It seems rather childish to mock Farage in this way. After all, if a LibDem rise of 9% is ‘wonderful’, what would you call Brexit’s rise of over three times that (+29%)?

    Brexit came within a whisker of winning and those who thought that, after their MEP triumph, fervour might fade will have to think again. If, by any chance, a GE does happen soon they may well be the largest party; a frightening thought.

    A Labour/LibDem/SNP coalition may be the only hope of a government not dominated by right wing zealots.

  • Jayne Mansfield 7th Jun '19 - 7:29am

    Like many, I will sleep easier tonight.

  • I note that the Change UK supported Renew candidate (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/may/09/remain-parties-peterborough-byelection-single-candidate-lib-dems-greens-change-uk) obtained 45 votes or 0.1%.

    Change UK welcomed applications from Renew approved candidates for its European election candidate lists (https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/brexit-news-latest-renew-party-folds-to-help-independent-group-in-european-elections-a4118581.html) and Renew’s Annabel Mullin was a Change UK candidate in London.

  • For those looking and living in the real world Expats and Jayne have called it right. I’m afraid a four fold increase (though praiseworthy) of not a lot is not a lot and still below the old lost deposit level.

  • We have no reason to underplay Beki Sellick’s achievement in what is historically one of the most difficult Parliamentary seats in England for Lib Dems. But it is worth noting how Momentum got the Labour result that they were aiming for. Commitment allied to sheer bloody hard work and organisation on the ground can triumph over the media bombast of CEO Nigel. Whether Mr Johnson learns from this is another matter.

  • John Marriott 7th Jun '19 - 7:59am

    So, Labour hung on, which they do not deserve, given what their previous representative did. Mind you, didn’t the Lib Dems hang on (briefly) to Chris Huhne’s seat after his resignation in similar circumstances? I’m pleased that the Brexit Party(?) lost as they have no policies, at least at the moment, other than the one, after which they were named.

    Yes, the Lib Dems increased their vote share so well done to them. However, they still ended up in fourth place, which is realistically where they would appear to be in the pecking order, at least in England, at the moment. So, despite everything that has been thrown at them, in a seat that has changed hands between them a few times over the years, if you divvy out the Brexit Party (aka Farage Party Mark Two) which could easily go the same way as Farage Mark One, we still have the two old parties up there fighting it out again.

  • John Bicknell 7th Jun '19 - 8:15am

    Having actually been in Peterborough, I can say that, whilst those there were undoubtedly working very hard, compared to other by elections the LD campaign was disorganised and understaffed. I suspect that party HQ were taken off guard by the unexpected potential given by the Euro results.
    John Marriott’s assessment seems fair and realistic; the two old parties are more resilient than might have been assumed from the European elections.

  • nigel hunter 7th Jun '19 - 9:10am

    Good voter turnout.
    Labour win but on reduced share ,not good.
    Farage looses,runs out of the back door,poor loser,NOT a leader of men
    Lib Dems, increase vote ,good but a long way to go
    With the increase in our vote and the win in the council seat in Hants with the increase in vote share the impetus is still with us.

  • Peter Martin 7th Jun '19 - 9:14am

    @ Paul Walter,

    It can be quite misleading to express everything in absolute percentage terms. If your vote share was 3.3% it means that 33 voters out of 1000 voted for you. If it increases to 12.3% that means 123 out of 1000. 3.73 times as many or 273% more if you insist on a %.

    If your vote share goes from 1% to 2% that’s an increase of 100%. However if it goes the other way the decrease is only 50%.

    In this case it is more informative to state an increase of 9 percentage points.

  • nigel hunter 7th Jun '19 - 9:16am

    A coalition with other parties would be a good thing. Yes we must be aware of the resilience of the 2 big parties and build up support nationally to keep the impetus going .

  • Bill le Breton 7th Jun '19 - 9:34am

    There are plenty more fish in the sea. (Although by-elections are an endangered species.)

    Oh for a seat like North Wiltshire! North Wiltshire? you ask with incredulity.

    A Brexit Tory with 60% of the vote – us in second place a whisker ahead of Labour with 17.7% but this was 36% in 2010 and 37% in 2005.

    Forget targeting as we have practiced it for a quarter of a century and a host of seats like North Wiltshire come into play in or before 2022.

    Anyway, one to watch and get involved with imho.

  • David Becket 7th Jun '19 - 9:39am

    2512 more electors voted Lib Dem than in 2017, yes that is a recovery but not a major breakthrough. In order to make that breakthrough we need to up our game. We will achieve a little more publicity with a new leader, but it will be a short window of opportunity. The Peterborough result shows that issues other than Brexit are still on electors minds. We need the same clarity on the six main issues as we had on Brexit. Our Press releases need to be smarter and fewer of them. Our Web site is too confusing. We need to select the leader who is most likely to grab Press attention and who will plug no more than six main issues. In particular we must be seen as a party who will address inequality and housing.

  • A strange result. Labour and the Brexit Party threw everything at this by-election, where the Conservatives and Lib Dems seem to be keeping some of their powder dry for another day. I think in the circumstances the Conservatives did well and will surely pick up some of the Brexit Party vote in a GE. The Lib Dems will have lost some vote from those that wanted to stop Farage at any cost and saw Labour as their best chance. However, they easily beat off any challenge from the Greens and had a respectable result. The good news for the Tories and Lib Dems is that Corbyn will most likely have secured his position as leader of the Labour Party. Overall a decent result for both the Tories and Lib Dems. Anyone looking for clues on support for Brexit will be none the wiser, the country is still divided on that issue.

  • I thought Labour would win in Peterborough. Like a lot of South East seats It has been hit very hard by austerity. I think the Brexit party will fade in a General Election because they will have to produce an actual manifesto with policies. It’s most likely to be a Thatcherite variation on Conservatism. They’re riding high on Brexit, but single issue politics is not a winning strategy in the long term. The Brexit Party will be strong enough to dent the Tories, but too focused on one thing to win much. In a FPTP system you have to win the seat.

  • Bill le Breton 7th Jun '19 - 10:00am

    One can appreciate what you are writing David, but in the circumstances ours was a good result.

    The mechanics were that The Brexit Party vote ‘gave it’ to Labour. It was never going to be ‘our’ night. But the same electoral mechanism in scores of seats elsewhere (see North Wilts above) would see us benefiting from the process. It is how FPTP works.

    What the new Leader needs to do is set up a special unit to nurture these prospects. – usually neglected by the tighter targeting strategy necessary in the run up to 1997.
    Clearly Labour has something like this unit concentrating on this by-election. The tactics were interesting. We need to know everything about that unit and the approach over the last few weeks.

    Note: internally within Labour was criticized about their choice of calling the by-election when they did (close to a Euro Election) but it worked for them.

    Some of their campaign may be useful to us. Some irrelevant.

    It is frustrating that our leadership vacuum – if there is one – may be delaying our preparations. Jo and Ed and Vince should agree to evaluate now some kind of ‘post tight targeting’ strategy. So the winner is up and running with a Target22 initiative.

  • Laurence Cox 7th Jun '19 - 10:06am

    There are two important lessons from Peterborough:

    1) Even in constituencies where we have no hope of winning, we are now polling at absolute levels where we would save our deposits in a General Election with higher turnouts; and

    2) Nigel Farage’s Brexit wave has peaked. The Euro-elections were the ideal election for him with the ‘air war’ being all that mattered. Now we can see how weak on the ground they are, we know that even if they poll in the low 20% range they will hardly win any seats because they won’t have the resources to target many individual constituencies in a General Election.

  • marcstevens 7th Jun '19 - 10:20am

    I think David more or less called it right. The Leave vote was split which benefitted Labour but the Tory vote held up much better than expected. Labour also had a strong candidate. Perhaps having a change of Leader so soon after the EU elections was not such a good idea as Vince is doing ok. Beki Sellick did campaign on local issues but I don’t think her campaign really got going, after the locals and EU vote, I thought the party might come 2nd or close 3rd here. I wasn’t sure of the purpose of Jo Swinson doing a podcast with Beki rather than going out and about meeting/greeting voters. You can have all too much social media, just ask the Brexit party, but it doesn’t always garner votes when it comes to an all out on the on the ground campaign; door knocking and leafletting. I would also stress that the Lib Dems locally must deliver leaflets to all households otherwise they will lose potential voters who want to know their policies on the local/national issues. Anyway congratulations to the new Labour MP Lisa Forbes who I am glad defeated the BP. Better luck to the Lib Dems here next time round. The latest Yougov poll has the Party on 20% nationally joint 2nd with Labour so that is encouraging.

  • This is a good result for the Lib Dem’s and remainers. It suggests that in leave seats with sitting Labour MPs that the Labour Party will see off the Tories and BXP simply because they are splitting the vote.

    However in remain Tory and Labour seats where we are second the BXP will again split the leave vote and that may be enough to turn lots and lots of seats yellow. I think we’d still end up with a hung parliament but with a strong Lib Dem voice.

  • Phil Beesley 7th Jun '19 - 10:27am

    I suspect Farage is happy in retrospect that nobody else in the Brexit Party will be stealing his limelight.

    @Glenn — You are probably right that Brexit Party policies (to be announced) will be Thatcherite. Sadly that factor did not discourage UKIP voters.

  • The lesson is do not focus on one policy to the point of looking like a lobby group. In a general election Brexit will be a side issue. A big side issue. But not the main driver behind the way people vote. The reality is that on the single issue of Europe the Lib Dems are behind the Brexit Party. Britain is not divided by Brexit. It’s divided by haves and have nots. The issues are the usual ones like housing cost, wages, crime and living standards.

  • John Barrett 7th Jun '19 - 10:57am

    @ David Becket – It may be 2512 more electors voted Lib Dem than in 2017, but it is also 4657 fewer votes than we polled in 2010, when we were in third place.

    If our poorest results are always taken as a starting point, then all results can be spun as a move in the right direction, but it is only a small part of the full story.

  • Patrick C Smith 7th Jun '19 - 10:59am

    The patent lessons to learn from the Peterbrough By-Election are that pundits/experts should take care in explaining the likely consequences from electoral data cast but clearly the L/D Candidate did unexpectedly better than predicted, given that this Seat had voted 61% to 39% EU Remain in the Referendum 2016.

    Further this in a Lab/Tory marginal wherethe incumbent Lab. MP had reneged and disgraced her constituents by committing an offence and was recalled by public petition.

    The fact that Nigel Farage had nothing to say at 2 a.m.after his candidate failed to win on a national wave of D-Day recognition makes a different statement to that Brexit `Party’ is only seen as one of `Little Englnder’ nationalists and lose in a Seat that they ought to have won,as they had done in Clacton and Rochester and almost in Hayward and Middleton By- Elections.

    Nigel Farge appears as a self obsessed persona and can be seen as a bad loser in the close contest in Peterborough last night!

    I suspect that voters are also asking what else does the Brexit thing represent and they could be seen soon as a purely a `one horse’ pressure group and not a proper political party ,when the next General Election is actually called.

    Also, there are almost no crumps of comfort of a ny potential new majority govt. in the offing from the evidence in Peterborough- from either the Tories or Labour- as both suffered decreases in their popular votes of 17% and 25% compared to the GL in 2017.

    This bodes ill and gives the country no promise of much other than another `Coalition’ next time, that would place the resurgent L/Ds in a real bargaining place, as hold the key as the main `Stop Brexit’ political party with national heritage as a vote getter and winner in future Elections.

  • John Barrett 7th Jun '19 - 11:06am

    @Laurence Cox “Nigel Farage’s Brexit wave has peaked. The Euro-elections were the ideal election for him with the ‘air war’ being all that mattered” but we may be in exactly the same position as the Euro Elections were the ideal election for us with the “air war” being all that mattered.

    One catchy slogan and no other details was enough to give us our best results in years.

    However this will prove to be a false dawn, unless we develop detailed answers to what will follow on from any second referendum, such as where we will stand after the result if it does not go our way, and what will we do under other scenarios, or we will see the recent increase in our votes melt away.

  • Paul Walter 7th Jun ’19 – 8:55am…

    Rather pedantic, Paul?

    The quotation marks are mine although your “quadrupling the Lib Dem vote share” was hardly downbeat.
    Ass for the ‘increase’ (your word), I actually wrote ‘rise’ as in the share of the overall vote since 2017..

  • Martin
    Brexit is not the only issue. People vote on things like welfare, wages, housing etc. The lib Dems are currently too fixated on Europe to the point where there is a danger of looking like a pressure group.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Jun '19 - 12:54pm

    No, to those who sleep better knowing that an mp has got elected, who even Hop Not Hate , say should not be, and Jewish Labour could not campaign in favour of, and two Jewish Labour mps now file a complaint for investigating.

    Labour select a candidate ,to replace an imprisoned mp, released who yet would not stand down, and pick one who liked terrible facebook posts and made enthusiastic comments re ghastly postings.

    Our party had an excellent candidate who did well in an area with real problems and poor mps.

  • Peter Martin 7th Jun '19 - 12:54pm

    @ Glenn,

    “The lib Dems are currently too fixated on Europe to the point where there is a danger of looking like a pressure group”

    This is very true. In the 2017 election we (ie Lab canvassers) were advised to keep off the subject of Brexit unless we were specifically asked about it. But we rarely were. The voters considered that to be the previous year’s topic of discussion and wanted to move on. And we did well.

  • gavin grant 7th Jun '19 - 12:55pm

    Interestingly we ran a full Euro Election campaign in North Wiltshire having had no Council elections. Wiltshire as a whole voted 35% Brexit Party and 25% Lib Dem. Vote sampling suggested a very much closer result in North Wiltshire. North Wiltshire also voted 50:50 in the ’16 Referendum. Demographic and opinion shifts suggest it would now vote Remain and that Hard Brexit fanatic James Grey MP is, I am delighted to day in trouble next time!

  • marcstevens 7th Jun '19 - 1:32pm

    But the Lib Dem candidate did campaign on those other local issues and the NHS quite openly. She was not just fixated on the EU reffy but I am wondering whether she got enough backing from the Party nationally and visits from other LD MPs.

  • David Sheppard 7th Jun '19 - 2:18pm

    Well I know who my political enemy number One is and that’s the far right. They got beat last night and that’s a good thing. Lib Dems did well in upping vote share by 9% to 12% a perfect result considering the squeeze. I know some people will feel disappointed that more effort was not put into it but lets be realistic.It felt great to wake this morning and Brexit party had lost! The party got it spot on. Know who your enemy is!!

  • nvelope2003 7th Jun '19 - 2:58pm

    If we leave the EU before the next General election (due in 2022) will the Brexit Party still exist ? The writing must now be on the wall for the Conservatives. They are unlikely to hand the keys of Number 10 to Mr Corbyn over a little matter like leaving the EU. There is the mandate given by the Referendum result. It will be invoked for whatever terms can be obtained, however disadvantageous, no doubt with assurances that they can be changed at some future date however unlikely that may be.
    Maybe the election authorities should ensure there is a secret back door at the vote counting place for that nice Mr Farage. Will he keep going on and on ?

  • nvelope2003 7th Jun '19 - 3:05pm

    Contrary to various claims all Europe is not turning to the nationalist right. This week the voters of Denmark turned out the Centre Right Government because the nationalist right lost seats and they now have a Social Democrat Prime Minister, despite her party not doing well, because of gains by the Social Liberals and other left wing parties.

  • A substantial increase in our vote and % share, and Brexit PLC not winning ? In such a seat, that will do me fine.

  • Wise words from Bill le Breton about a “special unit” and David Becket on press releases. It’s feet on the ground time folks – and I don’t just mean pavements!

  • @David Raw

    I must agree with what a terrible result this was for us. I remember the 1865 General Election in Peterborough – then the Liberals got 100% of the vote (over 3 candidates) and 2 MPs. We really should be getting 200% of the vote and 4 MPs by now! I put it all down to 1868 and the rot starting then when we allowed a Conservative to stand… These modern day idiots just don’t know how to run an election… terrible! Gladstone for leader I say!

  • John Marriott 7th Jun '19 - 8:10pm

    @David Raw
    “Peace and love”, as Ringo would say. It looks as if ‘Michael 1’ is trying out his new sarcasm technique on you. Unless, of course, he really is THAT old!

    Some of the comments on this thread remind me of something that I heard Luton Town FC’s famous supporter, the late Eric Morecambe, once say during a radio sports commentary; “Well, it’s nearly half time and Luton are leading 1-1”.

  • It got a bit lost amid the excitement of the by election but there was also another YouGov poll released last night that had us on 20%. The changes shown here are from that spectacular poll that had us leading the pack on 24%.
    BREX: 26% (+4)
    LAB: 20% (+1)
    LDEM: 20% (-4)
    CON: 18% (+2)
    GRN: 9% (+1)
    CHUK: 0% (-1)
    YouGov, 04 – 06 Jun
    Chgs. w/ 29 May

  • In those ideal circumstances, the Faragists ought to have won if they are going to be winning anywhere. At a G.E., once turnouts are much higher and manifestos are scrutinised, it will be way more difficult for the BP and they are already gathering fascist involvements, where their Campaign Director was found to be ex BNP.

    The BP can damage the Tories more thoroughly than UKIP could but I do not see where they are going to get over the hurdle of FPTP and win actual Westminster seats. More likely, there will be a lot of new LibDems, some new Labour, the Greens might win in 1-2 Bristol seats and some more nationalists will take from Tories.

    A Progressive loose coalition ought to be the most likely outcome, but how much of Corbyn’s extreme programme would come through that?

  • Richard Underhill 9th Jun '19 - 8:47pm

    Labour won but the new MP is in trouble for anti-Semitism.
    It all comes down to whom you believe.

  • Peter Hirst 10th Jun '19 - 7:32pm

    Trends not results are what matter in the long-term and on that assumptions the results confirm the breakup of the old political system and the emergence of a four Party game. We desperately need electoral reform to make the make up of future parliaments reflect the choices of the electorate. How we get it is another matter.

  • chris moore 11th Jun '19 - 5:34pm

    This was an OK result.

    The party rightly didn’t throw the kitchen sink at it.

    We have to be realistic about resources; Brecon will be a more realistic opportunity.

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