It’s hard to think of a more relaxing place to sit than Cathedral Square in the centre of Peterborough on a sunny day. Yet beneath the calm exterior, a fierce battle is taking place here between the political parties hoping to win tomorrow’s by-election, to see who will replace the disgraced former Labour MP Fiona Onasanya.
Looking down the Long Causeway which leads on to Cathedral square, you can see the stands of several political parties dotted down the street, manned by dedicated volunteers. And while they are generally cordial to one another, their proximity is flaring up into mini turf wars.
Less than 10 yards away from the Brexit party stand, a Birmingham clergyman called Dick Rogers engages passers-by. He is standing for the Common Good: Remain in the EU party (he tells Mr S the electoral commission gives you a maximum of six words for party names – and he has seized the opportunity), and walks around his handmade cart and bike, festooned with the flags of European countries, wearing a small microphone extolling the virtues of the EU.
The Brexit party are clearly not impressed by how close he is, and one of their supporters asks if someone can give Rogers a ‘thick ear’. The next day the Brexit party return with an even bigger stand and get there earlier than Dick, taking his spot at the top of the square. They even bring their own large flags, featuring the Brexit party turquoise and white logo.
Further down the Long Causeway, the Ukip staffers seemed to be particularly aggrieved. As they see it, they are surrounded by the Brexit party (Nigel Farage’s ‘treacherous’ new vanity project) and the Labour party, who they say call Ukip racist. Ukip seem to be getting their own back on Labour a day later. A Ukip supporter hands out flyers wearing a ‘Stand up for Israel’ jumper next to the Labour party stand, a clear dig at the party’s anti-Semitism problems.
All’s fair in love and politics, after all.