BY LIAM DEACON
Somewhat lost in the fog of the Brexit war raging in Westminster, another, more parochial yet still significant, landmark battle in British democracy could soon be won, with a British parliamentarian set to become the first in history booted out of the job by constituents mid-term, after a recall petition was launched following her release from jail.
Fiona Onasanya was part of the pro-Corbyn wave of new Labour MPs, elected over two tumultuous political years between 2015 and 2017, who were loudly celebrated for their “identity.” Labour, which once focused on putting working class people in parliament, was moving with the times and rapidly promoting female, single parent, black, and disabled MPs, so we were told.
Surely this was unquestionably a good thing: A sign of increased social mobility helping to bring about a parliament that looks like us?
Yet, over the four years that followed – in which I have reported on each of the following cases – all of the most prominent Labour parliamentarians to be awarded the tabloid title of “disgraced MP,” having been forced out of front bench jobs or even the party itself, have come from this group.
So what went wrong?
Many of Labour’s newest MPs are great at their jobs and many straight white male MPs have and continue to do awful things. But, part of the explanation may be, that, in the hast to promote “protected characteristics” under Corbyn, proper vetting was sidelined and ideas, suitability and merit became only secondary concerns.
This may have been done, consciously or unconsciously, by well-meaning people, but the result has been only to give ammunition to the bigots out there who really do think minorities are somehow not as capable.
The first example was Jared O’Mara, who unseated Nick Clegg in Sheffield. A staunchly pro-Corbyn former charity worker who sufferers from cerebral palsy, he promised to fight for disability rights and against poverty.
Yet, Jared, it turned out, had an extensive and barely concealed history of odious online attacks on women and gay people and sleazy, sexualised rants in public Internet forums. He was also accused of a physical attack on a woman in the real world, which he continues to deny.
Less than six months after starting as an MP, before he even gave his maiden speech, Jared was temporarily suspended from the party and retired to his constituency, where he reportedly did very little constituency work whilst on full pay, and made a series of further “gaffes.”
Jared, see, was selected to stand ahead of the 2017 snap election by a tiny NEC panel with “no interview, no speech [and] no selection by local members,” according to reporters converging the campaign.
The same process was used to select Onasanya, a solicitor and former councillor. She had been an MP for Peterborough for little over a month when she took a car journey that would end in a conviction for perverting the course of justice and see her banished from the Labour party.
Onasanya colluded with her brother in an attempt to pass a speeding ticket onto someone else – a tactic that has famously ended badly for MPs before – before repeatedly lying to police, and then being caught out, convicted, comparing herself to Jesus Christ and refusing to resign her seat and trigger a by-election, as the party demanded.
She was sentenced to three months in jail, with the judge reportedly telling her: “You have been an able parliamentarian and a role model to young black women by your achievements.” Her identity, once again, appeared to take precedence over the reality of her actions.
The next to fall was “successful single mother” Kate Osamor. She entered parliament in 2015 – after a full selection process – as part of the first wave of pro-Corbyn MPs propelled to power by student identity politics-obsessed Momentum and their powerful, youth-led social media campaign machine, which had swept Corbyn himself to the top of Labour.
She hit the headlines immediately after entering the house for allegedly plagiarising her maiden speech from Barack Obama and a local constituency newsletter, and in the two years since, quickly rose to the front benches to become the head of what could be described as the UK’s first Corbynite political dynasty.
Daughter of celebrated black rights campaigner Martha, who – some say unfairly – lost out on the chance to stand as an MP to the Brexiteer Kate Hoey in 1989 and mother of Ishmael, who became a north London Labour councillor, allegedly thanks to a nomination from his Mum following controversial de-selections pushed by Momentum.
Having previously worked in admin in the NHS, Kate achieved what her mother could not; she became an MP, beginning to right past wrongs in minds of some, before her Mum was elevated to the House of Lords by Corbyn, all cheered on by Momentum.
Baroness Osamor may have been a groundbreaking black rights campaigner who was overlooked, but does this justify nepotism and make the next two generations of her family deserving of public office by default, echoing the posh white chumocracies of old? The fact Ishmael was soon after caught with a huge drugs haul, which he and his mother failed to declare to voters after he’d been charged and issued false statements about, and before Kate threated to violently attack a journalist reporting on the story, seems to indicate not.
The Osamors’ apparent sense of entitlement further enraged many when it transpired Kate was continuing to employ her drug-convict son in the heart of Parliament, on a very generous wage, whilst “proud[ly]” living in a taxpayer-funded council house in a borough with roughly ten thousand people in temporary accommodation.
She had also used parliamentary correspondence to pressure a judge into offering her “beautiful” son leniency – surely the very definition of class privilege?
All of us should want to see more working class and minority people in parliament, but I for one want to see them there because they deserve it. Positive discrimination is, largely, illegal in this country and we’ve had this argument before over Labour’s all-women shortlists.
But a Labour “democracy review” has now demanded all BAME shortlists for elections, the party has attempted to slash conference ticket prices for ethnic minorities, and the BBC and others are offering prestigious internships exclusively for non-white people.
The numbers of some minority groups in politics, here and in the US, are surging right now, consistently hitting new record levels. Better representation is great but my worry is that if zealots force the process – pushing people into jobs they are not ready for or deserving of – ultimately a worthy cause will be harmed.
Liam Deacon works as a news reporter at the Daily Star Online, covering crime, politics, and a wide range of tabloid interest stories. Liam has also regularly appeared on radio (Sirius XM, talkRADIO, the Jon Gaunt show, BBC Radio Scotland, and Radio 5 live). Liam worked at the online tabloid Breitbart from 2015 to 2018 – before Breitbart, he covered drug policy at the website Talking Drugs and for VICE on a freelance basis. Liam has contributed to the Huffington Post blog, to the Guardian, Spiked-Online, Left Foot Forward, Conservative Woman, and FreeThoughtBlog.