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Monday 16 May 2011

Chris Huhne Channels Gerald Nabarro

The Lib Dem climate change secretary Chris Huhne is in the news over suggestions that he got someone else to take the points hit for a motoring offence, and thus escape a driving ban. The allegation has come to light following an interview with Huhne’s estranged wife.

This has got much of the Fourth Estate into a froth, not least at the Maily Telegraph, where Benedict Brogan has decided that Huhne is experiencing a “slow implosion”, but then Ben doesn’t always call it correctly, as his take on Andy Coulson shows.

But the idea of getting someone else to take the rap for a driving misdemeanour is not new, as those who have followed politics over the decades well know: there was always the case of maverick Tory MP Gerald Nabarro.

Nabarro liked his cars: in the days when few boasted a personal number plate, he had eight of them, NAB 1 to NAB 8. And motoring was where he made his last significant contribution to politics, when in 1969 he accused the then Labour Government of planning to raise the Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) from £25 to £35.

PM Harold Wilson rubbished Nabarro’s claims, and VED remained at £25. Nabarro claimed victory, although no conclusive evidence was produced: Private Eye celebrated the event with this cover. But further notoriety followed two years later.

Nabarro’s car was observed by the law driving the wrong way round a roundabout. He insisted that he had not been at the wheel, but that Margaret Mason, his secretary, had been driving. After a retrial, Nabarro was acquitted. The urban myth that the secretary was Christine Holman – later to marry one Mostyn Neil Hamilton – was untrue.

Chris Huhne is not in the same league of magisterial eccentricity as Gerald Nabarro. But he has retained the services of suitably upmarket legal firm Mishcon de Reya. The only fly in the ointment thus far is that Young Dave has expressed “full confidence” in him.

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