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Labour’s Peterborough win shows its grassroots strength. But Brexit risks persist

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The Peterborough byelection could not have offered more fortuitous circumstances for the Brexit party. This is far from a Labour safe seat: it was held by the Tories with large majorities throughout the Thatcher and Major years, and lost again under Blair in 2005 to a rightwinger, Stewart Jackson, who once declared: “I’m at one with Ukip.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour narrowly snatched the seat back in 2017, but its candidate, Fiona Onasanya, was imprisoned after perverting the course of justice and, after bizarrely comparing herself to Jesus Christ, was booted out by a recall petition. At this point, Labour officials privately thought the local party was doomed in a byelection. Peterborough’s 61% vote for leave places it comfortably in the top 20% most pro-Brexit constituencies in Britain. The Brexit party had impetus, having triumphed in the European elections just two weeks earlier, including a decisive victory in Peterborough itself. With polarisation over Brexit at its peak – and Labour itself particularly haemorrhaging support on its remain flank – you couldn’t have developed a more favourable opportunity for Nigel Farage in a laboratory.

Instead he was reduced to fleeing the premises through a backdoor before the result was declared: an increased majority for Labour on a lower turnout. What an abject........

© The Guardian