Becoming an MP is not a normal change of profession - Fiona Onasanya speaks for the first time about her new Peterborough role
Questioning Theresa May on the Grenfell Tower disaster and being shy around Diane Abbott - becoming an MP is not your normal change of profession.
Winning the Peterborough seat was “my hope, my expectation, my desire,” said Fiona Onasanya, but on election night while the country was going crazy over an exit poll indicating a hung Parliament, she was watching a repeat of Britain’s Got Talent.
And when she arrived at the count at the Showground she said it never became obvious that she was on course for a life-changing election victory.
“It was not clear on the night at all. If anything, if I listened to the things being said to me, I would have thought I hadn’t won.
“Instead I decided to sit with mum, have a chat, go and get a squash or a soda water and lime. I kept saying to my campaign manager, ‘worry is a misuse of your imagination’.”
Winning, though, after a delay for a recount of bundled votes, felt incredible.
“It was surreal. I felt so grateful, so humbled, so honoured and so blessed. Twenty two thousand, nine hundred and fifty people put a cross in a box for me.
“To be honest I can’t even articulate how grateful I am.”
Straight after winning, the new MP was being handed an envelope telling her to go to Parliament for an induction on the following Monday.
“That’s like being at a Freshers’ Fair,” she said, describing the annual event for new university students. “You get there and they are like ‘this is your security pass, this is the laptop you need, this is the iPad you need.
“It’s a lot of information to take in. It’s just surreal. As I said in my Westminster Life column, the lift opened and Diane Abbott was in there. I was just like ‘Diane!’. When you go into the library it’s like Hogwarts - it’s amazing.”
For every winner there is always one person who feels the disappointment of defeat. But there has been nothing but mutual respect shown between Ms Onasanya and Stewart Jackson - who held the seat for 12 years - since the election result was announced.
The new MP had seen a video of Mr Jackson’s 2015 acceptance speech - where he angrily railed against the Labour Party - but she said he had never shown that side of his personality towards her.
“He’s always been respectful to me,” Ms Onasanya said. “Stewart was never rude to me during the campaign, he was always very gracious.”
Ms Onasanya said she has a good relationship with her party’s city councillors, and she hopes to form a close relationship with the top team at Peterborough City Council.
“It’s important that we all work together,” she said. “I don’t want it to be seen as ‘oh no, Fiona’s got in touch with us again’. I want it to be like ‘guys, we can do more here, or, what’s going on? How can I take this forward’?”
Asked what her tone will be with the council, she said: “I think I will use my skills acquired as a practising solicitor. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
“There are ways to get the result that you need, but you don’t need to be aggressive, you can be assertive. You don’t need to be breathing down their neck, but you need to let them know that I will take you to task on this issue. I’ll very much be proactive rather than reactive.”