Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn believes the people of Peterborough have “again rejected Tory austerity” after his party’s candidate Lisa Forbes became the city’s new MP.
Ms Forbes defeated Brexit Party candidate Mike Greene by 683 votes, with Conservative Paul Bristow coming third.
The Brexit Party had been the frontrunner at its first ever parliamentary election but just fell short, although Mr Greene has insisted he will be back to fight the seat at a future general election.
Reacting to the result, Mr Corbyn, who campaigned several times in Peterborough, tweeted: “I’m delighted to congratulate @LisaForbes_ on winning the #PeterboroughByElection and for running a people powered campaign. Peterborough has again rejected Tory austerity - showing clear support for our programme of ending cuts, and investing in services and communities.
“This result shows that despite the divisions and deadlock over Brexit, when it comes to a vote on the issues that directly affect people’s lives, Labour’s case for real change has strong support across the country. I look forward to welcoming Lisa to parliament next week.”
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell tweeted: “A tough campaign won by a superb local candidate and hard campaigning work on the ground. Great to send Farage sneaking out by the back door, puncturing the Brexit Party’s balloon. Well done Lisa Forbes.”
Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit Party, made a brief visit to the count at the KingsGate Conference Centre in Parnwell after sneaking in through a back entrance.
He said: “What you have seen from this result last night is that British politics has fundamentally changed, it is no longer just two parties contesting.”
Calling for Tories to vote tactically for his party, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The danger is that, in seats like this, the Conservatives split the Leave vote.”
Richard Tice, chairman of the Brexit Party, said: “We’ve come here in a matter of just a few days and taken this by-election by storm; yes, the result is a disappointment but Mike Greene is a great candidate and he loves this city and he has said that he will come back and fight again.
“There is going to be a General Election in this country in the not too distant future and we are going to need a lot more Mike Greenes up and down the United Kingdom to give the voters of this country what they deserve.”
Asked how Nigel Farage was feeling after the result, Mr Tice said: “Nigel has gone home downhearted but not surprised as the Labour Party have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at this by-election to get the result they desperately needed, literally dragging people out of their houses tonight to get them to the polling stations.
“Nigel is a pragmatist and, like Mike Greene and the Brexit Party, he will be back – only next time, stronger, wiser and winning.”
Conservative candidate Paul Bristow tweeted: “It was one hell of a ride! Thanks to everyone who helped on my campaign. You were amazing. Sorry I didn’t make it across the line. Timing is everything in politics. Congratulations @LisaForbes_ Most fun was winning people over on the doorstep - clearly a lot more of that to do...”
Chairman of the Peterborough Conservative Association Wayne Fitzgerald said it was now essential that the party committed to taking Britain out of the EU, even if it meant no deal.
“Parliamentarians in Westminster are against the will of the people,” he told Sky News.
“The Conservatives must de-select every MP who will not accept a WTO (World Trade Organization) Brexit if it comes to that.
“If Boris (Johnson) or whoever is leader doesn’t do that Mr Farage will sweep to 450 seats in the next general election.”
Health Secretary and Tory leadership contender Matt Hancock tweeted: “The Peterborough by-election shows our real opponent is Jeremy Corbyn. We need to deliver Brexit then turn the page with a fresh face & concentrate on all the other things that matter to people.”
Fellow leadership contenders have also shared their reaction.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Incredibly disappointing that our brilliant candidate for Peterborough @paulbristow79 was not successful. No future for our party until we deliver Brexit - any elections before then will just allow Corbyn to sneak through the middle. But when the UK has Brexited, we will be back!”
Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said: “Last night’s result shows yet again that we must get on and deliver Brexit by the end of October. Failure to do so would not only break our promise to voters, it risks delivering Jeremy Corbyn by the backdoor.”