Belfast Telegraph

Chris Moncrieff: Has Labour's win in Peterborough put paid to Nigel Farage and his Brexit crusade? Don't count on it

The former Ukip leader is nobody's fool and his future looks brighter than both main parties, writes Chris Moncrieff

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage with candidate Mike Greene (left) in Peterborough prior to votes being counted
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage with candidate Mike Greene (left) in Peterborough prior to votes being counted

By Chris Moncrieff

The Labour Party's surprise victory at the Peterborough by-election, despite the party's muddled policy over Brexit, came as a welcome surprise to Jeremy Corbyn, who, however, would be mistaken if he believes this triumph has put paid to Nigel Farage and his flashy new Brexit Party.

Farage is made of sterner stuff and he will be well aware that his own triumphs at the EU elections have made him a serious force to be reckoned with in British politics.

After all, his party was runner-up at the Peterborough election, knocking the Conservatives into third place.

The Brexit Party continues to win support from some disillusioned Conservative and Labour party members and will represent a danger to both parties when the general election arrives.

Meanwhile, the Tories will at least be gratified that they have pushed the upsurging Liberal Democrats into fourth place at Peterborough.

This constituency used to send MPs to parliament on single-figure majorities and so the 600-vote Labour victory can be regarded as almost a luxury in this part of the country.

But both the major British political parties have much work to do to restore the kind of faith they enjoyed among the British electorate for years.

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So, Farage, although he hoped to win at Peterborough, will not be disappointed by being runner-up.

His party's future seems brighter at the moment than that of Labour - or the Tories.

Can a new leader rescue the Conservative Party from the turmoil and chaos into which it is now embedded?

It would seem that someone of the stature of Margaret Thatcher would be required to restore the party's fortunes.

But I see no one of that stature in the motley line-up of candidates aspiring to replace Theresa May.

Boris Johnson seems too bull-headed to fill that role in a bid to face up to the bullies of Brussels over Brexit and to end the apparently craven Tory attitude towards the EU grandees.

Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, has shown commendable honesty in admitting that he took cocaine as a younger man, but he does not appear to be a tough enough character to deal with Brussels.

It may be that the Brussels negotiators are being deliberately tough on Britain to deter other EU states, like Holland, from trying to leave the EU themselves.

The UK needs to be thumping the table and dictating terms with Brussels with far more vigour than it has shown so far.

But the prospects of that happening appear bleak.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, must be gratified that President Trump spent so much time talking about him during his state visit last week - even though all his words were derogatory and insulting towards him.

As a relatively minor figure in the UK political field, Khan is fortunate to have even been recognised by Trump.

He has, ironically, achieved worldwide fame - or perhaps notoriety - by being described by Trump as a "stone cold loser".

The arrival on British soil of that great engineering masterpiece Air Force One carrying President Trump reminds me of the occasion when President Clinton asked me if I wanted a lift back from Pittsburgh to Washington in Air Force One. It was a no-brainer.

The aircraft is like a five-star hotel, but without the demeaning and grovelling staff usually found in such establishments.

It has a shower, a bathroom, bedrooms, a telephone exchange and many other amenities besides.

When I took my seat, I was given a Coca-Cola and foolishly put it on the table in front of me.

When the aircraft took off, it was so smooth that I barely noticed it. The Coca-Cola, however, tipped over and the drink covered my shirt front.

So, when President Clinton came round to see how I was getting on, he was confronted by a bedraggled and stained shirt.

Not a pretty sight for the leader of the free world to gaze upon.

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