A piece in today’s Times:
The Labour MP found guilty of lying to police to avoid a speeding charge has compared herself to Jesus and Moses in a defiant message to her colleagues.
Fiona Onasanya, 35, was suspended and urged to quit the Commons by the Labour Party after her conviction for perverting the course of justice.
She told party colleagues yesterday: “I am in good biblical company along with Joseph, Moses, Daniel and his three Hebrew friends who were each found guilty by the courts of their day.”
The solicitor lied “persistently and deliberately” to police about who was driving her car in an attempt to avoid penalty points after it was recorded at 41mph in a 30mph zone near Thorney in her Peterborough constituency.
In a message sent to other Labour MPs on various WhatsApp groups yesterday and leaked to The Times, Onasanya hinted that she would not resign, saying this was instead “the beginning of the next chapter” of her “story”.
She wrote: “As many of you are already aware, due to widespread media coverage, I was found guilty of perverting the course of justice. Although I vigorously maintained my innocence, the jury has decided that I am guilty.
“I campaigned for justice and for the interests of ordinary people throughout my entire working life to date, but it is this which has made both national and international press. The first jury was dismissed having failed to reach a decision last month but the second jury reached their conclusion within days.”
She continued: “Regardless of what you believe or suspect, the fact remains that I, Fiona, sought to be the choice and voice of change, but this may now take a different path.
“In times like these the natural inclination of believers is to ask God why? I personally do not, because in my experience the answers are usually far above and beyond my reach.
“Christ . . . was accused and convicted by the courts of his day and yet this was not his end but rather the beginning of the next chapter in his story.” She asked people to pray for her and her family.
Labour cannot force Onasanya to stand down, although by urging her to resign it has effectively called for a by-election in the seat that she won from the Conservatives last year by 607 votes. MPs are disqualified from holding their seat if they are sentenced to more than a year in jail. She and her brother will be sentenced at the Old Bailey at a future date.
Under laws introduced in 2015 any prison term, even a suspended one, can trigger a “recall” petition. This can force a by-election if signed by 10 per cent of voters in a constituency.
John Peach, 59, a former Tory mayor of Peterborough who has spent 40 years in local politics, told The Times that Onasanya should step down.
“We would hope she does the decent thing and steps down and we have already got a candidate and we will be fighting hard to return the seat. It’s the 13th most marginal seat in the country.”
A Labour member who worked on Onasanya’s election campaign said that she should stand down because she “panicked and stuck to her lie”.
Onasanya was accused of colluding with her brother Festus, 33, who a week before the original trial admitted perverting the course of justice on three occasions relating to speeding, including this incident.
In court Nick Brown, the Labour chief whip, described Onasanya as honest and trustworthy, citing her faith. In a character statement read out in court, Mr Brown said that his colleague was “a decent, outgoing character” who was committed to her constituency and as a parliamentarian. He said: “She is a person of strong personal beliefs rooted in her religious faith.”
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