Jailed MP faces petition to remove her from Parliament

Voters in Peterborough are being given the opportunity to sign a petition to force a by-election following the conviction of MP Fiona Onasanya for lying about a speeding offence.

Peterborough City Council announced that the petition will be opened on March 19 and voters will have six weeks to sign before it closes at 5pm on May 1.

If it attracts the signatures of 10% of eligible voters – about 7,000 people – Ms Onasanya will be forced out and a by-election called. Under recall rules, the 35-year-old lawyer will be permitted to stand for re-election.

She is the second MP – and the first in England – to be subjected to a recall petition since the procedure was introduced in 2015 to give voters a means of ousting errant MPs in between elections.

General Election 2017
Fiona Onasanya was elected Labour MP for Peterborough in 2017 (Chris Radburn/PA)

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jr narrowly avoided recall last year when 9.4% of eligible constituents signed a petition demanding his removal after he was suspended from Parliament for failing to declare a holiday paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

Ms Onasanya was elected for Labour in the Cambridgeshire city in 2017 by a wafer-thin majority of 607 votes, but was expelled from the party after her conviction for perverting the course of justice.

She resisted calls to stand down from Parliament, sitting as an independent as she spent one month of a three-month sentence behind bars. She was not subject to automatic removal as an MP as her sentence was less than 12 months.

Recall petitions are launched when MPs receive a custodial sentence – including a suspended sentence – are barred from the Commons for 10 sitting days or are convicted of providing false information about their expenses.

Commons Speaker John Bercow wrote on Tuesday to Peterborough Council to inform them she was subject to a recall petition after she failed in a bid to have her conviction overturned at the Court of Appeal.

Voters in Peterborough will each be allocated to one of 10 signing stations around the constituency and can also apply to make a postal or proxy signature.

Peterborough’s petition officer Gillian Beasley said that no updates on the progress of the petition would be made while it remains open. After it closes, the result will be sent to the Commons Speaker and the council will await his reply before publishing it.

The petition process will cost around £500,000, funded by central government.

Ms Beasley said: “I will be giving Fiona Onasanya notice of the recall petition personally so that she is aware the process is now under way.

“This is the first time that a recall petition has been held in England and Wales and we have just 10 working days to set up the process and make electors aware of their right to sign and how they can do so.

“We have planned carefully for this recall petition over a number of weeks in order to be ready to run the process efficiently and effectively.”