A fairytale night for Labour in Peterborough. A villain, a hero and only the briefest flash of antisemitic controversy

What can we learn from this unlikely result in a key marginal? That there is utter chaos ahead

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Friday 07 June 2019 04:11
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Lisa Forbes retained the Peterborough seat for Labour
Lisa Forbes retained the Peterborough seat for Labour

A fairytale night in Peterborough for the Labour Party then. You must know the fairytale? The one with the woman who goes to jail for perjury, refuses to quit, has to be forcibly kicked out, then the hero rides in and saves the day with only the absolute bare minimum of antisemitic controversy?

Alright so it’s not exactly a classic, but it had its moments. The smile on the now-Labour MP Lisa Forbes’ face when she wandered onto the stage in a large Peterborough Conference Centre at 2am, 10 paces behind a giant Tickle Me Elmo, is the moment one imagines she’ll cling to.

Not the one approximately three minutes later, when she was gravely talking to the TV news cameras about the “lessons I’ve learned”, from accidentally liking a post on Facebook about Theresa May’s “Zionist slave master agenda”.

(Before they inevitably call me up, I should add that she and her party are desperately trying to make clear she was only liking the video, not its antisemitic preamble, the video being of Muslims praying in solidarity with Christchurch. She, in her own gentle nod to Muralgate, hadn’t seen the bit about Zionism. No one ever does.

If it does one day turn out that a shapeshifting shadowy cabal has been controlling the earth, there’ll be no more damning evidence against them than the fact that they were clearly able to render negative comments about themselves invisible on Facebook. They’re there. They’re always there. But people just don’t see them.)

Another thing you just don’t see these days, believe it or not, is Nigel Farage. There is barely a conference centre anywhere in the country that hasn’t been lucky enough to be lied to at booming volume by Nigel Farage at some point in the last two months, but on Thursday night he slipped in and out like a cat-burgling Trappist monk.

Scarcely a word was uttered. When the betting markets had the Brexit Party at 1/10 to win in Peterborough two days ago, the key question had been why had he not stood himself? But Nigel knew better, and so did the voters. “Secret Millionaire” Mike Greene was meant to run away with it. In the end he ran 800 votes short. He’s said he’ll fight again. No word from the Brexit Party’s other secret millionaires just yet. One suspects it’ll stay that way.

What does Labour holding on to this key, Brexit-loving marginal tell us? Only that there’s little such thing as a marginal anymore. In the 2017 election, Labour and Conservative got 48 and 46 per cent of the vote each in Peterborough. Two years later and it’s 31 for Labour, 29 for the Brexit Party, 21 for the Conservatives, 12 for the Liberal Democrats and 2 for the Greens.

What that adds up to is a whole world of chaos, and the clear message to the candidates in the Tory leadership contest that priority number one is to steal Nigel Farage’s lunch back. That means one thing – out on 31 October, deal or no deal.

It sets the scene perfectly for the next few weeks ahead. When the next prime minister of the UK will be chosen by a small cabal of reactionary pensioners, whose primary concern will be who can be most relied upon not to bottle it when it finally comes to hammering everybody’s livelihoods and living standards, to cripple the country in the final service of a fantasy project that was a lie from its first breath to its last. What larks.

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