Despite political pollsters and bookmakers predicting Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party a shoe-in to win its first MP in Peterborough, a surge of Labour door-knocking and activism helped the party retain the seat.
The election of a new MP came about after local people effectively sacked their former Member of Parliament, Fiona Onasanya in a recall petition.
The ex Labour politician was found guilty of perverting the course of justice after claiming someone else was behind the wheel of her Nissan Micra when it was seen speeding near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, on 24 July 2017.
She had won a 48 per cent share of the vote in the last election, taking over from the Conservatives by whisker in the traditional Tory stronghold.
But in an early morning count, the Conservatives were relegated to third place in a town where a majority had voted Tory and a majority voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.
The Tory vote dropped in Peterborough by a quarter while, despite the picture painted by much of the political coverage, Labour actually increased their majority.
Nigel Farage’s Brexit party were odds-on to win the seat, with Mike Greene.
Greene, 54, came to national prominence on Channel 4’s The Secret Millionaire in 2011. A former bankrupt, he was described as a retail tycoon.
But it was revealed that the Brexit Party’s by-election candidate was involved with the firm at the centre of the inquiry into the collapse of British Steel.
The bookies’ favourite to become the first MP for the new party, was a former partner in Greybull Capital — the private equity firm associated with the collapse of various firms including British Steel.
According to a Telegraph investigation Greene was the “frontman” for Greybull’s £25 million takeover of the M Local store chain in 2015 in which around 2,500 people lost their jobs.
Lisa Forbes, the new Labour MP for Peterborough said the discovery about the millionaire formy Tory donor turned Brexit Party candidate was “shocking but not surprising.”
FULL RESULTS: – Labour, Lisa Forbes: 10,484 – Brexit Party, Mike Greene: 9,801 – Conservatives, Paul Bristow: 7,243 – Lib Dems, Beki Sellick: 4,159
Nigel Farage who had expected a first MP for his new party in an area where 60% of people had voted to leave in the 2016 referendum, was unusually reticent as the odds started changing as the vote count started.
He was reported to have spent much of the evening dining in the George Hotel in Stamford, evading journalists by arriving at the count by a side entrance, had a narrow escape when he rushed to the Gents when spotted by camera crews and journalists.
The Brexit Party leader then left his defeated candidate to face the press, leaving before the count was called.
The result was a big upset for Jeremy Corbyn’s critics.
The Labour leader said voters had “shown clear support for Labour’s programme to end austerity and invest in services and communities”, adding: “This result shows that in spite of 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.”