When MPs drive badly

Image of Ed Balls on purple background
He don't see nuthin' wrong, with a little bump and run
"It’s not the first time Balls has been in trouble on the road"
  • | by Kristian Dando

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has been slapped with a £1,000 fine and five penalty points for accidentally bumping into a Peugeot 308 in his Ford Mondeo and driving away without telling anyone.

The MP for Morley and Outwood might have faced a ban after the incident in his constituency earlier this year, but the presiding judge said that the offence was on the ‘lower end’ of the scale of seriousness and opted not to revoke the pugnacious MP’s licence.

It’s not the first time Balls has been in trouble on the road – he was on the wrong end of a £350 fine last year for jumping a red light near Parliament, and he's previously been caught using his mobile phone while driving.

Despite evidence pointing to the contrary, insurers tend to look at members of parliament as fairly low-risk cases. According to research from Gocompare.com, the average best premium for an MP’s car insurance is around £150 cheaper than average.*

We’ve spoken before about footballers doing daft things in their cars, but we reckon that our elected officials aren’t much better – as this selection of motoring gaffes demonstrates…

Harriet Harman gets banned for speeding

The deputy leader of the Labour Party and MP for Camberwell and Peckham is a bit of a serial offender.

In February 2003, Harman was clocked driving at 99mph near Swindon in her Rover 75 while taking her son back to Bristol University from London. She was given a seven-day ban and a £400 fine. At the time, the AA described the punishment as “a bit lenient”.

It might have been on to something, as Harman clearly didn’t learn her lesson. In 2010, she was given a £350 ban and points on her licence for driving while talking on her mobile phone, amid calls for a further ban.

Carnage in Banbury as MP drives into a portaloo

Sir Tony Baldry, Conservative MP for Banbury, did some serious damage with a runaway Mercedes in a car park in his Oxfordshire constituency in 2010.

The former aide to Margaret Thatcher lost control of the car after reaching out to pick up a parking ticket he had dropped. The black C-Class veered through a car park, hitting a portaloo, several cars and a concrete bollard on its way. It eventually stopped when it hit the wall of a nearby Poundstretcher, covered in toilet paper.

Baldry was breathalysed, but returned a negative sample. He later described the incident as “very scary”.

Eric Joyce spends a night in the cells

‘Controversial’ former army major and MP for Falkirk Eric Joyce spent an evening in a police cell after an unexplained incident at a petrochemical plant near his constituency in 2010.

The MP, who had called middle-class voters “hypocrites and drunkards” several days before his arrest, was discovered “smelling of alcohol” in his car by security guards. His car had also been damaged.

Joyce subsequently stepped down from the Labour front bench.

But that wasn’t the end of his troubles. In 2012, he was arrested for a drunken brawl in a Commons bar. The next month, he admitted a relationship with a teenage party volunteer, and announced he would be stepping away from politics at the 2015 general election.

Zac Goldsmith burns rubber

Zac Goldsmith, the environmentally conscious Conservative MP for Richmond and former Ecologist editor, was banned from driving earlier this year after a hat-trick of speeding offences.

The trendily coiffed 39-year-old was caught three times over a short space of time in his Toyota Prius, and disqualified for six months.

Chris Huhne goes to prison

A simple speeding rap ended up turning into a stretch in the slammer for the former secretary of state for climate change.

In March 2003, Huhne was clocked speeding on the way to London from Stansted Airport.

He already had a few points on his licence, and an additional offence would have meant a ban. So, he persuaded his then-wife, economist Vicky Pryce, to tell the police that she was driving at the time.

However, eight years and a messy divorce later, Pryce revealed that she had taken the points on her ex-husband’s behalf. They both ended up in court on charges of perverting the course of justice.

In March 2013, both were found guilty and sentenced to eight months. They were out by May, but the former husband and wife suffered the ignominy of wearing electronic tags on release. Huhne was also ordered to pay the £77,750 legal costs of the case.

* Average best premium for an MP is £576.48, £733.31 other. Figure based on the average best premium for car quotes carried out on Gocompare.com between January and July 2014 with the customer also being the proposer.