Express & Star

Toby Neal: Hands up, I too have been fined

Toby Neal casts his eye on the world of politics.

Indian getaway?

The great show trial began in the House of Commons this week.

Sir Keir Starmer QC outlined the case for the prosecution.

The defendant was absent from the dock, having absconded, but there was a sighting of somebody matching his description in India trying on a turban in an attempt to effect a disguise.

The public is warned not to approach this man, as it is feared he will say or do anything at all to escape justice.

And the verdict of the show trial? We have all been condemned and sentenced to further weeks, months, and perhaps even years of inquiries into the Partygate affair, which has consumed the resources of the Metropolitan Police, mesmerised the media and MPs, outraged a large section of public opinion, and deflected attention from the greatest global crisis in 60 years (I'm referring to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962) – a European war which is seeing towns, villages, and cities razed, millions displaced, and civilians murdered and buried in mass graves.

As it's all about hypocrisy (avoidance of), honesty and transparency, I feel compelled to admit that I too have had the shame of getting a fixed penalty notice.

And just like Boris Johnson, or at least as Boris Johnson claims, I didn't know I was doing wrong.

I appealed, of course. I told Wolverhampton Council that there were so many roadworks and road changes in the city centre that I could hardly be blamed if I didn't know if I was coming or going.

Dazed and confused, I had done what I normally do in such situations, which was to follow the car in front.

To be frank I didn't have high hopes, but there was a tactical advantage in appealing in that it meant the fine was suspended until they had ruled on the appeal, which was handy because I was overdrawn at the time.

When the ruling came, I was surprised. Instead of simply dismissing the appeal and calling me a clueless dolt, the council came up with a significant body of evidence including an incriminating CCTV photo of my 14-year-old banger entering Market Street (I should have followed the road round to Bilston Street rather than going straight on), and so going in a place that it didn't oughta, unless you have some sort of authority or dispensation, which the car I was following presumably had.

The council rubbed it in by pointing out there was a big notice as well.

I paid up, accepting the disgrace of being the first Toby Neal in office to receive such a fine, because that time when the council in Stafford tried to fine me for parking in the short stay area of a long stay car park, or vice versa, or whatever, I successfully appealed, providing evidence that the signage was rubbish.

Oh, come to think of it there was that time in Bridgnorth years ago, I think when they suddenly, and temporarily as it turned out, changed the one-way direction in Whitburn Street.

Memory fades. You see?

That's why I'm suspicious of the repeated claim that Boris Johnson is the first Prime Minister in office to have been fined for breaking rules.

Has anybody actually done any research? Or does it really mean that they simply haven't heard of any other Prime Minister being fined for anything, however minor? How would you find out anyway? There have been over 50 British Prime Ministers through history, which is an awful lot of lives and biographies to trawl through to uncover such wrongdoing, and I can't believe that anybody has put in the legwork.

And if Sir Robert Walpole had been fined for, say, riding his horse and carriage the wrong way down a one way street, would it even have been reported at the time?

If Boris Johnson does not resign it's going to run and run because with the Partygate saga so many now have skin in the game, as the Americans say.

So far he has been slapped with a fine of just £50, but there are predictions that more are to come. He does still have friends, though. In the Ukraine Boris Johnson is such a hero that they have named a street in his honour.

Liar, liar, liar, said Ian Blackford, the famous Scottish stuntman. It was dangerous, unparliamentary language from the leader of the SNP in the Commons. It risked getting him thrown out of the chamber, gaining lots of unwanted publicity.

Nothing happened though. I can only assume that Boris Johnson's standing has fallen so low that it has affected the Speaker's hearing.

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