Saturday 8 June 2019

Why Did The Brexit Party Lose Peterborough?

Why did The Brexit Party lose the Peterborough by-election? There may be lots of reasons, but the main one seems to be the old problem that all insurgent parties have in that they rely on enthusiasm rather than organisation to achieve victory and it seldom works.

Labour's victory was down to good organisation. The constituency was canvassed several times so the party knew where its supporters were. That information was put into a databank so that on election day tellers could be put at every single polling station to collect voter numbers. Those were fed into the database so that in the evening, the party knew more or less which of its supporters had failed to vote. Then cars were sent out to collect the non-voters and ferry them to their polling stations.

This system was invented in Reading and first used in the 1945 election. It helped get Ian Micardo elected and was quickly copied by the rest of the Labour Party before all the other parties copied the Reading system themselves. 

The old Liberal Party excelled at it. Since they lacked much in the way of constituency organisation, the Liberals set up a nationally organised group of activists where were expert in the Reading system and when a by-election was called they were sent out to the constituency to run the local campaign. The local activists were dragooned into acting as foot soldiers by those national organisers and the Liberals quickly acquired a reputation as ferocious by-election campaigners with a string of victories.

The Brexit Party has become an expert at social media, at photo-ops that show Nigel Farage with a man of the people pint in his hand and at getting the mass media to follow its lines. What it failed to do in Peterborough is what it has always failed to do ever since Farage was in UKIP. It cannot organise its election campaigns efficiently and it leaves too much to local enthusiasm and blind luck.

Today, any political party can buy in canvassing tools, so there is no excuse for this cack-handedness. The most popular one is called Nation Builder and the company which sells the software even throws in a free, online set of tutorials that are aimed specifically at first-time candidates and their staffs.

The Brexit Party had a good candidate in Mike Greene who is well-known in Peterborough, a positive message and lots of enthusiasm. It lost against Labour's poor candidate, confusing message over Brexit, but ruthlessly efficient by-election machine.

The Brexiteers need to copy that winning strategy as quickly as possible.


  1. Plus, no doubt, Postal Voting fraud. Check how many postal voters there were and who they voted for and I have no doubt a very large proportion of them will be Labour. This needs to be addressed urgently, why would the Government want to ignore it? It has already been shown that Postal voting has been abused by certain communities, so there is no excuse for allowing it to continue unchecked.

  2. All that proves is that Labour is better at getting its people signed up for postal votes than the other parties are, nothing more. Actually, I suspect that a lot of the Tories in Peterborough also use postal votes as that may account for the way in which their vote held up, more or less.


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