I first met Fiona Onasanya at pre-election hustings at Peterborough Regional College before she narrowly won the city seat in 2017. She was pleasant, eloquent and enthusiastic.
She handled the rough and tumble of the hustings debate that I chaired that evening very well. Even her political opponents at that debate commented to me on what a pleasant person she was. Whatever your political allegiances it had to be acknowledged that she was an impressive candidate - and ultimately a successful one. No-one should take any pleasure from what has now happened to her since that dramatic election victory in June last year. The PT exclusively revealed that the Peterborough MP was facing trial for perverting the course of justice on our website on July 25 this year. Since then the case, and her subsequent retrial, has become a major national story. When we first became aware of the details of the case we at the PT were somewhat incredulous. It did not seem likely that an intelligent, legally qualified, highly driven individual like Fiona Onasanya would allow herself to end up in a situation where she went on trial for conspiring to avoid three points on her licence - a clean licence at that. How could she possibly risk her personal reputation, her political and her legal careers like that? For the sake of three points and a modest fine? It beggared belief then and it still does today. But as the trial continued the evidence mounted. The damning testimony of people who had been staunch political supporters ... her inability to remember whether she was at the wheel of her own car, her refusal to comment at police interview. The Old Bailey jury at her retrial returned a unanimous verdict. Her arguments that she did not know what was going on with her speeding ticket stretched credibility past breaking point... she is legally trained after all. There are well documented examples of MPs who have served in Parliament having been found guilty in court of an offence and who have served custodial sentences. Fiona Onasanya will now have to wait for the court’s sentence - she has been warned that all options are possible. That doesn’t mean that legally she can never be an MP again, it may not even mean that she has to resign as an MP now. But she should. She is no longer fit to represent the people of Peterborough. Not simply because she has been found guilty of perverting the course of justice and her integrity has been shattered, but because the errors of judgement she has shown throughout this sorry affair have been colossal. Her judgement can’t be trusted. The city deserves better and the city needs better. She must resign now.
(First published in The Peterborough Telegraph December 20 2018)