An MP found guilty of repeatedly lying to avoid a speeding ticket has until Wednesday afternoon to appeal against her conviction – a decision that will be closely watched by both Labour and the Conservatives.
Fiona Onasanya, a former Labour whip who sits in the Commons as an independent, has been considering whether to try to overturn last month’s Old Bailey verdict for perverting the course of justice, sources said.
Associates say she was planning to attend parliament on Tuesday night to vote against Theresa May’s deal for leaving the European Union.
Onasanya has pledged to continue as an MP for as long as possible despite being urged by her former Labour colleagues and constituents to stand down. The date for her sentencing has yet to be decided, the Old Bailey said.
If she appeals, it would mean that any attempt to remove her from office would be suspended until after the legal process is completed.
If Onasanya is sentenced to a year or more in prison, she will automatically lose her seat, according to parliamentary rules.
Any custodial or suspended sentence of less than a year that is not appealed against would automatically trigger a recall petition under the Recall of MPs Act 2015.
No MP has yet been recalled under the 2015 act.
Onasanya’s decision will be watched keenly by both her former party and the Conservatives as they consider whether they need to prepare for a byelection in the seat, which voted to leave the EU.
The Conservatives have already chosen a prospective candidate, Paul Bristow, while Labour have begun regularly canvassing the constituency. Barry Gardiner, the shadow international development secretary, joined Labour activists leafleting in the town last weekend.
Peterborough voted by 61% to 39% to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum. The former Tory MP, Stewart Jackson, surprisingly lost to Onasanya a year later by 607 votes.
A byelection could be held shortly before the UK leaves the EU. The timing of any byelection will depend on when she is sentenced, the length of the sentence and the decision of the local returning officer.
Onasanya, a former Labour whip, was accused at the Old Bailey of inventing a series of lies over 17 months to hide the fact that she was driving the car.
The solicitor lied “persistently and deliberately” to officers about who was driving her car in an attempt to avoid penalty points, after the vehicle was recorded at 41mph in a 30mph zone near Thorney, Cambridgeshire.
A message sent to other Labour MPs on WhatsApp just after her conviction said this “was not his end but rather the beginning of the next chapter” of her story, as it was with Jesus.
“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. What I do know is that 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.
“While God did not save them from a guilty verdict, he did save them in it and ensured that their greatest days of impact were on the other side of a guilty verdict. Of course, this is equally true of Christ, who 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 wrote.
The MP has told friends she plans to vote against Theresa may’s deal. “She has said she will be there,” one said.
A spokesman for Onasanya was asked for a comment.