Older readers may remember Lee Jasper, the £127,000-a-year Ken Livingstone race and policing adviser forced out in a cronyism scandal, who came to stand for everything that was sleaziest about Ken’s City Hall. In recent months, despite Ken’s denials, the signs have been growing that Ken, if re-elected, is preparing to do what he promised in 2008 – and bring Jasper back.
Next week, according to emails sent out by the organisers, Ken and Jasper will share a platform for the first time since the scandal, at the May Day rally in Trafalgar Square no less. It will be a major boost to Jasper’s attempts to rebuild his presence on the London political stage. He has started turning up at City Hall, on his old beat, recently disrupting a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority in protest at the death while under arrest of a man charged with serious drug offences. And Ken strongly defends Jasper, hosting him several times on his LBC radio show and claiming that he has been “cleared” and that various enquiries have found “no evidence against him…no-one has come up with any wrongdoing.”
The truth, alas, is a little different. Jasper was forced to resign after channelling tens of thousands of pounds of public money, for no clear purpose, to a company run by Karen Chouhan, aka “my darling Kazzi,” a married woman who he wanted to “honey glaze,” “whisk away to a deserted island beach” and “cook slowly before a torrid and passionate embrace.”
Millions more went to other organisations run by some of Jasper’s other friends, many of them based in the same small room at a business centre in Kennington and virtually none of them delivering anything in return for the cash. To this day, substantial sums remain unaccounted for.
The main independent inquiry into the affair, by the District Auditor, condemned Jasper’s behaviour as “not appropriate” and “below the standards expected” of a GLA officer. It found that Jasper had concealed his relationship with Chouhan and that there was no documentary evidence to show why the money had been paid to her company. Even Livingstone himself conceded, in an LBC interview on 6 March 2008, that Jasper had “breached absolutely” the GLA’s code of conduct.
I can, of course, understand Jasper’s obsessive need to lie and rewrite history – but Ken’s use of the same tactics is a little more puzzling, and can be explained only if he is planning a future for his ex-race advisor.