Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is believed to be neck and neck with Labour as it seeks to get its first MP into the Commons.
Richard Tice, the new eurosceptic party’s chairman said the Peterborough by-election was ‘close’ and suggested there might need to be a recount to separate the two parties.
Polls closed late last night in the historic vote called after the former Labour MP Fiona Onasanya was sensationally booted out of Parliament after being jailed for lying to police.
It is pitching the Brexit Party’s Mike Green, 54, a local business and self-made millionaire against Corbynite Labour candidate Lisa Forbes in the see-saw marginal.
Mr Tice told Sky News: ‘We will have to wait and see, it’s going to be really, really close.
‘It’s getting into recount territory – we could be here for some time.’
Mr Farage’s upstart outfit could be on the verge of an historic victory that would represent a damning Brexit rebuke for the main political parties.
With the result expected in the early hours of this morning a win for Mr Green will send shockwaves through the political establishment in a seat that has been held by one of the main two parties for a century.
Victory for Mr Farage’s party would mark another astonishing milestone, just four months after it was founded.
Tonight he said ‘I have no idea’ when asked by Sky what the result was going to be.
Mr Farage’s upstart outfit is on the verge of an historic victory that would represent a damning Brexit rebuke for the main political parties
The by-election count got underway after 10pm last night at the KingsGate Centre in Peterborough, with the result looking very tight
Mr Farage last night said the result looked to be a two-horse race between his party and Labour, in an interview with the Sun Online.
‘For Peterborough to elect their first Brexit Party MP on D-Day would be hugely symbolic – it would be democracy day,’ he said.
‘In normal circumstances that Labour should be winning this seat by tonnes of votes but they are really worried they are going to lose it us. It’s going to be very close all the way.’
Onasanya enjoyed a tight 607-vote win over the Tories in 2017 in the marginal swing seat – which voted for Leave in the 2016 referendum – setting up a hugely symbolic showdown in Cambridgeshire.
But Labour sources suggested that despite fighting a ‘hard’ campaign they felt that they could ‘lose out’.
Turnout was 48.4 per cent, down from 67.5 per cent in the 2017 General Election.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage (right) and party candidate Mike Greene have a drink at The Bull public house in Newborough
The first ballot boxes arrive at KingsGate Church in Peterborough, for the count in the Peterborough by-election. The result is due in the early hours of Friday
Any collapse in the Tory vote will be seen as a damning epitaph for Theresa May’s Premiership – on the day that she steps down as Conservative leader
Any collapse in the Tory vote will be seen as a damning epitaph for Theresa May’s Premiership – on the day that she steps down as Conservative leader.
Who’s the businessman who could be the first Brexit Party MP?
Mike Greene could be the Brexit Party’s first MP if he wins the Peterborough by-election tonight.
The 54-year-old is an entrepreneur who built a successful retail business, and made a fortune investing the Shazam music app.
Mr Greene appeared in Channel 4’s The Secret Millionaire, a reality show which sees rich people go into poor communities under cover find worth recipients to give money.
He returned to his home town of Peterborough, and has recently been spending his time mainly on charity work – as well as hobbies including mountaineering and sailing.
He was a lifelong Conservative supporter before joining Nigel Farage’s new party.
In a video declaring his candidacy, Mr Greene said: ‘I never wanted to get into politics but the system is broken.’
And Labour faces a struggle to hold on to the seat amid disarray over its own Brexit policy under Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
Combative MEP Mr Farage was all smiles as he arrived at the count alongside Mr Greene last night, with the vote believed to be ‘on a knife edge’.
The new party has already caused an earthquake by trouncing the Tories and Labour in European elections last month, amid a furious backlash at the government’s failure to secure the UK’s departure from the EU.
It has also been surging in Westminster polls, with one at the weekend showing the party top with 26 per cent support against 22 per cent for Labour and 17 per cent for the Tories.
Today’s result is expected to be declared in the early hours between 2am and 4am.
One Brexit Party source told MailOnline 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.’
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage looked in good spirits with party candidate Mike Greene (left) at KingsGate Church in Peterborough where votes will be counted in the by-election
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage (right) walks with party candidate Mike Greene (left) as they ‘door knock’ in Newborough in Peterborough
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.
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.
Some national polls 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. This Opinium poll from the weekend (pictured) had Mr Farage’s party in the lead on 26 per cent, with Labour on 22 per cent and the Tories on just 17 per cent
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
Labour party candidate Lisa Forbes (left) leaves the polling station at Parnwell Community Centre today
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
The Brexit Party is the bookmakers’ favourite to win.
Huge field of political hopefuls trying to win votes in Peterborough
Fifteen candidates stood in Thursday’s by-election in a constituency, which voted Leave by 60.9% in the EU referendum in 2016.
It has historically been a closely fought battle between Labour and the Conservatives.
But with Theresa May’s party in disarray over Brexit it looks likely to be a distant third this time around.
Both Labour and the Conservatives have campaigned hard ahead of the by-election, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, former prime minister Gordon Brown and Tory big guns Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt all visiting the city in the lead-up.
But Mr Farage’s Brexit Party, which won 29 seats in the European elections, has also campaigned hard in its first tilt at a Westminster seat.
The candidates standing in the by-election are:
- Brexit Party: Mike Greene
- Christian Peoples Alliance: Tom Rogers
- Common Good: Remain In The EU: Dick Rodgers
- Conservatives: Paul Bristow
- English Democrats: Stephen Goldspink
- Greens: Joseph Wells
- No Description: Andrew Moore
- No Description: Bobby Smith
- Labour: Lisa Forbes
- Liberal Democrats: Beki Sellick
- Monster Raving Loony: Howling ‘Laud’ Hope
- Renew: Peter Ward
- SDP: Patrick O’Flynn
- UK European Union Party: Pierre Kirk
- Ukip: John Whitby
Mr Farage was campaigning in Peterborough earlier this month ahead of the by-election.
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 The Telegraph: ‘The Tory party in Peterborough are nowhere. But Labour have a massive election machine and they are throwing everything at this. And I mean everything.
‘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.
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.
Mike Green is pictured with fellow Brexit Party supporters while canvassing in Peterborough last month