Why Peterborough will be in the national spotlight for by-election

Peterborough will be firmly in the national spotlight when a by-election is held in the city.

Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 7:49 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 8:33 pm
Signing forms being brought into the Town Hall on the final day of the Recall Petition

The remarkable political demise of (now former) MP Fiona Onasanya, after she was jailed for perverting the course of justice and today kicked out of office by her constituents, is juicy enough for hacks at the main media outlets.

But Peterborough’s position as a Brexit city and swing seat with high levels of immigration means the focus here will be even higher than for your normal by-election.

And to make things even more interesting, voting will take place two weeks after European elections are held across the country, when Brexit will again be dominating the national agenda.

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Signing forms being brought into the Town Hall on the final day of the Recall Petition

The main broadcasters and national newspapers decamped to Peterborough when the Recall Petition, which allowed constituents to boot out Ms Onasanya, first opened more than six weeks ago, but even before then journalists from as far away as the Netherlands have been visiting the city to speak to residents about their thoughts on having an MP who had recently come out of jail representing them.

That level of interest will only increase during the by-election.

Already the political parties have been sending in their heavy hitters to try and drum up media coverage. The Conservatives have sent over several members of the Cabinet, including Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was here on Saturday and speaking to the media.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable was also a recent visitor, as was Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley.

More visits should only be expected in the coming weeks, while the result of the by-election will be poured over by pundits looking for signs as to what effect Brexit is having on the political landscape.

This could also be the first time the Brexit Party fields a candidate in a parliamentary election, adding to the intrigue, as the party may have gained momentum from the European elections.

Peterborough’s reputation as a swing seat is also important. Fiona Onasanya won it from Conservative Stewart Jackson, who had won three elections from 2005.

It was previously held by Labour’s Helen Clark.

Ms Onasanya won the Peterborough seat by just 607 votes in 2017.

The result of the by-election, and the margin of victory, may well be an indicator of how the country will vote if a general election is called.

Or if it goes badly for the Conservatives, it may well have ramifications for the woman at the very top.