Ken Livingstone's 'Monopoly money' on fares

Ken launched his transport manifesto today with what he called a “£1000 travel voucher” to “save Londoners on average £1000 over four years” in fares, aptly dubbed “Monopoly money” by the Lib Dems’ Caroline Pidgeon. “Keep hold of this voucher so that you have physical evidence of my promise to cut your fares,” said Ken. “A link on the voucher will take people to a ‘ready-reckoner’ on my website, where they can calculate exactly how much they will save.”

This stunt is sensationally cheesy – I can already imagine all Ken’s trusting young campaign workers printing out his “voucher” and solemnly carrying it around in their wallets, like South Sea Bubble share certificates or Greek government bond coupons. Do you remember that scene in The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where the Golgafrinchans suddenly decided to make the leaves off the trees legal tender, stuffing large quantities of them in their purses?

Alas, at the time of writing there appears to be neither a link nor a ready-reckoner to calculate your “savings” – presumably because Ken’s skilled computer technicians are still trying to work out an algorithm for lying. So I have taken the trouble to check Ken’s figures.

As I’ve pointed out before, the claim of £1000 savings over four years for the “average Londoner” is fantasy. Ken himself has stated several times, including today, that his fares cut will cost TfL £270 million a year, a total of £1.1 billion over the four years – a figure also accepted by TfL. Dividing this sum by 7.5 million Londoners produces an average saving across the four years of £149, or £37 a year, not £1000.

In his transport manifesto, Ken is more cautious, saying that “the average public transport fare-payer will be £1000 better off at the end of my mayoral term.” I have taken the trouble to check this claim and it, too, is a flat lie.

In fact, as my tables below show, almost no public transport fare-payer in London will save as much as £1000. The only people who will are those who travel from Zones 5 or 6 into central London every day by Tube or rail in the morning peak hour. Every other daily commuter – the great majority – will save substantially less. And of course those who travel less regularly, in the off-peak, or mainly by bus will save less again.

The savings figures given in Ken’s manifesto today bear no resemblance to reality. They are based on two false assumptions: first, that a daily commuter will buy 52 weekly tickets or 12 monthly tickets instead of one annual ticket; and second, that inflation will be incredibly high.

My savings calculations below are also based on a number of assumptions:

that Ken will break the habit of a lifetime and keep his promise on fares;

that Boris will raise fares by 2 per cent above inflation every year, in line with the TfL business plan (he has said that he might not do so);

that inflation itself will be at the levels forecast this month by the Office for Budget Responsibility (3.2% in 2012,  2.3% in 2013, 2.5% in 2014 and 3.6% in 2015. Inflation in each year determines the following year’s fare increase.)

The saving in the fourth year has only been given for January-to-May in reflection of Ken’s claim that people will be £1000 better off “by the end of my mayoral term.”

 

Zones 1-2 Travelcard

Boris plan      Ken plan        Saving in year (Jan-Jan)

Now                            1168                1168

Oct 2012                    1168                1086               £20 (Oct-Jan)

Jan 2013                    1229                1086               £143

Jan 2014                    1282               1111                 £171

Jan 2015                    1340               1139                £201

Jan 2016                    1415                1180                £78  (Jan-May)

 

Total saving £613

 

Zones 1-3 Travelcard

Boris plan      Ken plan        Saving in year (Jan-Jan)

Now                            1368               1368

Oct 2012                    1368               1272                £24 (Oct-Jan)

Jan 2013                    1439                1272                £167

Jan 2014                    1501                1301                £200

Jan 2015                    1569                1334                £235

Jan 2016                    1657                1382               £92 (Jan-May)

Total saving  £718

 

Zones 1-4 Travelcard

Boris plan      Ken plan        Saving in year (Jan-Jan)

Now                            1672                1672

Oct 2012                    1672                1555                £29 (Oct-Jan)

Jan 2013                    1759                1555                £204

Jan 2014                    1835                1591                £244

Jan 2015                    1918                1631                £287

Jan 2016                    2025               1688               £112 (Jan-May)

Total saving  £876

 

Zones 1-5 Travelcard

Boris plan      Ken plan        Saving in year (Jan-Jan)

Now                            1992                1992

Oct 2012                    1992                1853                £35  (Oct-Jan)

Jan 2013                    2096               1853                £243

Jan 2014                    2186               1896               £290

Jan 2015                    2284               1943                £341

Jan 2016                    2414                2013               £134  (Jan-May)

Total saving  £1043

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Bob Crow's 'mental anguish' goes on as Boris won't back down

Earlier this week I broke the news of Bob Crow’s beyond-parody legal threat against Boris Johnson. The RMT’s Mr Tough pleaded, through his lawyers, that it was “offensive,” “malicious” and “defamatory” of Boris to associate him with Ken Livingstone, saying he had suffered “distress” and “mental anguish” as a result.

If the mayor did not make an immediate public apology, Mr Crow’s lawyers threatened, he would instantly shut down the Northern Line be very unhappy. Now Mr Crow’s “distress” and “mental anguish” are of course among this blog’s foremost concerns – we want him to suffer as much of both as possible – so I am delighted that Team Boris has not only refused to withdraw its ghastly insult, but has set up a special website to rub it in.

Here it is – Say No To Crow. Read Boris’s lawyers’ “kindly-get-lost” reply!  Thrill to the clip of Bob describing Ken as “a good bloke” from whom he has “never been apart” and offering: “Give us a shout, Ken, if you want some money!” Enjoy the rough justice of the bully himself being mocked and bullied! And look forward to the even more delightful prospect of Boris, if re-elected, keeping his manifesto promise to curb Crow’s grasping union. Yes, there will still be RMT train attendants on the Tubes when they go driverless. But they’ll be much easier to replace than drivers if they go on strike for free gold jewellery, unlimited supplies of ice-cream and early retirement at 40.

I’m not anti-union – I’m a member of one myself. They are vital to protect workers and stop them being victimised. TfL staff deserve fair pay and conditions. But on the Tube, it is the unions which have turned into the victimisers. Their greed has helped to price thousands of much less well-paid Londoners off the Underground altogether.

Most thinking trade unionists know that the likes of Crow discredit the labour movement, are trying the public’s patience, and need to be reined in. Even the union’s own members now seem increasingly disinclined to follow their militant leadership. This is one case where Boris will be doing almost everyone a favour.

Ken Livingstone: six new lies in a single afternoon…


Ken did interviews at the Guardian and BBC London on Monday. Even by his standards, he was making it up as he went along. Does he think we won’t notice? Or does he just not care?

Here are the six main new lies he told (as always I’m generously not including lies he’s told before, which you can find here and here).

Claim: “In the last year, there’s been an 8% increase in murders” (BBC London)

Reality: In the last year, according to the Metropolitan Police website, there has been a 24.1 per cent fall in homicides, from 136 to 104.

Claim: “I brought in the Freedom Pass… it’s the best thing I ever did.” (BBC London)

“I have used the mayoralty in the past to deliver things that people said I could not… This is exactly the approach I took with the Freedom Pass – which is not paid for by the mayoral budget, but which I won for older Londoners so that they could travel free on the network.” (Guardian)

Reality: The GLC introduced London-wide free bus travel for pensioners in 1973, under its Labour leader Reg Goodwin and transport chair, Evelyn Denington, eight years before Livingstone became leader and 27 years before he became mayor. Some  boroughs, including Lambeth, where Ken was a councillor from 1971, had earlier set up their own schemes. Ken, then a new backbencher, had no involvement with pensioners’ free travel at either Lambeth or the GLC, apart from voting for it with the rest of the Labour group.

The Tory GLC administration of Horace Cutler extended the concession to the Tube (with a 20p flat fare) in 1977. Livingstone’s GLC abolished the afternoon peak restriction and the 20p flat fare on the Tube in 1981/2. The pass was taken over by the boroughs in 1986, after the GLC’s abolition, and rebranded by them as the “Freedom Pass” in the 1990s, before the mayoralty began. Wikipedia’s claim that the Freedom Pass was created in 1984 is wrong.

Claim: “My fares pledge in the past was to freeze fares in real terms…in fact what happened was that they fell in real terms on the tube and very substantially on buses. This is shown in this official data from TfL” (Guardian; when pressed about his past broken promises on fares)

Reality: After promising to freeze fares in real terms at the May 2000 election, Livingstone raised bus fares by 43% in January 2004. Inflation was 2.6% at the time. He admits in his own memoirs (page 491): “I decided to increase the fares before the [2004] election.”

After again promising a real-terms freeze at the 2004 election, Livingstone raised fares by up to 25% in early 2005. Inflation was 3.2% at the time. He again now admits in his memoirs (page 497) that he “increase[d] the fares [after the 2004 election]…this meant breaking my promise not to raise fares faster than inflation.”

Even the “TfL official data” he cites (table 8.6 of this) shows that Tube fares increased in real terms across his eight years, as did both bus and Tube fares in his second term. Government statistics (not produced by one of the mayor’s own agencies) show much steeper rises than TfL’s figures.

Claim: “Despite all the smears by Andrew Gilligan, three separate investigations, including a committee of Tory council leaders appointed by Boris, the district auditor, and a two and a half year operation by the police, all concluded there was no evidence of corruption or cronyism under my administration.” (Guardian)

Reality:  The “committee of Tory council leaders” (the Wheatcroft review) found that “money was misspent on a massive scale” at Livingstone’s London Development Agency, which was “used as the Mayor’s chequebook” to “write some rather interesting pay-offs to people” and “poured money into projects that failed to deliver.”

The review strongly criticised “unusual” payments made to close female friends of  Lee Jasper, Livingstone’s disgraced race adviser, who was forced to resign after channelling £100,000 of City Hall money, for no clear purpose, to two organisations run by a woman he was proposing to “honey glaze” and “cook slowly before a torrid and passionate embrace.” It is true, however, that most of the key documentary evidence was missing by the time Wheatcroft got there (presumably because it had been destroyed).

The district auditor investigation ruled that Jasper’s behaviour in channelling grants to cronies was “not appropriate,” that he concealed his personal relationships with them in a “conflict of interest” and that his conduct fell below “the standards expected” from a GLA officer. The auditor was also hampered by missing evidence, but was able to establish that the grants to Jasper’s friends had not passed through the normal procurement process and that City Hall “could not demonstrate that [it] had achieved value for money” from any of the payments.

The police did, in fact, find enough evidence to recommend criminal prosecution against at least one of the cronies, though this was not pursued due to the man’s “ill health.”  No allegation of corruption was ever made. However, all three investigations confirmed the allegation I did make, of cronyism.

Claim: “We’ve identified, you can get it off my website, £60m of savings we can make” (to fund his claimed pledge to provide 1,700 extra police) (BBC London)

Reality: Providing 1,700 extra police officers will in fact cost at least £90 million – every year. And I can find no trace on the website of any explanation of how even £60 million will be found. Ken’s only costed references to funding this pledge which I can trace are a claim that he can raise £20 million by allowing the Met to charge TfL the “full price” of its safer transport teams (TfL already pays on a “full cost recovery” basis – and even if it didn’t, it would just be shuffling money from another part of the GLA budget anyway.)

The only sources of money Ken identified in his BBC interview were removing chauffeur-driven cars from senior officers (this would save £2 million) and stopping “police officers flying first class, particularly internally in Britain. This is nonsense.” Nonsense indeed – there is no first class, or even business, on British domestic flights. And even if there was, stopping a few police officers from flying it would again save small sums.

Claim: “In each year I was mayor, anti-semitic attacks [in London] declined” (Guardian; when pressed about his poor relationship with the Jewish community)

Reality: The London figures, from the Community Security  Trust’s annual reports, are as follows (reports before 2003 are not readily available online):

2003: 215    2004: 311   2005: 213    2006: 300    2007: 247    2008: 236

As will be seen, the number of anti-semitic attacks in London rose substantially – by up to 45% – in two of these years.

Yesterday, Ken also stubbornly defended his remarks about rich Jews, his tax avoidance, his embrace of the Islamic extremist Yusuf al-Qaradawi and his work for Iranian state TV. Exactly as in the good old Lee Jasper days, he is taking refuge in denial, attacking the messenger (usually me) and clinging to his mistakes until they eventually consume him.

Supporters of Boris Johnson simply couldn’t ask for more.

 

Ken Livingstone puts his foot in it with another ethnic group

Slightly lost in all the excitement about Ken’s relationship with London’s Jews, there was another group of people he offended last week. Ken had been on the front foot with Irish Londoners after Boris Johnson apologised for criticising a GLA-sponsored St Patrick’s Day event during the Ken years as a “dinner for Sinn Fein.”  (Note, though, that Johnson corrects his mistakes; Livingstone embraces his.)

Alas, the Kenster seems to have thrown it away with a rather crass attempt to cash in on the visit to London earlier this month of the Irish President, Michael D.Higgins. According to the Irish Times, Ken sought a meeting with Higgins, but was refused on the grounds that it would have been inappropriate for a head of state during an election campaign.

Undaunted, Livingstone simply turned up at one of Higgins’ London speeches with a photographer and had his picture taken with the President. The snap of the pair then appeared on a special Irish-themed Ken election leaflet promising to “reinstate support for the Irish community and St Patrick’s Day events” and attacking Boris’s comments.

It turns out, alas, that not only did Ken not bother to ask anyone whether it was all right to use the photo, he didn’t even bother to stay for the speech.

Both the Aras an Uachtaráin (the president’s office) and the Irish Embassy in London sounded miffed about the stunt. “There was no contact made about using the photograph in the literature,” the Aras said.

The Embassy said: “The picture was taken at a public event. As you know, Livingstone was there for a short time only. Neither the Áras nor the Embassy was contacted in relation to the use of the picture. The President, of course, has no role or position in the mayoral election.”

PS Boris also turned up to the St Patrick’s Day festivities in Trafalgar Square last Sunday – which he funds, incidentally, contrary to Ken’s claim. Guess which mayoral candidate who promises to “support St Patrick’s Day events” didn’t?

Ken Livingstone: is this the cruellest blow yet?

 

Don't link me with that awful Livingstone character, says Crow

Here’s some of my story from today’s paper:

The militant rail union leader Bob Crow has threatened to sue Boris Johnson, saying it is “offensive,” “malicious” and “defamatory” for the mayor of London to associate him with Ken Livingstone.

Solicitors for Mr Crow have written to Mr Johnson, demanding a public apology for campaign posters on which the RMT leader’s name appears alongside a picture of Mr Livingstone.

In a “letter of claim” sent under the “pre-action protocol for defamation,” the lawyers say that making the link with Mr Livingstone has “harmed the standing of the RMT as a union” and had “a negative impact on Mr Crow’s reputation among his membership and with the public at large.” In the letter, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, they insist that Mr Crow “has not supported Mr Livingstone’s campaign as Labour candidate” and “disagrees with him” on some issues.

The Johnson posters, displayed on billboards and issued as A5 leaflets, are headlined “Not Ken Again.” They say that Mr Livingstone “wants to come back with his council tax rises, broken promises, cronies, scandals, waste [and] Bob Crow.”

A spokesman for the Johnson campaign said: “We knew Ken was a controversial character. But if even Bob Crow is worried about being associated with him, things must be getting serious.”

Full story here, full legal letter below.

There are two aspects to all this. The first is its pure comedy. Few people can be more hated by Londoners than Bob Crow and his members, currently trousering packages worth up to £61,000 a year (plus seven weeks’ holiday) for a job that could quite literally be done by a machine (the trains on three lines already drive themselves.) But if Crow is right, Ken may be one of those few, even more toxic people. It’s also touching to learn how thin-skinned the RMT hard-man really is.  Tell you what, Bob, if you want us to think better of you, why not stop trying to gouge a further £2,000 per driver out of Londoners in much less well-paid and secure work than them, just for the favour of turning up to work during the Olympics?

The second aspect is that this really is starting to look like a rout for Ken among people who should be his supporters. Yesterday, the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland, a long-term Ken backer, said Livingstone had lost his vote because of his attitude to Jews. On the same day the editor of the influential LabourList blog, Mark Ferguson, wrote a piece strongly criticising the mayoral candidate: “You can win elections with the politics of divide and rule… but you cannot lead a city. You cannot command its respect,” he said.

They join a growing chorus of voices on the left who have publicly criticised Livingstone in the run-up to the election, including the London Labour MPs Jim Fitzpatrick and Rushanara Ali, the Observer columnist Nick Cohen, the former Labour candidate Jonathan Roberts, the Labour activist Rob Marchant, the journalist Martin Bright, and the former special adviser Dan Hodges. Other (leaked) criticism has come from Livingstone’s own campaign staff, including his former campaign director, Hilary Perrin, who was removed last year after saying he could not win if he did not change his ways.

In private, few Labour London MPs or council leaders back Ken with any enthusiasm, or even at all. More London MPs wanted Oona King to be the candidate than him. Some of Ken’s critics will be voting for him, but most importantly of all, of course, up to 31 per cent of Labour’s own voters, according to the polls, will not.

By election day, it’s starting to look like Ken’s core support could be down to Coco the Labrador and the Guardian’s Dave Hill – and I’m even starting to get a bit worried about Dave, whose blog has been ominously silent for days now. Come back and turn things round with a long, rambling analysis piece, Dave! Your candidate needs you!

Here’s the hilarious Bob Crow threat letter to Boris. Never again let it be said that the RMT has given nothing back to London.

Bob Crow's legal threat to Boris

Ken Livingstone has lost my vote, says influential Guardian columnist

In his Guardian column tomorrow, Jonathan Freedland says the following:

Ken Livingstone got my support in 2000, 2004 and 2008. I backed him early on in his late 1990s campaign to become London’s first mayor, defying the control freaks of the New Labour machine…His manifesto promises for 2012 are as appealing as ever. I like his plans to cut fares, slash energy bills and ease the capital’s housing shortage, all of which are superior to the policy black hole offered by Boris Johnson. I should be an automatic vote for Livingstone.

But I’m not. I am among the one in three Labour supporters in London who, according to this week’s YouGov poll, cannot bring themselves to vote for the party’s candidate for mayor. I can no longer do what I and others did in 2008, putting to one side the statements, insults and gestures that had offended me, my fellow Jews and – one hopes – every Londoner who abhors prejudice.

This is a significant moment for three reasons. First, Freedland was actually present at the disastrous March 1 “fence-mending” meeting between Livingstone and Jewish Labour supporters which culminated in several of them (though not him) sending the party leader, Ed Miliband, a private letter (leaked to the Jewish Chronicle) saying that Ken “does not accept Jews as an ethnicity and a people.” Livingstone has “absolutely” denied something else the letter-writers claimed, that he told them did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour “as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich we simply wouldn’t vote for him”.

Freedland bluntly contradicts Ken’s denial, writing:

I can confirm that the former mayor did make precisely that argument, linking Jewish voting habits to economic status, even if he did not baldly utter the words “Jews are rich.”

For the 950th time, Ken is exposed as a liar. Though Freedland deplores Livingstone’s many offensive outbursts against Jews, accuses Livingstone of having used “the language of a pub racist from the 1950s” when he told a pair of Jewish developers to “get back where you came from,” he adds:

The case against Ken Livingstone is not that he is some crude racist. It is rather that, when it comes to this one group of Londoners and their predicaments, their hopes and anxieties, he simply doesn’t care. Consistently warm to some communities – this week he went to Finsbury Park mosque, quoted Muhammad’s final sermon and expressed the hope that as mayor he would educate Londoners in the teachings of Islam – he doesn’t care what hurt he causes Jews. He shows Jews, says one Labour parliamentarian, a “hard heart”.

Secondly, Freedland essentially agrees with something I’ve been writing about this election – that personality trumps policy. Finally he cannot, of course, be accused of being an evil member of the Tory lie machine and may give those on the left permission not to vote for Ken. What he says today throws into even sharper relief Miliband’s decision to back Livingstone so wholeheartedly, including over the Jewish issue. It may be a subtle attack on Miliband, too, about whom Freedland has been sceptical – but maybe I’m reading too much into it.

 

Ken Livingstone: has his tax loophole been closed?

Will Ken be writing a cheque to the Revenue?

Buried on page 79 of the Budget document today (page 78 of the PDF) is a fascinating paragraph, 2.207. Next year, it says, “the Government will introduce a package of measures to tackle [tax] avoidance through the use of personal service companies. This will include… requiring officeholders/ controlling persons who are integral to the running of an organisation to have PAYE [income tax] and National Insurance contributions deducted at source by the organisation by which they are engaged.” My italics.

What this could mean, in other words, is that the tax avoidance method which Ken Livingstone and others have used is going to be closed. Ken, famously, has his six-figure income from the likes of LBC, Iran’s Press TV and after-dinner speaking paid not to him directly but to a personal service company, Silveta, of which he and his wife are the sole directors and shareholders. This allows him to pay corporation tax at the small company rate of 20% rather than income tax at up to 50%. He has to pay income tax when he takes money out of the company, but at a reduced rate, and escapes NI altogether. He can also save huge amounts by splitting his income with his wife, as joint shareholder, even though it was earned entirely by him. He has also admitted using the company to spread income earned in one year over several years to avoid higher-rate tax, not something that us PAYE wage slaves can do.

From next year, if I read this correctly, it looks like LBC, the Iranians and the rest could have to take income tax and NI off before they pay Ken’s company, thus completely obviating its purpose. The accountant and tax avoidance campaigner Richard Murphy, to whom I pointed this paragraph out today, describes it as a “potentially enormous change” with huge implications for small business which will see a “massive shift” away from personal companies to self-employment.

There is still some ambiguity in this paragraph – which appears to be the only statement the Government has made on this subject today, though a consultation exercise is promised. The key vagueness lies in the phrase “integral to the running of an organisation.” This might simply mean those, like the head of the Student Loans Company, who channel through a company their income from what is effectively an employment relationship with a single organisation and not those, like Ken, who have a range of clients. But the word “organisation” could mean the service company itself.

With its usual Olympic-class hypocrisy, the Ken campaign has today been lashing Boris Johnson as a “campaigner for the 1 per cent” on account of his opposition to the 50p tax rate. In an interesting acknowledgment of Ken’s vulnerability, they used David Lammy MP for the attack, not Livingstone. But David Cameron nailed it rather well at PMQs when he said that “The difference between Boris and Ken is that Boris pays his taxes, and Ken doesn’t.”

Ironically, for all Labour’s attacks, the Budget may have nailed a genuine member of the tax-avoiding 1 per cent – Ken Livingstone himself. Perhaps the Government might even have moved because of the publicity about Ken. Perhaps for the first time in his life, Ken has done the ordinary taxpayer a favour.