Fiona Onasanya makes video appeal to voters to keep her as their MP

Convicted Peterborough MP issues plea before petition opens to force byelection

Fiona Onasanya, the MP who was jailed for lying repeatedly to avoid a speeding ticket, has pleaded with her constituents to return her to parliament.

A petition to force a byelection opens on Tuesday. Before its release Onasanya posted a video message online asking voters in Peterborough to ignore “media spin” and continued to maintain her innocence.

Onasanya, 35, a solicitor, spent a month in prison and is thought to be wearing an electronic tag after she was jailed for lying to avoid a speeding charge.

Looking into the camera, with a New York skyline behind her, she said her time in parliament since being elected in 2017 had been “somewhat overshadowed” by the case against her.

“I am telling you I am innocent and will continue to pursue avenues to clear my name. If you wish me to continue as your independent member of parliament I am willing and able to do so. But the choice is now in your hands,” she said.

Onasanya, a former Labour whip and supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, was elected in 2017 after beating the incumbent Conservative Stewart Jackson by 607 votes.

She was convicted in December 2018 and jailed the following month. She was not subject to automatic removal as an MP as her sentence was less than 12 months.

In the video, she argued that the media had distorted the case against her and failed to put across her side. “Throughout the last few months you would have seen news articles television articles and also read on social media about my case.”

She said she had appealed against her conviction, which was turned down, but would carry on to fight to clear her name. “People have asked for my resignation, but what would you do if you knew you were innocent? Would you sit back and accept it?” she said.

“Would you accept the verdict if you knew in your heart of hearts that you were innocent? Or would you fight to clear your name?”

She also spoke about her month-long sentence in a high-security prison. “I was sentenced to time in a category A prison. Category A is reserved for incidents such as murder, attempted murder, firearms, rape,” she said.

“I will continue to be your voice of change in parliament for as long as you wish me to do so and if you do wish me to do so I will continue to lobby government, I will continue to fight for social justice with all of the veracity and power that I have been so far and continue to be your voice because you deserve nothing less.”

This month, a panel of appeal judges ruled there were no grounds to challenge the prosecution’s case that she had repeatedly lied to avoid a speeding ticket.

After the court ruling, the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, confirmed he had written to the Cambridgeshire city’s petitions officer under the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act 2015.

Labour and the Conservatives said they would “actively support” efforts to trigger a byelection – possible if at least 10% of the electorate in the constituency signed a recall petition.


Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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