Cambridgeshire

Fiona Onasanya: Speeding offence MP ousted under recall rules

Fiona Onasanya Image copyright Yui Mok/PA
Image caption Fiona Onasanya was expelled by the Labour Party after her conviction

Disgraced Fiona Onasanya has become the first MP to be removed by a recall petition.

Ms Onasanya, 35, was jailed in January for lying about a speeding offence.

She was expelled by Labour after her conviction and had been representing Peterborough as an independent.

Peterborough City Council said 19,261 constituents had signed the petition. Ms Onasanya will be allowed to stand for re-election.

The council said the signatures represented 27.6% of eligible residents. The threshold required to remove Ms Onasanya was 10%.

Slender majority

Commons Speaker John Bercow confirmed the recall petition had been successful.

He 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."

Ms Onasanya, who was jailed for perverting the course of justice, has become the first MP to be removed by the recall process, introduced by David Cameron in 2015.

She was first elected to Parliament as a Labour MP with a slender majority of 607 in 2017.

What are recall petitions?

The process by which the electorate can remove an MP before the end of their term was introduced in the UK in 2015 in response to the 2010 MPs' expenses scandal.

The recall procedure can only be triggered under certain circumstances, including if an MP is convicted in the UK of an offence and sentenced or ordered to be imprisoned or detained - and all appeals have been exhausted.

For a recall petition to be successful, 10% of eligible registered voters need to sign the petition. It remains open for six weeks.

If successful, a by-election is called and the recalled MP is allowed to stand as a candidate.

The first recall petition against an MP was triggered in July 2018 against North Antrim MP Ian Paisley after he failed to declare two holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

The petition was unsuccessful, as it was short of 444 signatures, and Mr Paisley remained an MP.

The petition against Ms Onasanya is the first time a recall petition has been held in England.

A third MP, Chris Davies, Conservative member for Brecon and Radnorshire, is facing a recall petition in Wales after he was convicted for a false expenses claim.

Source: UK Parliament

Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery said: "Labour campaigned hard for a victory in this recall petition.

"Labour will vigorously fight the by-election here in Peterborough."

Nigel Farage said his new Brexit Party would contest the by-election, but a spokesman said no decision had yet been taken on whether Mr Farage would be the candidate.

The by-election in a city which voted 61% Leave in the 2016 EU referendum potentially offers the former UKIP leader a route to a seat in Parliament after seven unsuccessful attempts.

Meanwhile, the former MP George Galloway - a Brexiteer - also declared on Twitter his intention to stand in the by-election.

Conservative parliamentary candidate for Peterborough Paul Bristow said: "The people of Peterborough deserve a better MP who will vote in Parliament to deliver Brexit."

Image caption Fiona Onasanya made her first and last speech in the Commons last week following her release from prison

Analysis

Hannah Olsson, political reporter, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

The by-election in Peterborough will come in the middle of one of the most tumultuous times in modern political history.

Brexit has shaken up political alliances like never before, but we don't know what impact that will have, and who it will favour.

The by-election could be an opportunity for the new parties to test the popularity of what they're offering, but the question is what party will they be taking voters from?

Another possibility is that Brexit has made everyone so fed up with politics that people in Peterborough will just decide not to vote at all, and we will see a very low turnout.

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