You may remember the self-proclaimed “General” Lee Jasper – he was the £127K-a-year Ken Livingstone race adviser who resigned in disgrace after giving £100,000 of public money to an organisation run by a woman he wanted to “honey glaze.” Well – he’s baaa-ck!
On Monday, according to emails sent out by the organisers, Mr Jasper will speak at a City Hall event on “Power and influence: London’s criminal justice and community safety strategy.” It’s billed as enabling “community and voluntary sector organisations” to “find out what Boris Johnson has in store in terms of a community safety strategy” and to learn how to “influence…projects and funding.” Some things never change, eh?
Jasper has for the last year been attempting political reincarnation on the basis of more or less bare-faced lies. He keeps claiming to have been “cleared” by various investigations into the “cronyism” scandals of 2007-8, when large amounts of GLA money vanished without visible effect into various “community organisations” run by his friends and business associates, including Mrs Honey-Glaze.
This claim comes despite the best efforts of all the investigating authorities to disabuse him (the District Auditor, for instance, said in July that Jasper’s behaviour was “inappropriate” and below “the standards expected” of a GLA officer, and his main report into the most serious allegations is still to come.)
My old newspaper, the Standard, had a hilarious exchange of correspondence with the General last year after we disobligingly pointed out that several of his cronies remain under police investigation, with criminal charges recommended (nobody, by the way, has ever accused Jasper himself of anything criminal).
Lest you think that Boris has lost his mind allowing Jasper past reception, it does seem that he has been rather smuggled in; he’s appearing not at an official GLA function, but at a conference organised by something called CSAS, part of a body known as the London Action Trust. There will, however, be a “GLA community safety official” at the gathering – possibly Jasper’s mate Ron Belgrave, who still works at City Hall.
The London Action Trust is interesting, too. In another echo of the Livingstone golden era, it too is a rather obscure community organisation providing such activities as “capacity building”. It too is based in Jasper’s manor, Lambeth – just round the corner from his house, actually. It too has had rather a lot of public money from the GLA (including a few quid after Boris took over) and it too seems to suffer from more than the odd disappearing pound.
Looking at its accounts, I can’t help noticing that the London Action Trust has over the last four years lost more than £200,000 in a commercial subsidiary, Essential Consulting (UK) Ltd, most of which appears to have gone on rather heavy salaries and administrative expenses. EC has now been “mothballed”. Looking at Essential Consulting’s accounts (behind a Companies House paywall), it’s not quite clear what it actually did.
And there’s one more parallel. The London Action Trust and Essential Consulting (UK) Ltd have high-level political connections. One of the directors of both organisations is the former Tory mayoral candidate, and current member of the TfL board, Steve Norris.
Now just to be clear, I have seen no evidence of foul play – the London Action Trust lists what looks like some perfectly respectable activities. But wouldn’t it be wise for them to dissociate themselves from someone with Lee Jasper’s track record? And from City Hall’s point of view, allowing Mr Jasper anywhere near the GLA grants programme has to be a bad idea. Come Monday, perhaps Boris should call security.