The editor of the Peterborough Telegraph has said it would be “wrong” to censor the weekly column of an MP found guilty of lying to avoid a speeding charge as he defended its continued publication.
Fiona Onasanya (pictured with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn) faces a possible jail term after being convicted by a jury of perverting the course of justice at the Old Bailey on 19 December last year.
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Onasanya claimed someone else had been driving her Nissan Micra when she was caught driving at 41mph in a 30mph zone in Thorney, Cambridgeshire, on 24 July 2017.
However, police discovered that the man she claimed had been driving the car was out of the country when the incident took place.
Onasanya was elected Labour MP for Peterborough in 2017 but was suspended by the party following her conviction.
She used her column in the JPI Media-owned Peterborough Telegraph last week to indicate she intends to stay in Parliament, although the piece did not make any direct reference to her conviction.
In the column, headlined: “I will continue to fight against injustices”, Onasanya wrote: “While it has been a successful year fighting back against these injustices, there is still much more to be done, and you can rest assured that I will continue to do so as your representative in the corridors of power.”
Writing at the top of the column, editor Mark Edwards said the newspaper had been asked why it was continuing to publish Onasanya’s columns following her conviction.
One such person appeared to be Northamptonshire councillor Sam Watts, of the Social Democratic Party, who tweeted the newspaper asking whether it will “do the honourable thing and pull her regular column”,
Edwards wrote: “The PT offers columns to the two sitting MPs covering Peterborough if they choose to submit one.
“While she is still the MP – and therefore the elected representative – we believe it would be wrong to deny our readers the chance to read what she has submitted.
“To censor the column would, in my view, be wrong, and in my experience our readers are quite capable of making their own minds up about the columns submitted by local politicians.
“The column will of course remain subject to our normal legal and Editor’s Code of Conduct boundaries.”
In a column published in the Peterborough Telegraph on 20 December, and then online 11 days later, Edwards called for Onasanya’s resignation, saying she was “unfortunately no longer fit to be an MP”.
Onasanya is due to be sentenced on an as yet unconfirmed date.
Under parliamentary rules, she will only lose her seat in the House of Commons if she is imprisoned for a year or more.
Picture: Reuters/Darren Staples