Ken Livingstone has long been a darling of the left, and supported as Mayor of London, so it surprises me to see the Channel 4 documentary dispatches, presented by New Statesman Political Editor Martin Bright - himself fairly left wing. The documentary is on demand on the Channel 4 website and is very damning indeed.
Some of the claims include:
- London maintains "embassies" in Brussels, Beijing and India costing between £300,000 and £400,000 each per annum. A new one is being opened in Caracas. Ken claims it is to encourage investment and trade, because, of course, nobody has heard of London, and London needs to have a "foreign policy";
- Many of Ken's chief advisors were members of Socialist Action who openly talked of London being a "city state" of socialism;
- Ken's trip to Beijing cost £140 000 for the whole delegation, including £605 of room service for him personally;
- Ken said that Tiananmen Square was like Trafagar Square in that their histories had many parallels;
- In welcoming Hugo Chavez to London, he said "It is not that socialism has failed, but socialism has yet to come". Of course his deal for £15 million of cheap diesel from Venezuela is in exchange for transport advice. He didn't consult Transport for London on the deal, and part of the contract includes promoting the Chavez regime on the sides of London buses. The Chilean socialist PM rejected a similar offer for a deal because it would "not be fair to Venezuelans";
- Ken welcomed Muslim cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi to London personally, even though Al-Qaradawi said on the BBC "Allah Almighty is just; through his infinite wisdom he has given the weak a weapon the strong do not have and that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs as Palestinians do". Ken's response to criticisms of his warming to Islamists is to call them Islamophobes or being in the pay of Israeli intelligence;
- Ken's office spends £23 million p.a. on PR, double that of the Scottish Executive and more than Microsoft's UK advertising budget;
- Ken's office asked staff of the GLA to assist with his re-election campaign including raising money for his campaign. In short, using London taxpayers' funds to fund his campaign (familiar?);
- The well known episode of him calling Jewish Evening Standard reporter like a concentration camp guard;
- The London Development Agency which spends £575 million p.a. (!) spending £1.8m over 3 years to companies struck off or liquidated, this includes companies that liquidated the year they got funding. Includes wonders like £10,000 for a company developing a jetpod powered by vegetable juice. LDA is referred to as "Ken's moneybox" and it has been called as transparent as a mediaeval secret society;
- Ken's chief advisor on transport, Raymond O'Neill rarely talks to the Transport for London Board or the London Assembly;
- One of his key advisors, John Ross, was a member of the Soviet Communist Party in the 1980s.
So when the left attacks this unaccountable wasteful nutter, what future does he have?