A vote for the Brexit Party is a vote to let Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street. Nowhere do those words matter more at this General Election than in Peterborough, where I am standing as the Conservative candidate.
There was of course a by-election in Peterborough earlier this year, which took place two weeks after the European Election at which the Conservatives had polled in single figures. A split between the Brexit Party (28.9%) and the Conservatives (21.4%) allowed Labour to come through the middle (30.9%) and keep the seat they won by 607 votes from eurosceptic Conservative Stewart Jackson in 2017.
As the Brexit Party came second, this has led some to naively claim that they are best placed to beat Labour at the General Election. They are wrong for a number of reasons:
1. By-elections are very different from general elections. At this election the public are choosing a Prime Minister as well as a local MP. They understand that every seat for the Conservatives puts Boris Johnson one step closer to Number 10 and every seat lost will do the same for Jeremy Corbyn.
2. The by-election took place when the Government was perceived to have failed to deliver Brexit. The situation now is very different with Parliament and Opposition MPs in the main responsible for blocking both No Deal and the new deal Boris Johnson has negotiated. No one can deny the Prime Minister’s personal commitment to Brexit.
3. We have the opportunity to leave firmly within our grasp. The new deal removes the Northern Irish backstop that would have trapped us within the Customs Union. Under this arrangement, the UK would only have been allowed to leave when the EU gave us permission. Now, the whole of the UK will leave the EU and the Customs Union, allowing us to strike new trade deals across the world. Moreover, the new Political Declaration distances us from having to stay closely aligned with the EU on all sorts of regulatory matters. Don’t take my word for it – listen to Martin Howe QC and other respected minds on Brexit who call this deal a proper Brexit.
4. The Conservatives control the local council and held the Peterborough seat from 2005 until 2017. It has always been a bellwether marginal seat between the Conservatives and Labour since records began. The idea that the Conservatives are not the main challenger to Labour here does not bear scrutiny.
5. Finally and perhaps most importantly of all, the lessons have been learnt from the by-election. The atmosphere in which that contest took place was different. The last Labour MP went to prison and the current MP has indulged in racist social media activity. Many felt Labour couldn’t win and this was a choice between the Conservatives and Brexit. They now know better. Our canvassing data shows that up to two thirds of Brexit Party by-election backers are now supporting me and Boris Johnson. This plays out in the national polls with Brexit Party falling from 26% on 6th June to 7% in some polls now – with the Conservatives from 18% in June to more than 40% in some polls now.
Make no mistake, there is a long way to go and a fight to have. But that fight is between the Conservatives and Labour nationally and in Peterborough. The Brexit Party are not expected to win any seats nationally at all. They should realise the battle has been won and we will leave the EU if we get a Conservative majority. There are no more new votes for the Brexit Party to find in Peterborough. A vote for the Brexit Party in my home city would be a vote to let Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street.
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