Opinion: ‘Why I asked to be temporarily disqualified from driving’

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 6:07 am
A mobile speed camera.

There are times when we face a choice.

Recently, I have had a serious choice. There was an option that might have avoided consequences, but would make me a hypocrite.

So I picked the other option, admitted responsibility for a speeding offence and asked to be temporarily disqualified for driving.

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What is it with MPs for Peterborough and speeding? This is embarrassing.

I want to be clear. The incidents that triggered my request occurred on dual carriageways and both involved sections where the speed limit suddenly drops.

Some of the advice I received was to contest the latest offence, or try to explain mitigating circumstances and avoid disqualification. But how could I do that?

How could I campaign for speed cameras or tougher measures on ordinary Peterborough streets, if I asked a court to award me fewer points than my offence normally merits? If I offered excuses?

I need to be able to campaign about speeding on residential streets without any suggestion of hypocrisy.

There are roads in Paston, Dogsthorpe, Bretton, and across the city that require action. The only way for me to retain credibility when doing this was to admit responsibility and tell you what happened.

You probably know the stretch of the Fletton Parkway, where you come off the A1 and the limit reduces to 60mph. A number of my constituents have been caught by the speed camera there. Some have even written to me, suggesting it should be moved.

But they are wrong. Speeding is speeding. I didn’t reduce my speed quickly enough and deserved to be fined. The parkway’s limit needs to be followed.

My recent offence also involved the A1. There’s another point, just before you come to the Buckden roundabout, where the speed limit drops from 70 miles an hour to just 50mph.

A police van was positioned there and recorded me speeding.

I could argue that I was keeping pace other vehicles. It was a dual carriageway, not a residential area, and a speed change on a dual carriageway is unusual.

But it’s there for a reason. This stretch of the A1 starts to approach a roundabout and a village. Again, I was an idiot and deserved to be fined.

Multiple offenses mean multiple points. The advice to wriggle off the hook, would have been highly damaging in the ways that count.

We don’t want politicians who think the rules aren’t applicable to them. It destroys trust.

We badly need drivers to slow down on our residential streets. I can’t call for their speeding to have consequences, without accepting that my own misjudgements on the A1 should too.

Only by asking to be disqualified can I look constituents in the eye.

So here I am, writing this column. Another Peterborough MP with a speeding issue.

Fiona Onasanya ruined her political and legal career, and ending up behind bars. Perhaps the worst that will happen to me is a temporary disqualification from driving.

I’m sure I’ll get some stick, in various shades of good and bad humour.

What matters is that I can still campaign for people in this city who need my help. That makes it worth the rap.