The small city of Peterborough doesn’t sound particularly important or relevant in these nervous times of British politics. However, over the next couple of months Peteborough will oversee a political fight unlike any other. The reason being is because of the recent event whereby the Labour MP has received a criminal conviction and may be sent to prison. If this were the case, she would almost certainly resign or constituents would force her out. Therefore, by-election will take place and in a seat where Fiona Onasanya has just a 600 vote majority, it will be the perfect test for the major political parties.
This all started when Peterborough MP, Fiona Onasanya, was caught speeding at 41mph in a 30 mph zone in July 2017. However, she decided to say that her brother was driving the car. The police didn’t believe this and started to investigate the incident further and found that he was not even in the country when this occurred. The brother pleaded guilty to three counts of perverting the court of justice but the sister kept her no guilty plea. Unsurprisingly, the Labour MP was found guilty at a trial in the Old Bailey.
Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership have both demanded that she resign her seat!
The twist in the story is that Mrs Onasanya has refused to give up her seat. Under parliamentary law, an MP does not have to resign unless they serve a custodial sentence of more than a year. Nevertheless, the Labour leadership were quick to remove her from the party whip and have forced her to quit the party. Unbelievably, she is still refusing to resign and trigger a by-election. However, there is one way in which this will likely be triggered, it is if 10% of constituents sign a petition demanding that she quits.
Why is Peterborough so important?
Labour have a tiny majority of just 607 votes in this constituency. If there is a by-election here, then there is no doubt that both the Conservative and Labour Party will throw absolutely everything at this. Not only because it will be a good representation of the parties’ progress but also because there will be several aspects which will affect the outcome. Firstly, is whether Mrs Onasanya’s conviction will impact the Labour vote. This is a valuable reason as to why Jeremy Corbyn will be desperately hoping to retain this seat.
Peterborough used to have staunch Brexiteer and former advisor to David Davis, Stewart Jackson, as their MP. However, he was shocked when he lost his seat as over the 16 years he was the MP he built up a strong reputation and a solid majority for such an important seat. The Conservatives will be desperate to take back this seat from Labour, and Theresa May will be especially keen as any and every seat is vital for a minority government.
Will UKIP make an impact?
The short and straightforward answer is no. Gerard Batten will hope for UKIP to demonstrate that the party is not dead. In the 2015 General Election, UKIP received 15% of the vote in Peterborough. Subsequently, Peterborough voted heavily to leave and is one of the heartlands of eurosceptisism. Nevertheless, UKIP still need to move on from the Tommy Robinson crisis and must unify its membership if it ever wants to return to their glory days.
What is my prediction?
Labour are going to have a very difficult time retaining this seat. In the opinion polls it is bizarre that they have failed to take the lead despite the horrendous state of Theresa May’s Brexit plan. The Conservatives are the quiet favourites and in an aspirational town such as Peterborough, they will want to show off their economic performance. UKIP will fail to take advantage of the Brexit crisis, so anything more than 10% will be a fantastic result for them. The Conservatives should expect to win, but this will be a by-election which is nasty but a crucial seat for both parties.