Lib Dems smell blood in Peterborough by-election as shock poll puts them top nationally

The Liberal Democrats believe they can cause a huge upset at the Peterborough by-election after making electoral gains in the past month.

Friday, 31st May 2019, 1:18 pm

The party’s outgoing leader Vince Cable said expectations have risen in the wake of strong performances in the European and local elections and that candidate Beki Sellick has a realistic chance of ending the Conservative and Labour stranglehold on the swing seat.

Mr Cable was in Peterborough yesterday (Thursday) and spoke to the Peterborough Telegraph before the Lib Dems were shown to be leading in a shock national poll.

Speaking alongside Ms Sellick at Lithuanian restaurant Kaimas in Lincoln Road, Millfield, he said: “Initially we expected this to be a traditional Conservative and Labour by-election, but because we did so well in the European elections, and to some extent the local elections, things are looking much more positive.

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Beki Sellick with Vince Cable. Photo: Terry Harris

“The current assumption everybody is making is the Brexit Party is doing very well at the expense of the other two big parties, but nobody has a Remain party to vote for.

“Hopefully they will get behind us.”

The by-election is being held on Thursday, June 6 after Fiona Onasanya became the first MP to be removed by her constituents under a Recall Petition.

The petition was signed by 19,261 of her constituents (27.64 per cent), passing the 10 per cent threshold needed to trigger a by-election.

The Lib Dems came third in Peterborough in the recent EU elections (for the local authority area, rather than the constituency) and gained two council seats at the local elections.

Ms Sellick is a committed Remain campaigner and said Brexit “is the biggest issue today - everybody is interested in Brexit or fed up with Brexit”.

She claimed the economy and environment will be “hugely impacted” by the UK leaving the EU, and that she is determined to stop Brexit from happening.

Mr Cable said his party would join MPs in the Conservative and Labour parties to revoke the Article 50 process to leave the EU if a deal is not reached by the end of October, but that “going back to the people is a much better way of doing it”.

Ms Sellick, who has lived in Peterborough for 11 years and is head of the Park Streets Ahead Residents Association, said the three main issues she is campaigning on are the economy, the environment and public services.

Speaking about the city’s new university, which is due to open in 2022, she said: “We are growing as a city - people want to come here and there are more jobs here, but they tend to be low-skilled jobs.

“We have a name for call centres and job centres, but automaton will take out call centres and robots will take our warehousing jobs. That’s why we are talking about the university.

“As an engineer it’s very exciting. I help people transfer technology onto the railways - it’s scaling that up and providing employment from university.

“Peterborough is a great place to live and work. We could now do with jobs with more reward and which pay better.”

Mr Cable, who later made a speech at Bharat Hindu Samaj in Rock Road, said the Lib Dems agree with the Green Party on the “climate emergency”, but that his party are “more established” to take action.

Ms Sellick added: “I’m a sustainability transport engineer. We need a vision for Peterborough. When we survey people they are frustrated by the congestion and people speeding past their doorsteps.

“I can bring my sustainable transport expertise to come up with the council with a vision for the city that’s much more effective for how we work and move around.”

On education she said her party wants to end SATs tests and to encourage children to walk and cycle to school. She also highlighted the need for good early years education and support for parents.

Speaking about her activism in the community, she referenced her work with charity Light Project Peterborough to support Peterborough’s homeless.

Mr Cable added: “Community politics is something we believe in and practice.”