This sense of urgency was exacerbated in the Bridgwater, Somerset by-election, which took place on 17 November. Here, the Independent candidate, Vernon Bartlett, scored a remarkable victory, winning the safe Conservative seat by a majority of 2, votes. Bartlett, like Lindsay, was new to campaigning, but stood on an even more fervently anti-appeasement platform. The pertinence of this issue brought a record turnout: These candidates did not seek to challenge Labour or the Liberals.
Elections and Political Communication In Modern Britain: Voters, Parties And Public Opinion
At both the Oxford and Bridgwater by-elections, Labour and Liberals voted to step aside and remove their candidates to allow the Independent Progressives a clear run. The Independent Progressive movement also caused a defection. Munich was the final straw. Having witnessed the popularity of Independent candidates in Oxford and Bridgwater, Stewart-Murray sought re-election as an Independent, leading a fiercely anti-appeasement campaign. Although the Conservatives held onto the seat largely because voters wanted a local, familiar MP , Stewart-Murray still managed to secure just over 47 per cent of the vote.
Davies seized the constituency from the Lib Dems in and secured a majority of more than 8, at the snap general election called by Theresa May two years later. The Lib Dems are odds-on favourites to win the Welsh seat at the upcoming by-election and have a candidate, Jane Dodds, already selected.
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They will aim to boost the momentum they have built up in last month's local and European elections. The by-election will also be a test of Labour's support if they have not moved to a less equivocal stance on Brexit — something a majority of their members are demanding. Davies is the second-ever MP to be kicked out by the recall process, after former Labour member Fiona Onasanya was booted out of her Peterborough seat earlier this year. She was convicted of lying to police about a speeding offense.
Labour managed to retain the seat at the subsequent by-election on June 6, with new candidate Lisa Forbes.
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After its victory in European elections, with both Labour and the Conservatives at recent historic lows in the polls, the previous Labour incumbent convicted, and the constituency voting strongly to Leave, it is hard to imagine a more perfect set of circumstances for a Brexit Party victory. That Farage's party instead fell short suggests that it is not yet on the edge of a revolution in British politics.
Like UKIP before them, the Brexit party was let down by an inferior ground operation, with the incumbent Labour party pouring large numbers of activists into the seat to get out their vote. While Farage is well-known and liked by a significant portion of the public, opinion polling has consistently shown that he remains a deeply divisive figure with most voters.
Last night's result suggests that his party will, like UKIP before them, continue to struggle to win the sort of broad support that political parties need to completely release the stranglehold the two major political parties have on the British electorate. Had Nigel Farage's party won, all eyes would have turned to the increased vote share of the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats, with Labour supporters arguing that hardline Remainers had allowed the Brexit Party a foothold in parliament.
Such arguments would not necessarily have been successful.
Remainers within the Labour party would have argued that a clearer pro-European message would have delivered the party a victory. But such arguments would have likely fallen flat amid several days of widespread coverage of Nigel Farage's party and its new member of parliament. Perversely, by clinging on, Labour has lost a significant opportunity to squeeze Remain voters back into the fold.
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As a result, the splintering of Britain's political landscape will only continue. However, the result in Peterborough was broadly in line with what we have seen in recent national opinion polls and the recent European and local elections. In Peterborough, like the rest of the country, voters are gradually deserting the two major parties in favour of two smaller parties with much clearer positions on Brexit. With no end to the UK's Brexit crisis in sight, this splintering of the political landscape, that began with the vote to leave the EU in , looks set to continue.
And while the Brexit Party fell short in Peterborough, the continuing Brexit stalemate will continue to gift the party large numbers of votes in the run up to the next general election. With the Liberal Democrats also poised to benefit from the two main party's continuing dilemma on Brexit, the odds of another hung parliament look set to grow.