Nigel Farage is on the brink of making history today as his fledgling Brexit Party battles to land its first MP today.
The Peterborough by-election is ‘on a knife edge’ as Labour desperately tries to cling on after former incumbent Fiona Onasanya was sent to prison.
Victory for the Brexit Party would mark another astonishing milestone, just four months after it was founded by Mr Farage.
The new party has already caused an earthquake by trouncing the Tories and Labour in European elections last month.
Some Westminster polls have now put it top, amid a furious backlash at the government’s failure to secure the UK’s departure from the EU.
One Brexit Party source its activists had been ‘working our nuts off’ in the constituency, which has swapped between Tory and Labour hands for decades.
But they complained that resources were stretched, while Jeremy Corbyn has been going all-out to hold the seat.
‘A lot depends on the impact of the Lib Dems,’ the source said. ‘The fact is Labour was right to call it so fast. They know we were concentrating on the Euros.’
A senior Labour source admitted it looked like ‘a very tight race’.
Some national polls – including this one for Opinium at the weekend – have put the Brexit Party top, amid a furious backlash at the government’s failure to secure the UK’s departure from the EU on time
Mr Farage’s Brexit Party hopes to win its first seat in Westminster as Peterborough goes to the polls today with its candidate Mike Greene – and the result expected between 2am and 4am on Friday
Polling stations have opened in Peterborough as the by-election campaign comes to its climax
Onasanya, 35, refused to quit after being handed a three-month prison sentence. But she was finally removed from her seat earlier this month
Onasanya, 35, was jailed in January following an Old Bailey trial for repeatedly lying to police about a speeding offence in July 2017 – only weeks after she was elected to parliament.
A lawyer, she lost her seat in the House of Commons earlier this month after more than 27 per cent of registered voters in her Peterborough constituency signed a recall petition demanding her removal.
Local businessman Mike Greene is standing for the Brexit Party, and Lisa Forbes for Labour, with the result expected in the early hours of tomorrow.
The Tories are not optimistic about the prospects for their hopeful Paul Bristow, while the Lib Dems are aiming for a third-place finish.
The Brexit Party swept to victory in the United Kingdom’s European Parliament election last month, riding a wave of anger over Theresa May’s failure to deliver Brexit on time.
Mr Greene, a local entrepreneur, said in a campaign video that he hopes, should he be elected, that he can help make Brexit happen.
He said: ‘Three years ago parliament made us a promise, they gave us the opportunity to choose our future in or outside of Europe.
‘They said they would get the job done but the job is not done and the trust is broken.
‘Peterborough is our opportunity to take that message back to Westminster to get that job done.’
The Brexit Party is the bookmakers’ favourite to win.
Mr Farage was campaigning in Peterborough earlier this month ahead of the by-election.
Fiona Onasanya was booted out of the Commons after almost 20,000 people in Peterborough signed the petition to kick her out of the seat after less than two years
In a bid to avoid splitting the vote, he has urged Tory voters to back the Brexit Party to prevent Labour from retaining their vacated seat.
Mr Farage told
‘Our key message these last few days to conservative voters in the north of the constituency, is vote Conservative, get Corbyn. Only the Brexit Party can beat Labour here.’
Ironically, the slogan is based on David Cameron’s phrase to steal Ukip votes when Farage was leader of the independence party: ‘Vote Ukip, get Labour.’
It took some time for Ms Onasanya to be stripped of the seat, coming three months after she was jailed for perverting the course of justice.
Her refusal to quit – despite serving as an independent after Labour kicked her out – allowed her to rake in more than £19,000 in pay over the last three months.
And taxpayers will be hit with a bill of £500,000 to fund the costs of running the petition and election tomorrow.
It was the first time voters have successfully unseated an MP using 2015 legislation.
MPs only automatically lose their seat if they are sentenced to more than one year in prison.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage (left) and Brexit Party parliamentary candidate Mike Greene (right) during a Brexit Party rally at the Broadway Theatre in Peterborough earlier this month
Mike Green is pictured with fellow Brexit Party supporters while canvassing in Peterborough last month
Since Onasanya’s three-month sentence fell below this threshold, it instead paved the way to open a recall petition in her constituency.
The petition defeat proved highly embarrassing for Onasanya who has brazenly maintained that she has done nothing wrong.
She was convicted alongside her soul singer brother Festus, 34, who admitted three counts of perverting the course of justice, one of which related to the incident when the politician was driving.
Almost three years since Britain voted 52 per cent to 48 per cent to leave the European Union, lawmakers remain at loggerheads over how, when or even whether to leave the EU.
Victory for Farage’s Brexit Party in Peterborough, which supported Brexit by 61 per cent to 39 per cent, would increase the pressure on May’s successor to pursue a cleaner break with the EU.
Leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson has said the Conservatives face ‘political extinction’ at the next national election if Britain does not leave the EU by the current deadline of October 31.
It is expected to be a close race – Labour won the seat from the Conservatives in 2017’s general election with a majority of just 607 votes.
Both Britain’s main two parties saw their support slump at the EU elections as voters frustrated at the Brexit deadlock opted for either strongly pro-EU parties or those, such as the Brexit Party, that favour leaving without a deal.
The result is expected between 2am and 4am tomorrow morning.