Voters in Peterborough will head to the polls on 6 June to elect a new MP, after 27% of eligible constituents signed a recall petition calling for incumbent Fiona Onasanya to stand down.
What did Onasanya do?
The 35-year-old MP was found guilty of perverting the course of justice by colluding with her brother to avoid having three points added to her licence for speeding.
The jury was told that she lied “persistently and deliberately” to avoid prosecution.
She was expelled from the Labour party before serving 28 days of a three-month prison sentence, while her brother was sentenced to ten months in jail for the same crime.
Why wasn’t she forced to stand down?
MPs are automatically expelled from Parliament only if their custodial sentence exceeds 12 months. Nevertheless Labour still urged Onasanya to “act honourably and resign”.
She continued to sit as an independent, stressing her innocence in a video posted on social media and vowing to fight to clear her name.
However, she lost an appeal against her conviction when judges ruled there was “absolutely no basis” for a legal challenge, Sky News reports.
Under the Recall Act (2015), voters in her constituency were able to sign a petition to vacate the seat and trigger a by-election. The petition needed the signatures of more than 10% of eligible electors – around 7,000 people in this case – within an allotted six-week period.
In the end, more than 19,261 signatures were obtained from the 69,673 electors eligible to sign the petition, or 27.64%, well exceeding the 10% required to vacate the seat.
This was the first time the Recall Act has been successfully used to remove an MP. Last year, Ian Paisley Jr, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP for North Antrim, held on to his seat after a recall petition against him failed to garner the requisite number.
Paisley was suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days last June for accepting luxury holidays to Sri Lanka worth £100,000, and not disclosing them.
Who is running for selection?
Labour won in Peterborough by just 607 votes in the 2017 general election, beating Conservative Stewart Jackson, who had held the seat since 2005.
Jeremy Corbyn’s party has vowed to fight any by-election “vigorously” and has selected Lisa Forbes, who stood for the seat in 2015, to run.
The Tories have selected Brexit supporter and local resident Paul Bristow to stand in the constituency where more than 60% of residents voted to leave the EU. Local councillor John Whitby has been selected to stand for UKIP.
The Independent reports that the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and newly formed party Change UK were last night “holding conversations about supporting a candidate” to stand on a united pro-Remain People’s Vote platform.
“But it is understood that talks are still ongoing over whether the pro-EU parties could support a single candidate, rather than splitting the Remain vote in what is sure to be a closely fought election,” says the news site.
Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party has sought to capitalise on the strong Leave vote in the area, announcing it will field Mike Greene, a former contestant on Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire, as a candidate.
Sky News reports that former Respect MP George Galloway announced he would be standing last week, but has now withdrawn after the Brexit Party’s announcement.
He said he had “tried to persuade” Farage to support his candidacy to “emphasise the broad democratic alliance the campaign must be and balance the candidatures of Ms (Ann) Widdecombe and Ms (sister of William Rees-Mogg, Annunziata) Rees-Mogg”.