My post on Ken Livingstone’s plans to share a platform with his disgraced former race adviser, Lee Jasper, next week prompted an emergency mobilisation of the groupies. One of Ken’s most trusting fans broke almost a month’s silence on his blog to assure us that the Once And Future Mayor had “confirmed” he would not reappoint Jasper if re-elected.
Ken himself suddenly discovered a pressing “family commitment” rendering him unexpectedly unavailable to speak alongside his former aide. Even Jasper, with characteristic good taste, has today tweeted: “I will not be rejoining Ken’s team if re-elected. Done my time on the plantation.” Comparing a City Hall job paid £127,000 a year to slavery tells you more about Lee Jasper than I ever could.
Ken’s promise over Jasper, on the day of his resignation, was clear: “I bet my own life that they will clear Lee Jasper, and I will reappoint him when they do.” Jasper wasn’t cleared, of course – he was condemned in a report by the district auditor – but that hasn’t stopped Ken repeatedly claiming that he has been.
I have a feeling that the latest Ken “confirmation” may well be on a par with those other Ken confirmations that he would “save the Routemaster,” “hold down” the congestion charge to £5 until 2013 and “reinstate” the charge’s western extension zone.
Actually, it’s more than a feeling. The chairman of Ken’s re-election campaign, David Lammy MP, was guest of honour a few weeks ago at a meeting of Jasper’s new front organisation, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC – geddit?) Jasper himself spoke alongside him.
And as the blogger Mark Wallace has noted, there’s also something oddly similar in the words used by both Ken and Jasper to describe the death while under arrest of the reggae singer Smiley Culture. Jasper has been leading a campaign over the death – and was quoted in the Standard on 5 April saying that the black community is at “boiling point” over the issue. Ken, who is definitely, definitely not being advised by Jasper, was quoted in the Sun on 26 April as saying that the black community is at “boiling point” over the issue. (Jasper, by the way, claims that the press just get him mixed up with Ken. That was precisely Ken’s problem at the last election, as it happens.)