It’s been reported that Lord Howard, once a hardline Home Secretary who became briefly the leader of the Conservative Party, has had a little local difficulty with the law. When his car was detected speeding, Lord Howard was unable to say whether he or his wife was driving. It’s a route they drive frequently, the notice of committing an offence comes some time after the offence has been committed, and either of them could have been driving. Lord Howard has been heavily penalised for not making the declaration, suffering a penal fine and extra points. The two drivers had the same number of points; they could have agreed a story between themselves; they could have lied. They chose not to. Instead, they gave the honest answer: we don’t know.
Regular readers of this blog will be ahead of me. I’ve argued for years, sometimes to the bafflement of MPs and MSPs, that people claiming social security can’t sensibly answer the questions that the authorities want to ask them. People with disabilities can’t say whether they’re disabled or not (most of them get it wrong). People who are forming a relatonship with someone else often can’t say when that person becomes a partner. People who start work in our new, ‘flexible’ labour market may not know whether they’ve got a job or not, or even if they’re going to be paid. When they fail to answer the black-and-white question, or when they plump for the wrong answer, they’re penalised for it. I trust that Lord Howard will now have the insight to champion their cause.