Fiona Onasanya, the former Labour politician convicted of perverting the course of justice, has been ousted as the MP for Peterborough, after the required number of constituents signed a recall petition to remove her from office. A by-election will now be fought in the constituency on 6 June.
For Onasanya to be removed 6,967 people had to sign the recall petition – ten per cent of all eligible voters in the constituency. In the end that threshold was passed by a considerable margin, with 19,261 people heading to the ten ‘signing places’ across the constituency to call for her to go. This is the first time that this mechanism has been used to remove an MP since the laws were introduced in 2016.
The petition had been triggered after Onasanya failed to appeal her conviction for perverting the course of justice, for lying to police about speeding. The MP was was sentenced to three months in jail for the offence, but was released in February after spending four weeks in prison. Although she had been found guilty of a serious criminal offence and spent time in jail, Onasanya has remained as a MP until today, and caused considerable controversy for continuing to vote on key pieces of Brexit legislation and drawing on her MP’s salary during this time.
And as you would expect, talk has now turned to who will replace her. In the 2017 general election, Peterborough was a tightly fought seat: Onasanya only beat the Conservative incumbent, Stewart Jackson, by 607 votes.
In normal circumstances, after a Labour MP had been unceremoniously dumped for breaking the law, you would expect the Conservative Party to comfortably win this race. But with the Brexit Party surging in the polls, there is considerable speculation that Nigel Farage may use this opportunity to stand, although he has suggested that his party may put forward another candidate. What impact this will have on any election remains to be seen. It could be that the Brexit party splits the right-wing vote, allowing the Labour candidate to be elected, or Farage’s movement could take advantage of the dissatisfaction with both of the main parties in Peterborough to elect their first ever MP.
One thing does seem to be certain though – Onasanya is unlikely to be seen in the House of Commons again. Although the former MP is technically able to participate in the upcoming by-election as an independent, it would be a remarkable turn of events if she decided to stand again, never mind actually win.