A desire for a quick getaway after his controversial speech left Ed Balls red-faced when his driver was caught parking in a disabled bay. The shadow chancellor jumped into a vehicle waiting in the restricted space after his controversial speech on the 50p tax rate.
TV cameras filmed the Toyota Prius, popular among politicians because of its ‘green credentials’, as it waited for the Labour frontbencher.
Clear white ‘disabled’ markings could be seen on the road as it sped off from the bay outside the Institute for Education in Bloomsbury, central London.
The footage sparked outrage among disability campaigners who denounced his actions as ‘taking advantage’.
But his staff claimed he had ‘no idea’ it was parked illegally because the car had been booked by a TV company.
Disabled Tory MP Paul Maynard said: ‘We should always be cautious about parking where it is legal.
‘Many disabled people get very angry when blue badge spaces are taken up by those who do not need them.
‘I have no idea whether Ed Balls knew it was a disabled parking space or whether it was his driver.
‘But it does go to show you can never be certain who might be watching and therefore people should err on the side of caution and never take advantage.’
It is not the first time that Balls’ behaviour on the nation’s roads has landed him in hot water.
Last June he admitted speeding through a red light in his Ford Mondeo just a few hundred metres from Parliament.
Police brought his case to court, rather than let him pay a £60 fine and receive three points, because of the particularly long gap after the lights changed.
Just months earlier the Morley and Outwood MP highlighted the dangers of speeding after being caught travelling too fast on a motorway.
He said the experience made him determined to get more 20mph limits after he realised the chances of a pedestrian dying increase dramatically with speed.
And in April last year he said he was ‘bang to rights’ after being caught travelling at 56mph in a 50mph zone on the motorway in his West Yorkshire constituency.
On that occasion he paid a fine and attended a speed awareness course rather than accept penalty points.
He described the speed awareness course at a Holiday Inn as ‘very professional and actually really worthwhile.’
He added: ‘I paid my fine and chose to attend a speed awareness course. I currently have no points on my licence and would like to keep it that way.’
Speaking about 20mph limits, he added: ‘What hit home were the statistics which link speed to car deaths. At 20mph, less than 10 percent of people will lose their lives if hit by a car.
‘But the probability rises exponentially, going above 40 percent at 40mph.’
Three years earlier, Mr Balls was caught using his mobile phone behind the wheel on a dual carriageway near Milton Keynes and fined £60.
He apologised for the lapse which he called a ‘fair cop’ and claimed he did not want to use the hands free as his three children were sleeping in the back.
‘It was a mistake. Of course I am sorry about it – it was a stupid thing to do, but that happens from time to time, and I deeply regret it,’ he said.
But he escaped three points – and had later had his cheque returned – after the authorities inexplicably lost his licence and the paperwork.
A fine of up to £130 can be issued to drivers caught parking in a disabled space in Westminster. It is reduced to £65 if paid with two weeks.
A spokesperson for Balls said: ‘This was a car booked by Channel 4 News to take Ed to their studios for an interview. When Ed jumped into it we had no idea that it had pulled up in a disabled space.’