EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Peterborough MP aims to be UK’s first black female Prime Minister

Fiona Onasanya
Fiona Onasanya

If Fiona Onasanya achieves her ambition of becoming the first black, female Prime Minister of the UK it will all be down to a chance meeting in a pub with a man who was eavesdropping on her conversation.

The MP for Peterborough’s rapid rise from commercial property solicitor to the Palace of Westminster all began at the Burleigh Arms in Cambridge six years ago.

She recalled: “I was sitting in a pub talking to my friend about the London riots. This was in 2011.

“The secretary of the Cambridge Labour Party was there, and the gentleman came over and said ‘I hope you don’t mind me eavesdropping on your conversation, but have you ever thought about politics?’

“And I said ‘absolutely not, law’s my thing. I’m not into the politics of politics. I don’t want to attack people personally. I want to make real change, I want to help people. If you’re asking me would I be interested in helping people, I’m sold. Where do I sign up? But if you just want me to join a talking shop where you’re not going to do much and just talk about things, that’s not really for me’.

“He said, ‘it’s not like that - look online, look at our manifesto, see what you think and we’ll take it from there’.

“So I went online, had a look, and thought ‘hang on, this is a movement for good and a movement for all. How can I find fault with that’?”

Six years after that pub conversation, including four years as a Cambridgeshire county councillor, Ms Onasanya was standing on a podium at the Showground in Peterborough having been elected as the city’s new MP.

But becoming a recognisable person can also have its drawbacks, as it leaves you as a target to sad members of society who feel the need to attack the colour of your skin.

Asked if she had ever suffered from racism, Ms Onasanya said: “Racism becomes an issue more if I allow it to become one. I’ve actually had racist remarks made to me since becoming an MP with voicemails left.

“I’m not going to get offended - offence is something you take rather than something you give. I choose not to take offence. It’s that simple.

“I reported it to the police because I think the person needs to be aware it’s not acceptable.”

The police are due to speak to the individual, the MP confirmed, but despite the racist abuse she is aiming high when it comes to her future ambitions.

“I would like one day in the future to become the first black, female Prime Minister of this country,” Ms Onasanya said.

“I think that’s years and years in the making. My dad used to say to me, ‘if you aim for the top of the tree and miss, you come out somewhere near the top and you still come out with something. If you aim for the bottom branch and you miss you come out with nothing.

“My intention is to be here for a very long time and to do that I need to serve the people of Peterborough well and that’s exactly what I intend to do.”

For now, Ms Onasanya is happy to support Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn whose manifesto she described as “fantastic.”

She said: “I support the democratically elected leader of the party. I think it’s very important to get behind your leader. A house divided against itself can’t stand.”