Kiran Stacey and Kevin Rawlinson
Fri, 20 January 2023 at 6:22 pm GMT
Rishi Sunak has become the second sitting prime minister in history – and in the last 12 months – to be fined by the police after he received a fixed-penalty notice for not wearing his seatbelt.
Lancashire constabulary announced on Friday it was fining the prime minister, who filmed a social media video earlier this week while travelling in the back of a car without his belt on.
It is the second time Sunak has been fined in the past 12 months after he was punished by the Metropolitan police for attending Downing Street parties during lockdown.
Boris Johnson also received a fine at that time, which made him the first sitting prime minister to be penalised for breaking the law.
Lancashire constabulary said on Friday: “You will be aware that a video has been circulating on social media showing an individual failing to wear a seatbelt while a passenger in a moving car in Lancashire.
“After looking into this matter, we have today issued a 42-year-old man from London with a conditional offer of fixed penalty.”
A No 10 spokesperson said: “The prime minister fully accepts this was a mistake and has apologised. He will of course comply with the fixed penalty.”
The police did not say how much they had fined the prime minister, but according to the government’s safety campaign, any driver or passenger not wearing a seatbelt is breaking the law and is liable to be fined up to £500.
In the video, which was uploaded to Instagram but has since disappeared, Sunak turns to the camera without his belt on to talk about the government’s levelling up agenda. The car was being accompanied by police outriders as the prime minister travelled from one event to another.
Labour said the incident made Sunak a “laughing stock”. A party spokesperson said: “Hapless Rishi Sunak’s levelling-up photo op has blown up in his face and turned him into a laughing stock.
“He started the week hoping people would be grateful for a partial refund on the money that has been stripped from them over 13 years of the Tories. But instead he got a warring party and yet another fine from the police.
“Just when you thought this Tory government couldn’t get any more ridiculous, they manage it.”
The fine caps a tough week for Sunak, who travelled to northern England this week to publicise millions of pounds’ worth of grants that the government announced from its levelling up fund.
The visit was meant to showcase Sunak’s ability to connect with ordinary voters and to reset the government agenda after a bruising six months.
It was overshadowed, however, not only by the controversy over his seatbelt but by the revelation that he had travelled to Blackpool in a 14-seat RAF jet.
Meanwhile, the announcement of the latest round of levelling up funds was marred by accusations by Andy Street, the Conservative mayor for the West Midlands, that the government was fostering a “begging bowl culture” among local authorities. A Guardian analysis also revealed that Tory seats had received considerably more money from the fund than other seats with similar deprivation levels.