Why is everyone going to Peterborough?

There’s a lot of Lib Dems heading for Peterborough at the moment.

Mark Pack went there yesterday and I’ll overlook that he described himself as the Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice in his video about his trip. I’m not precious. Really.

Anyway, there are important local elections happening in the Cambridgeshire town in May and we all know that the earlier you campaign the better you do.

There is also the possibility that there might be a parliamentary by-election in the near future, depending on what happens following Labour MP Fiona Onasanya’s conviction for perverting the course of justice earlier this month. She has said she is not going to resign, but that may be out of her hands.

Liberal Democrats selected local campaigner and activist Beki Sellick to fight the seat last September.

She recently said on Twitter:

Beki’s selection was reported in the Peterborough Telegraph:

She said: “I’m an ordinary person who’s had a variety of jobs – nationalised and privatised, shop floor and management, full-time and part-time, redundant. And then I started my own business in Peterborough two years ago. “I’ve lived in central Peterborough for 10 years. I work from home. My family and I use our public health and education services where I’ve contributed as a school governor and on our local NHS patient participation group. “I chair our residents association where we run a monthly community café.” Mrs Sellick said she wants “people to have the power to make the most of their lives,” adding: “As your MP I would do my best for Peterborians, responding promptly to anyone who needs my help.” 

If there is a by-election, it would be a high-profile thing. I would not be surprised if Nigel Farage went for it despite his denials in the Summer.

As Labour and Tory support Brexit, a strongly Remain candidate like Beki could do very well. A by-election would be an important test of public opinion and a strong showing by a Remain candidate would make the arguments for a People’s Vote impossible to ignore.

There are a lot of action days planned and you can find out details here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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34 Comments

  • The present MP intends to hang on if she can. We will have to see what sentence she receives, but like the MP for Sheffield Hallem, this gig is too good to give up willingly, after all it isn’t as if you actually have to do anything to claim the wages.

  • I’d advise Believe Sellick to tread carefully if there is a by-election.

    Too many echoes of what happened to a prominent Lib Dem Cabinet minister and member for Eastleigh.

  • John Marriott 29th Dec '18 - 5:53pm

    What is it about politicians and speed limits? How people as supposedly intelligent as Mr Huhne and his ex Missus and now the MP for Peterborough could get themselves into such a mess rather than fessing up astonishes me. I gather the lady intends to fight on. Well, if she does, I believe that it would take a custodial sentence of at least one year to force her to resign. And if there is a by election, do we really reckon that it could be another Richmond?

  • John Bicknell 29th Dec '18 - 6:03pm

    John Marriott ……. It wouldn’t have to be a custodial sentence. The rule would apply even if it was a suspended sentence, as long as the length was a minimum of 12 months.

  • Alex Macfie 29th Dec '18 - 6:50pm

    Chris Huhne pleaded guilty, and voluntarily resigned his seat. This is in sharp contrast to Fiona Onasanya’s unrepentant attitude and God complex. And Beki Sellick is not Chris Huhne. The contest is going to be about the individuals standing; the fact a former MP for our party got into the same sticky situation as Ms Onasanya should not prevent us from criticising her; indeed the question is how stupid does she have to be to have done this and thought she could get away with it when the Chris Huhne incident is so recent.

  • Caron: “As Labour and Tory support Brexit, a strongly Remain candidate like Beki could do very well … “ which “… would make the arguments for a People’s Vote impossible to ignore.”

    I appreciate the potential power of positive thinking, but let’s also please have a dose of realism here! Peterborough is a classic Labour/Tory marginal and obviously far from ideal by-Election territory for the Lib Dems – so, even if the current MP is forced to resign, our campaign organisers need to have clear and achievable objectives.
    Given that our candidate only secured a 3.3% vote share in 2017 (compared with nearly 20% in 2010), what would reasonably constitute “a strong showing” in any by-Election? Beki would have a mountain to climb even to restore the Lib Dem votes lost during 2010-17. It would therefore probably be best not to make over-inflated projections of success if this is to be fought as a mini Brexit referendum.

  • OnceALibDem 29th Dec '18 - 7:16pm

    “What is it about politicians and speed limits? How people as supposedly intelligent as Mr Huhne and his ex Missus and now the MP for Peterborough could get themselves into such a mess rather than fessing up astonishes me.”

    Because they both show sociopathic traits about their own invulnerability? Which demonstrates why PPCs should have some sort of screening and support for such damaging traits. You can see that in Huhne and Hancock and a couple of other Lib Dems as well as a number of others around the expenses scandal. Discuss 🙂

  • @OnceALibDem

    I am not sure that MPs in general are more prone to these things than others, just they have much greater scrutiny on them in fact I suspect they are rather less prone to them given that they know they will be under greater scrutiny. While not condoning wrong doing I am not sure that a Parliament of “perfect saints” is what we should want either.

  • Assuming there is a by-election, the Lib Dem getting a reasonable vote share in what is a two-way Lab/Con marginal would have quite a resonance in the media.

    For those that want a People’s vote if Labour see that they are losing votes to us over the issue of a referendum, there will be massive pressure from nervous MPs on Corbyn to back a referendum.

    Survation estimated in Peterborough constituency Leave currently at 55%, Remain at 45%. Getting say half the Remain vote at 20% while difficult and beat our best ever result in the constituency would send big shockwaves through politics and the media.

  • Tony Hutson 29th Dec '18 - 8:37pm

    The first thing (and I would hope this is already happening) is to talk to the Greens and the anti-Brexit campaigns to make sure there is a single anti-Brexit candidate. And yes I think it should be us, but clearly fighting as part of a Remain/PV coalition.
    Labour have a bigger problem though. They have to decide whether to nominate an out-and-out Brexiteer or try and find one who adheres to their tortured official policy. In Lewisham, where there were lots of Remain voters, they nominated a strongly anti-Brexit person and made a virtue of that. Here, where most voters are Leavers, they may feel the need to nominate someone who is openly pro-Brexit – which will give us an opportunity to hoover up the anti-Brexit voters. Or they could nominate a fudge candidate, in which case they’d lose a lot of Leave voters to Farage or the Tory.
    The Tories have a similar problem of course. A candidate who backs May’s deal will not appeal to Leave voters, who could bolt to Nige. But can they really have a candidate who doesn’t support the PM’s policy??
    And just to be balanced, UKIP have a problem too, if Farage stands. Whether he wins or not, he will humiliate them, proving very starkly once again that without him they are nothing.
    Somewhere in Cambridgeshire there’s a judge who is about to make a very momentous decision!

  • jayne Mansfield 29th Dec '18 - 9:08pm

    @ Michael 1 ,

    I suspect that any increase in the Liberal Democrats vote will , given the slim majority of the disgraced MP, probably result in victory for the Conservative candidate.

    I can’t imagine that there would be many shockwaves if that happened.

  • @jayne Mansfield
    Actually the complete opposite if Labour MPs in marginal seats think they are going to lose because people will desert them for us then the pressure will be on for a change in policy by Corbyn.

    Secondly the media will be reading the runes and what it says about the individual parties and their stances on Brexit. And if we can do half-way decently in a reasonably strong Leave area then they will be talking us up.

    IF UKIP can get their act together and it does seem a pretty big if at the moment they may also take votes of the Tories.

  • @ Alex Maggie. I’m afraid Mr Huhne continuously protested his innocence right up to the very last moment before the trial began on 3 February 2013. Apparently he had a Damascene conversion into a state of guilt at the gates of the court.

    You must ask m’learned friends why this turned out to be the case.

  • Apologies, Alex. Predictive text. Should be @ Alex Macfie.

  • Alex Macfie 29th Dec ’18 – 6:50pm…………..Chris Huhne pleaded guilty, and voluntarily resigned his seat. This is in sharp contrast to Fiona Onasanya’s unrepentant attitude and God complex…….

    Congratulations! There is always at least one, “My party right or wrong” post.

    Huhne only pleaded guilty because he had no other option )his wife’s testimony). He didn’t seem to worry about ‘perverting the course of justice’ for 10 years.

    The Labour party and Corbyn personally have demanded that Fiona Onasanya resign and suspended her from the party. Sadly, unless she is given 12 months, she could still hang on as an independent.

  • It’s not “My party right or wrong”. It’s nothing to do with Party. What Chris Huhne did was wrong, and stupid. What is even more wrong, and stupid, is for someone else to do the same thing, and think they can get away with it, when they should surely have known about the Chris Huhne incident.
    If Fiona Onasanya had admitted her crime, she would also have been said to have had “no other option”. But she is still trying to claim that she is the victim. I don’t think Huhne comes out very well from his scandal, but at least he knew when the game was up. Onasanya has no concept even of that.

  • John Marriott 30th Dec '18 - 8:47am

    Regarding the former MP for Eastleigh, I believe that there is strong evidence that, had those late ballots been allowed in his leadership contest with the former MP for Sheffield Hallam, he might have been the Leader of the Lib Dems at the time of his arraignment, possibly even Deputy PM!

    Perhaps a combination of the Royal Mail and a dose of humbris saved the party from even more humiliation. Whatever you think of Mr Huhne and his complicated affairs, he did appear to be prepared to stand up to the Tories in government. The problem is, to use the Amber Rudd analogy, would you want the party to be driven home by someone, who was prepared to deny the truth in what was, in the eyes of many of us who have faced similar charges, a rather insignificant matter in the scheme of things?

  • Alex Macfie 30th Dec '18 - 9:02am

    jayne Mansfield: You think the governing party picking up a seat from the opposition in a by-election would not cause many shockwaves? Are you aware of how unusual that is?

  • OnceALibDem 30th Dec '18 - 1:49pm

    “Would the judge feel it necessary to consider the sentence given to Chris Huhne when deciding on an appropriate sentence for Fiona Onasanya? If this is the case, a prison sentence would seem inevitable.”

    They won’t consider a previous sentence but will use the same guidelines. Huhne got 8 months which would have included some discount for his guilty plea. The maximum discount for a guilty plea is 1/3 which, whilst he probably didn’t get that due to the lateness of his plea, produces some interesting maths!

    See also – https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/mar/11/huhne-pryce-normal-sentence-crime.

    It’s also an awkward situation for a judge in that a 12 month sentence has a much more significant effect than an 11 month one. A mitigating argument can sometimes be a sentence above a certain amount could have a disproportionate effect in terms of someone’s job/career – but balanced against that is that she was AIUI a solicitor so would be well aware of what her obligations and the consequnces were.

    I’m also not sure how much her counsel will be able to claim she has shown remorse as mitigating factor….. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/dec/20/labour-mp-fiona-onasanya-likens-her-conviction-to-that-of-biblical-figures

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Dec '18 - 2:38pm

    @ Alex Macfie,

    Given that Labour had not held the seat since 2005 and the present incumbent won it by a slim majority of only 607 vote, and other factors that would affect voting behaviour in the by-election . No I don’t.

    Jeremy Corbyn has quite rightly called for the current MP to quit. I hope she follows his advice. She should desist from adding , holder of a brass neck, to her CV.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Dec '18 - 9:11pm

    Jayne Mansfield: For a party in government to win a by-election from an opposition party is a very unusual occurrence, so if it were to happen it would be of itself noteworthy. It seems to be a once-in-a-generation thing, having happened in 1961, then 1982 (Mitcham & Moreden) then 2017 (Copeland). For a Labour leader in opposition to lose TWO seats to the governing Tories in by-elections would surely cast doubt on his effectiveness as opposition leader. He has to have been pretty useless to have lost one.

  • Andrew Tampion 30th Dec '18 - 11:32pm

    The Judges sentencing remarks as published in The Telegraph state that Chris Huhnes sentence was 9 months less a 10% discount for a late guilty plea rounded to 8 months.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9923143/Chris-Huhne-and-Vicky-Pryce-jailed-judges-sentencing-remarks-in-full.html

  • Alex Macfie 30th Dec ’18 – 9:11pm……… For a party in government to win a by-election from an opposition party is a very unusual occurrence….

    This election,if it happens, will not just be at an ‘unusual time’ but at a ‘unique time’ in political history. Tribal loyalties to any party have been largely replaced by a loyalty to one idea; ‘Brexit’.
    I can’t ever remember a time when voters from all ‘major’ parties, including our own, have been so divided over a single issue.

    Peterborough voted 54/34 to ‘Leave’ so all options (including a comeback from Farage) are open!

  • Laurence Cox 31st Dec '18 - 12:00pm

    @OnceALibDem @Andrew Tampion

    The case isn’t exactly the same as the Huhne/Pryce case. Had the MP’s brother accepted the responsibility for driving the car when the speeding offence occurred, then I would agree with you that a 9-month sentence would be appropriate. However the two of them conspired to put the blame on to an innocent third person which not only caused the police to expend more effort before he was cleared, but also indicated a more malicious intent on their part.

  • David Warren 31st Dec '18 - 6:35pm

    @DavidRaw

    Thanks for the history stuff, very interesting.

    The Tories used the National Liberal tag tactically a few times in the post war period.

    Michael Heseltine used it when standing against Labour in South Wales and John Nott who became Thatcher’s Defence Secretary did the same when winning his seat in Cornwall.

  • It isn’t a case of don’t trust the Tories, I trust Tories to be well Tories, it was a failure to understand that, many of the leadership thought call me Dave and Co were liberal chaps, they weren’t and they should have know better. Didn’t help of cause that several of the more high profile Orange Bookers were actually more Tory than most Tories.

  • Martin 1st Jan ’19 – 11:09am………David Raw: What would be your take on Labour or SNP? Are they any more trustworthy than Tories? Perhaps you might add your thoughts to William Wallace’s article on tribalism……….

    Who knows? we haven’t tried them recently. However, a small reminder…The ‘Dem’ bit in our title came from our trusting Labour members.

  • Richard Allanach 2nd Jan '19 - 7:11am

    A lot of comment on here about whether the judge would award a sentence of 12 months or more. To date no one appears to have explored the possibility of a prison sentence of less than 12 months triggering the potential for a recall petition.

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