Good news in today’s Times:
Fiona Onasanya, the former Labour MP jailed for perverting the course of justice, has become the first parliamentarian in British history to be stripped of her role after more than 25 per cent of her constituents called for a by-election.
Onasanya, 35, was found guilty in December of colluding with her brother, Festus, to avoid driving penalty points. On January 29 she was sentenced at the Old Bailey to three months and spent four weeks in Bronzefield prison in Ashford, Surrey.
A spokeswoman for Peterborough city council said last night that 19,261 people signed a recall petition, amounting to 27.64 per cent of those eligible to sign. “This means that the petition is successful and the Peterborough parliamentary seat is now vacant,” the council said in a statement.
MPs must resign only if they receive a jail sentence of more than 12 months. Under laws introduced in 2015 any prison term can trigger a recall petition, which, if signed by 10 per cent of voters in a constituency, forces a by-election.
After telling MPs that the recall petition had been signed by more than the 10 per cent of constituency voters, John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, told MPs: “Fiona Onasanya is no longer the member for Peterborough and the seat is accordingly vacant. She can therefore no longer participate in any parliamentary proceedings as a member of parliament.”
Ian Lavery, the Labour Party chairman, said yesterday: “Labour campaigned hard for a victory in this recall petition. The people of Peterborough clearly agree that Fiona Onasanya is not fit to be their MP and we’re delighted they will now have the chance to vote for a Labour MP in our excellent candidate, Lisa Forbes. Labour will move the writ tomorrow [and] will vigorously fight the by-election here in Peterborough.”
Paul Bristow, the Conservative candidate, said: “The people of Peterborough deserve a better MP who will vote in Parliament to deliver Brexit. I’m delighted this result gives local people the chance to make their voices heard and vote for a better MP, and it will be a choice between Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour candidate and me.”
At her trial, Onasanya claimed that a former Russian tenant had been driving her Nissan Micra when it was caught travelling at 41mph in a 30mph zone in Thorney, Cambridgeshire, in July 2017, a month after her election victory. She was expelled from Labour after refusing to stand down and her appeal against her conviction was thrown out. Festus Onasanya, 34, admitted perverting the course of justice by providing false information to avoid speeding prosecutions on three occasions, including the incident involving his sister.
After her conviction, Onasanya, who continued as an independent MP, made a series of social media posts proclaiming her innocence. The former solicitor released a video, with a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline, blaming the media for her troubles and calling for constituents not to remove her.
Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, said that his new Brexit Party would contest the by-election and “give it our best shot”. George Galloway, the former Labour and Respect Party MP, said that he would also contest the seat.
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