BY JAMES MARTIN
So it finally came to pass that the thoroughly disgraced formerly Labour, now independent, MP Fiona Onasanya was sentenced to three months in prison for perverting the course of justice. The sixth Labour MP to be imprisoned in under a decade, Onasanya holds the dubious distinction of being the first sitting female MP ever to be sent to the slammer.
Glossing over the fact that the actual amount of time she’ll serve could be best expressed in weeks, if not days, and the fact that the judge did his level best to avoid giving her the custodial sentence that he reluctantly concluded was inevitable and unavoidable, this at least sent a semblance of a message that MPs are not above the law. Not that Ms Onasanya shares that view – it’s racist, it’s sexist, it’s because she’s left-wing, a Corbyn supporter, a “victim” and so on.
Onasanya’s stance – that the whole thing is one big conspiracy – is strange in the extreme, given that the initial offending (the speeding) was captured by an ANPR device, and, as such, it’s hard to see how she could possibly claim that she was targeted at all, much less for any of the reasons above. The camera is about as impartial as it is possible to be. After that, her conduct is down to her, and to her alone. Or maybe her and her criminal of a brother with his list of antecedent convictions as long as your arm. Either way, it’s hard to avoid the glaringly obvious conclusion that she is entirely the author of her own most unfortunate of misfortunes.
Onasanya’s continued protestations of innocence, despite damning evidence to the contrary, despite the jury’s verdict, despite the sentencing judge making clear that he agreed with the jury’s verdict, despite the fact that, as a solicitor, she can’t say she didn’t understand either the form or the implications of lying on it, coupled with her resolute refusal to resign as an MP and her barrister’s brazen attempt to justify her continuing to sit as an MP as, “it is her only source of income” gives away a complete sense of entitlement. A belief that the rules don’t apply to her, which is likely how she ended up in this mess in the first place. Only a special kind of arrogance and/or idiocy can turn three points on a clean licence and a tiny fine into a prison sentence, the end of two highly lucrative careers, an estimated £500,000 in public cost, plus whatever her defence costs amount to. Oh, and the idiot brother going to prison too. Christmas at the Onasanya household must’ve been fun this year!
As a raging Tory, I want to feel smug about this – look for the political advantage, issue holier than thou lectures and the like – MPs shouldn’t lie to the police, Labour should vet their candidates, why on earth wasn’t the whip withdrawn and so on? Clearly, the longer Onasanya is in prison without resigning as an MP, the better this is for the Tories – the more media stories there are, more vox pops in Peterborough about how Mrs Moggins can’t get any help with her wheelchair, and Beryl can’t get the council to turn the heating back on for bingo.
We may even end up in a situation that Onasanya is the incumbent at the next General Election. Just imagine the fun we would have with that – “do you want an honest Tory, or Labour’s convicted criminal?”
Even more glorious would be if a Labour or Remain amendment were to be defeated by one vote – the absence of her vote, in effect. How we would laugh, mock Corbyn and Co, issue pompous statements about how their convicted criminal and fixation with Marxist identity politics had impacted Brexit. Even better, imagine if Onasanya’s absence stopped Labour from collapsing the government.
Unfortunately, though, I can’t help but feel anything but a great sense of sadness about the whole sorry debacle. A minority woman, from a modest background, who didn’t go to the world’s finest university managed to pay for the LPC (the fees are crippling) and became a qualified solicitor. She worked at Eversheds, no less. And without the advantages that many of her colleagues would have had. She’s going to be kicked out of parliament one way or another, and there’s no way she can avoid being struck off as a solicitor (not that it particularly matters in practice, as she would be unemployable anyway).
But here’s the thing – Fiona Onasanya doesn’t deserve your sympathy. Not in the slightest. If you really want somewhere to direct your sympathy, direct it towards the law school colleague of hers whom she beat to that training contract. Graduate law schools in this country are packed to the rafters with intelligent, highly-motivated and driven candidates who, largely through no fault of their own and as a result of the ridiculously high numbers admitted each year, will not get a training contract or a pupillage, much less end up at Eversheds. Direct your sympathy towards the person whose parents didn’t get to watch on with pride outside the famous Law Society gates on Chancery Lane, who didn’t get to brag about their son or daughter “the solicitor”. The parents who chipped in and who helped and supported the person who missed out. The person who would have taken that opportunity and been so thankful that they would have conducted themselves with honour and dignity and fully believed that being a lawyer and parliamentarian imposes a higher duty to compliance with the law, not absolves you of responsibility and blame. Direct your sympathy to her former clients, now wondering what else she lied about and if she broke any other laws. Direct your sympathy towards her staff who will have to spend the next few months defending her refusal to resign – a decision that even the most partisan Corbyn-loving turnip-harvesting leftie – even one of the three people who actually bought a ticket to Labour Live – couldn’t really support. They’re going to take the abuse until she’s finally kicked out – at which point they will lose their jobs too, or they will reach a stage where they can’t take it anymore and resign.
As Fiona Onasanya spends those few weeks of custodial time, I hope she reflects not only on how absurdly ridiculous this whole situation was – not only on the absurdity of going to prison over what started life as a speeding offence, the loss of probably millions in lifetime income, and not even just on how it is entirely her fault, despite her possessing an ability rivalled only by my mother-in-law to make everything someone else’s fault – but on the opportunities that she took from others, and how she failed to live up to the responsibility and honour that was bestowed upon her. This is a very tragic situation and a sad end to what should have been a success story for others to aspire to. Onasanya has literally nobody to blame but herself.