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.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s