Anti-EU populist Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party failed to win its first seat in Britain’s parliament as it lost out to the main opposition Labour Party in a crunch byelection, results on Friday showed.
The poll in the eastern English city of Peterborough was triggered after the sitting MP, Fiona Onasanya, was dumped by voters after being jailed for lying over a speeding offence.
The Brexit Party’s candidate, Mike Greene, a local entrepreneur, came in second with nearly 29% of the vote, behind Labour’s Lisa Forbes.
The ruling Conservatives came third with 21%, while the Liberal Democrats won 12%.
Friday’s result is a setback for the Brexit Party – founded by eurosceptic figurehead Farage only a few months ago – which came out on top in the European elections in May with 31.6% of votes cast.
It had been seeking to capitalise on that momentum as well as voter disillusionment with the main Conservative and Labour parties, who have historically shared the Peterborough seat.
Prime Minister Theresa May is stepping down after delaying Brexit twice as she tried and failed to get her EU divorce deal through parliament.
Farage, who has called for Britain to leave the bloc without a deal, said last weekend while campaigning he saw the by-election as “the opportunity for the next chapter in this great story”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the 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”.
The Brexit Party had been heavy favourites to win the Leave-voting seat, but despite losing, their performance will still be a concern to the two main parties.
Labour’s vote share fell by 17% from 2017, and was the lowest ever to win a British by-election, while the Conservatives plunged by 25%.
Leading pollster John Curtice told the BBC said the result showed the country was now in a “different political world”.
“A lot of constituencies are now looking at four-party politics and perhaps in others, five-party politics,” added Farage.