Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the House of Commons Harriet Harman is ‘helping police with their enquiries’ about a minor car crash in which it is alleged Ms Harman committed two offences: driving while talking on a mobile phone and leaving the scene of a collision without swapping contact and registration details. Both are serious offences, the latter carrying a potential 6 month prison sentence. Ms Harman has form here. In 2003 she was fined £400 and banned from driving for a week after being convicted of driving at 99 miles per hour on a motorway, 29 mph above the speed limit. In 2007 she received a £60 penalty notice for driving at 50 mph in a 40 mph zone. As The Times reports today, Ministers convicted of traffic offences have traditionally had to resign their ministerial careers, though these days it does seem to take a lot more before ‘honourable’ Members to do the honourable thing. As the row continues to rumble on, perhaps there’s an opportunity to turn it round to her own benefit.
Ms Harman (pictured, left) is Member of Parliament for the Peckham constituency, just a few miles by bicycle from Westminster. Instead of driving to work each day she could get on her bike and follow the delightful Cycle Route 23 up through Dulwich, Camberwell, Walworth and Kennington. Should she feel a little trepidacious about taking to two wheels, it’s worth remembering that as a resident of the London Borough of Southwark she qualifies for free one-to-one cycle training from the excellent Southwark-based social enterprise Cycle Training UK. And that she will be certain to join Southwark Cyclists, London’s premier borough group that contributes so much to London cycling: from advocacy and campaigning, to bike maintenance courses and bike polo as well as organising rides like the legendary Dunwich Dynamo and themed rides during the London Festival of Architecture.
Ms Harman has always spoken up on the issue of women’s rights and to strike a blow for the stylish women a-wheel she could get herself kitted out in the new Autumn collection from Cyclodelic, the Hackney-based fashion company run by young designer and entrepreneur Amy Fleuriot. Readers with a long memory will recall that before her conversion to ‘new Labour’ Ms Harman was something of a left wing firebrand, earning herself the nickname ‘Hard Hat’. Now is the time for her to revive the moniker and I’m sure Amy will be happy to collaborate on new a line of stylish bicycle helmets, aimed squarely at the women’s market and designed to allow the rider to jump straight from her bicycle into the bright lights of the television studio with not a hair out of place.
By committing herself the bicycle, Ms Harman would, at a pedal stroke, put her motorised misdemeanours behind her and, who knows, steal a march on the new crop of bicycling Tories who are doing such a good job of appropriating this most egalitarian, left-leaning mode of transport for the libertarian right. For important people on the move in the capital, there’s nothing better than a bike. You can even ride while talking on the mobile phone, as Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson shows us, below.