PETERBOROUGH was a watershed by-election. First-off it returned Labour's first out of the closet anti-Semite MP this century and that alone makes for grim reading.
Something else happened though, and it's very worthy of examination. Peterborough has shown itself to be very much two tales of the same city. Fundamental changes in our society since the arrival of Blair at Number 10 have now markedly altered the demos of Peterborough as well as its population.
The first is that Peterborough is one of the youngest constituencies in Eastern England. That is without it having a large university presence. This is the consequence of mass migration of young adults from Eastern Europe and Pakistan that has soared over the last twenty years. Pakistanis can vote even without requiring UK citizenship and many Poles have rushed to claim UK citizenship post EU referendum. This electorate simply did not exist twenty or even ten years ago.
Changing the makeup of our society will invariably change our politics especially when it has consisted largely of poorly paid, young adults. The average voter age now is less than 40 in Peterborough.
When you look at where kippers did well in 2015, it's very much where the average age is much higher.
The second is that Peterborough is a very large city without a university yet many students from here will have voted here. The massive increase in people going to university has not only changed their politics (they don't earn a wage, they study) but postal and proxy voting allows students to vote from their parents' home instead of their own. This has also led to some students voting twice in national elections, which is strictly illegal but there must be a question now as to where students vote, where they live or where mum and dad lives.
The third main issue is that two other parties stood on variations of what was essentially the same platform regarding Brexit, but they stood on principles backed by policies. During my time in UKIP I saw the faith evangelised that meant if we didn't have policies no one could criticise us on anything.
While this was cynically effective, it was also naïve if there was to be a long term future for UKIP. People will vote for a pressure group to effect a constitutional change (and they did). Bring it back to national politics post referendum and any SNP activist would tell you in private a lack of delivery on policy or developing policy at all bleeds a party white at the doors. UKIP’s purpose was spent and no amount of policies could save it from eating itself.
Peterborough was in many ways the post UKIP, post referendum by-election.
People accept we are leaving the EU at some point, even though many eurosceptics are rightly sceptical of this. The Brexit Party’s rash dash to nationalise a steel mill told me this by election was lost for it. It was the quick-fix essay crisis I saw all too often in UKIP.
The Brexit Party must have an ology. It quickly has to decide what it's for. Unlike for UKIP the referendum has been and gone. That argument has been won. Now the European Parliament elections have passed the cause of defending democracy and delivering Brexit will eventually not be enough to sustain momentum. Note how enough Tory voters hung onto a May backed candidate to scotch Nigel's chances. At over 21 per cent of the vote nearly half of Tory voters hung on. That's a big vote share for a city that voted 62 per cent to leave.
People simply will not go in for the cheap sell or the mystery prize in the box anymore. We've been there. We've seen the bottom fall out of it and ironically, given how many promises were broken by the Tory government, we now face the threat of the public not believing the populists.
Are populists on the Right in fact held up by the sense they're competing with an otherwise honourable and trustworthy Tory party? If the whole of the Right becomes associated with breaking promises then could silly stunts marshall in Corbyn faster than we feared?
Wildcat nationalisation, mainstream anti-semitism and a 100 broken promises on a referendum result. If our own Union is worth saving and if Brexit is worth saving we had all better bounce back from this nadir very quickly.
Conviction politics is too 80s to work now. Consistent politics has a real market. Young and old now want integrity and a sense they are getting a fairer share of the pie and they want that pie to be bigger too. Fighting for an obsolete steel mill smacks too much of the Scottish Left – and even they failed. For the Right (if that’s what the Brexit Party is), piecemeal protectionism belongs on the slagheap of history.