Selection of next Peterborough Labour Party candidate will be more rigorous than Fiona Onasanya selection

The selection of the next Labour Party candidate in the Peterborough seat will follow a more rigorous process than the one to select Fiona Onasanya.

Tuesday, 29th January 2019, 1:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 7:43 pm
Fiona Onasanya in Peterborough following her conviction. Photo: Terry Harris
Fiona Onasanya in Peterborough following her conviction. Photo: Terry Harris

Labour Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner admitted his party had been forced to rush through the selection of Ms Onasanya in 2017 after Theresa May called a snap General Election.

But there may not be an election in Peterborough for a while despite Ms Onasanya - who was expelled by Labour the day after her conviction - being jailed for three months today for perverting the course of justice.

A recall petition will open up in Peterborough, and if 10 per cent of constituents sign it within a six week period Ms Onasanya will lose her seat.

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Fiona Onasanya in Peterborough following her conviction. Photo: Terry Harris

However, the petition cannot begin until her appeal against her conviction concludes which could be much later this year.

Speaking shortly after Ms Onasanya was sentenced at the Old Bailey this afternoon, Mr Zeichner said: “It will go through a normal selection process involving the National Executive Committee (NEC) and local members in Peterborough. That will start immediately.

“Fiona was selected in a shortened process when the Prime Minister called a snap General Election in 2017. I think Fiona might well have been selected in a full contest, but what we’ve seen in Fiona’s case, and in other places across the country, is the selection process was not always as exhaustive as it should have been.

“The main point was Fiona was perfectly capable of being a good representative for Peterborough and made poor decisions and let herself down.

“My view, and the view of the Labour Party, is she should resign and should have resigned before Christmas. I don’t know if she will do that.

“When it comes to the recall petition we will be supporting residents to get that because we want a representative for Peterborough in place as quick as possible.

“I feel very sad but she has let the people of Peterborough down and herself down.”

A decision on whether there will be an all-woman shortlist has not been made yet.

Mr Zeichner said the normal selection process takes around six to eight weeks, but could be quicker.

It is expected there will be interest among Peterborough councillors and constituency members to stand for the role, including from former parliamentary candidates.

Reflecting on Ms Onasanya’s conviction, Mr Zeichner added: “I’m personally sad. I was one of the people who helped encourage her to come into politics in the first place.

“I was not particularly close to her, but I watched her progress with pleasure and was delighted when she was elected.

“She surprised me by turning up at my victory party at Cambridge United after we were both elected.

“I hope she can rebuild her life.”

Candidates announced so far for the Peterborough seat are: Paul Bristow (Conservative), Beki Sellick (Liberal Democrat), John Whitby (UKIP), Joseph Wells (Green Party) and Patrick O’Flynn (SDP).

Parties have been actively campaigning in recent weeks in anticipation of a by-election, with several shadow ministers visiting Peterborough over recent weeks to join Labour canvassing.

A Peterborough Labour spokesperson said: “Fiona Onasanya has let the voters of Peterborough down. The Labour Party expelled Fiona immediately following her conviction and called on her to stand down from Parliament.

“The sentence given today still gives Fiona the opportunity to do the honourable thing and resign from Parliament. We believe she should do this without delay.

“If Fiona does not resign Peterborough Labour will be working with local residents to trigger a by-election through a recall petition. This will require 10 percent of Peterborough constituents signing up to recall Fiona from pParliament. We hope to achieve this and have a by-election as soon as possible.

“We will be selecting a Labour candidate shortly. they will go through a robust selection process involving our National Executive Committee and local Peterborough members - we are confident that they will be an excellent representative for our city.

“Here in Peterborough we have been let down for years by the incompetence of the Tory council and starved of resources by this Tory government. We will elect a Labour MP who will lobby to get more high-skilled jobs in Peterborough, who will fight to get the money our police need to put bobbies back on the beat, and who will stop the relentless slide in school standards letting down our children.

“We have lots of reasons to be proud of our city, however, we do face real problems here. Problems that a Tory MP joining a Tory council and Tory government will simply do nothing to solve.

“We need a fresh start and a new vision for Peterborough. Labour will provide that.”

A Conservative spokesman said: “Labour’s Fiona Onasanya has let Peterborough down. She cannot possibly represent her constituents from prison and should do the decent thing and immediately step down.

“If she doesn’t, we will campaign to use a recall petition to ensure that the residents of Peterborough can have their say in a by-election for a new MP.

“Labour are ignoring the democratic vote of Peterborough and are doing all they can to frustrate Brexit for political purposes. The people of Peterborough deserve a Conservative MP who will respect their views.”

Mr Whitby said: “During his defence of Ms Onasanya her barrister told the court that she only remained as an MP due to it being her sole source of income.

“This proves beyond reasonable doubt that she holds the people of Peterborough in sheer contempt and is not motivated by the high ideals of public service but by opportunist greed.

“She has been paid roughly £8,900 in salary since her conviction and these are ill-gotten gains as they have been made at the expense of people she has badly let down.

“I am calling for Ms Onasanya to resign immediately as Peterborough’s MP and to let the people of Peterborough elect a representative who puts them first and can represent them in Westminster.

“UKIP will be campaigning to invoke the recall act and to give Peterborough a voice at a critical time for its future and for the future of the entire nation.”

Ms Sellick said: “ur MP (that Labour wished on us) is in prison tonight following her sentence for lying, so Peterborough has no one to represent us in Parliament against this Tory Brexit.

“She helped stop Parliament getting back control over Brexit in the crucial votes this evening. Fiona Onasanya is out to make the most money she can from us - she refused to admit her guilt, going through with the full trial - and she’s still drawing her full MP salary.

“She should resign now and stop wasting our money - and wasting our votes.”