Ken Livingstone has told 85 different lies during this campaign

British politics' most prolific liar for a generation

In my first instalment of Ken’s lies, earlier this week, I said he and his team had told “at least 79” different lies during the campaign. Mea culpa, fifty lashes – I’ve found a further six I overlooked. His actual total is 85, compared to Boris Johnson’s 12.

On Tuesday I gave you the first tranche – lies 1 to 23, covering character and behaviour.

Earlier today you had the second tranche – lies 24 to 58, covering transport.

Here’s the final instalment, lies 59 to 85, covering crime, council tax, housing, the environment and all other policy areas not already mentioned.

A reminder of the ground rules – each lie is only counted once, no matter how many times it is repeated. And many of them have been repeated dozens of times. Ken is, I’m quite sure, the most prolific liar to have sought high public office in Britain in at least a generation.

Honesty

59. Claim: “What I don’t do is play with statistics.” (Age UK hustings, 21 February)

Reality: See below.

Council tax

60. Claim: “Under Boris Johnson’s watch council tax has risen by £90, or 7 per cent.” (Ken press release)

Reality:  Over the last four years the Mayoral council tax has fallen by 1 per cent in absolute terms, from £309 to £306.72, and by 16 per cent in real terms.

Crime

61. Claim: “…the latest police figures, March 2012, showing overall crime has risen by 2.3 per cent since last year.” (Ken press release)

Reality: The Met website states that overall crime fell by 1.1 per cent in the year to March 2012.

62. Claim: “It is nonsense to say that crime’s coming down. Everywhere you go, crimes are up here, there and everywhere.”

63. Claim: Crime has “sort of flatlined” under Boris (BBC London, Jan 5).

Reality: It has fallen by about 10 per cent.

Murders

64. Claim: “In the last year, there’s been an 8% increase in murders” (BBC London, March 26)

Reality: In the year to February 2012, the latest figures at the time of Ken’s claim, there was a 24.1 per cent fall in homicides, from 136 to 104.

Violent crime

65. Claim: There is “rising violent crime” in London.

Claim: The Tories “make you less safe” (campaign website)

Reality: Some crimes involving violence or the threat of violence, including rape and robbery, have indeed risen in the last year. However, according to the Metropolitan Police, total crimes of violence against the person, a category not including robbery, have fallen by 7.3 per cent over the last 12 months. There have been sharp falls in murder, gun crime, and hate crime and smaller falls in sexual crime other than rape. With robbery, the overall fall is 4.7 per cent. One of the more desperate ways Livingstone has tried to make his politics of fear work is by defining residential burglary as a “violent crime.”

Knife crime

66. Claim: “Knife crime has risen every year under Boris Johnson.”

Reality: This is again untrue. According to the Met figures, knife crime fell in 2009/10.

Anti-semitic attacks

67. Claim: “In each year I was mayor, anti-semitic attacks [in London] declined” (Guardian, March 26; 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.

Police numbers

68. Claim: Police numbers have been in “decline” under Boris.

Claim: There are “1700 less police” under Boris .

Reality: Untrue – there are several hundred more police than when Ken left office.

Funding of extra police

69. 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, 26 March)

Reality: Providing 1,700 extra police officers will in fact cost at least £90 million – every year. There is 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.

Educational Maintenance Allowance

70. Claim: I will “reinstate” the EMA.

Reality: As even Ken admits, there is no money in the Mayoral budget for this and it “will require stakeholders in education and local government to fund it.” Some of the money he claims they will give them is ring-fenced for other uses, and other parts of it has already been refused to him. Channel 4’s independent Fact Check blog has pronounced this promise “fiction.”

Air quality

71. Claim: London has “the worst air quality in Europe” (Guardian, 26 April and repeatedly at debates)

Reality: Official EU figures show that numerous cities have worse air quality than London. Even the Livingstone campaign now merely says that London is “ranked among the worst cities in Europe,” which isn’t true either.

72. Claim: The Livingstone front, Sack Boris, claims that London’s air quality has got worse under Boris Johnson.

Reality: Untrue – it has improved. The figures are here.

Only 56 affordable homes built

 73. Claim: “The supply of new affordable housing has all but dried up. In the last six months for which figures are available [April-September 2011], just fifty-six new affordable homes started construction in London.” (Ken manifesto page 35, and on numerous other occasions)

Reality: The actual number of new affordable homes started in London between April and September 2011 was 2,270 – 40 times Ken’s claim. See table 217 here.

As the statistics show, there were a further 2,700 new affordable homes completed in the same period, hardly a “drying up” of supply.

“Rent controls”

74. Claim: “What we need, and Ken Livingstone is proposing this in the elections, is rent control.” (David Lammy, Ken campaign chair, BBC Question Time, Jan 26)

Claim: “I would cap rents. We want to have rent control.” (Ken, Evening Standard, 4 October 2010)

Reality: The mayor has no power to cap rents and Ken is in fact merely promising to “campaign for a London living rent…learning from the success of the London Living Wage in arguing, cajoling, intervening and collaborating.”

Rent levels

75. Claim: “Under Boris Johnson’s watch the average London rent has risen by 42%.” (Press release)

Reality: Johnson has no responsibility or control over rents and the figures are in any case hugely exaggerated. Over the last four years the average social rent has risen by 16% and the average private rent has risen by 27%.

Energy bills

76. Claim: “Under Boris Johnson’s watch the average energy bill has gone up by 36% and the average water bill by 22%.” (Press release)

Reality: Johnson has no responsibility or control over the prices set by the private water and energy companies.

Standard of living

77. Claim: Tories “make you less well off” (website)

Reality: Boris has put up transport fares only fractionally more than Ken did, and has reduced some. Including his freeze of the council tax, compared with Ken’s large increases in it, most voters have been made better off under Boris.

Savings from “free home insulation”

78. Claim: Anyone spending more than a tenth of their income on energy bills “can save an average of £150 on your energy bills every year for four years after receiving free home insulation.” (“How much you will be better off with Ken” calculator, campaign website.)

Reality: The scheme depends on funding which has already been allocated elsewhere and which expires in December anyway, meaning that the number of people who could benefit, if any, is far fewer than Ken claims.

Savings from “not-for-profit lettings agency”

79. Claim: Everyone who rents “can save an average of £624 every year for four years through the all-London not for profit lettings agency.” (“How much you will be better off with Ken” calculator, campaign website.)

Reality: It is not clear how the figure of £624 has been calculated. Any saving would in any case apply only to those tenants moving house and only in one year, the year they moved. No landlord would be obliged to use Ken’s letting agency and the vast majority almost certainly would not do so.

“Childcare grant”

80. Claim: Anyone eligible for full tax credits, in need of childcare and returning to work “will receive a £700 one-off payment to be spent on childcare for one year.” (“How much you will be better off with Ken” calculator, campaign website.)

Reality: Only the first 1200 applicants will receive this payment, as Ken’s campaign confirms.

Savings from “bulk energy purchase” scheme

81. Claim: “You can save an average of £120 every year for four years through the all-London bulk energy purchase scheme.” (“How much you will be better off with Ken” calculator,campaign website.)

Reality: It is unclear whether this scheme could be established – it would depend on the agreement of the energy companies, who would probably resist the loss of their customers – or how much it would actually save, which would depend on energy prices at the time. It certainly could not be established the instant that Ken takes office, meaning that a saving “every year for four years” could not be attained.

Total savings from all Ken’s plans

82. Claim: “My plans to cut fares, drive down energy bills, restore EMA and improve childcare will save families as much as £10,000 over four years.” (Press release)

Reality: Even if all Ken’s claimed savings were correct, it would be almost impossible for any family to save this much.

GLA budget

83. Claim: The Mayor’s budget is “£14 billion a year” (State of the Race speech, 22 April)

Reality: The Mayor’s budget this year is in fact £16.4 billion.

Hosting extremist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi

84. Claim: “All I knew about Qaradawi when he came was that the Sun had praised him as a true voice of Islam.” (Newsnight 4 April)

Reality: Livingstone had actually been furiously lobbied by liberal, Jewish and gay groups not to host Qaradawi. A Labour Home Office minister, Fiona McTaggart, pulled out of the City Hall event with the hate preacher, urging Ken not to meet him and saying that “a perfectly good cause had been hijacked” by Qaradawi and his supporters. The shadow home secretary, David Davis, asked Ken not to give Qaradawi “the oxygen of publicity.” When Qaradawi touched down in the UK, the Sun in fact proclaimed: “The evil has landed.”

“Fatal  consequences” of global capitalism

85. Claim: Defending his 2000 comment that “every year the international financial system kills more people than World War Two,” Ken claimed: “When you actually look at the impact that the financial system has on the poorest societies… the infant mortality rate is absolutely shocking. Those are not my figures. They’re UNESCO’s figures, actually.”  (Newsnight 4 April)

Reality: Never have so many poorer countries grown so fast as in the last 15 years – not just the well-known ones like India and China, but also dozens of others such as Vietnam, Bangladesh and a huge range of African countries. UNESCO is the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and publishes no figures on infant mortality. It is best known for its list of World Heritage sites.

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Ken Livingstone: is this the sneakiest election leaflet ever?

Ken's latest ethical campaigning tactic

On the eve of polling, a reader, Enza Ferreri, sends me something that looks like a personal note which was posted through her door. It appears to be handwritten, in blue ink on cream paper, and carries no headings or logo.

“Dear friend,” it says. “For years I was a Conservative. I voted Tory, I volunteered at election time and I even worked for the party. But this year I won’t even be voting for them…

“Don’t get me wrong. I like Boris, but he’s let us down. I used to work for the Metropolitan Police. I believed his promises about cutting crime…

“This year I’m sending a message to the Tory government that they can’t take people for granted. I won’t be voting Tory and I won’t be voting Boris.

“Yours faithfully,

Brett Harrison.”

Mr Harrison is apparently a real person – he worked for three months as a civilian receptionist at the Met – though it is hard to see how he could have worked for both the Tory Party and the police. But the real authors of the “letter” become clear when you look at the tiny (also handwritten!) writing at the side of the missive. You’ll need pretty strong glasses, mind. “Promoted by Patrick Heneghan on behalf of London Labour,” it says.

As Ms Ferreri says, the letter is so sly that it will probably have the opposite effect to that intended. “The few doubts that I still had about voting [against] Ken have gone after receiving this letter: its counterproductiveness made my choice easier,” she said.

Labour’s already resorted to removing its candidate’s name from its leaflets. It is now clearly so desperate that it is removing all mention of itself.

 

Ken Livingstone: 35 separate lies on transport

Here’s my second instalment of Ken’s and Boris’s campaign lies – this time on transport. Ken’s groupies often claim that policy and delivery are his strong suits. See if you still believe that after reading through the catalogue of fabrications that is his transport policy.

Remember the ground rules – each lie is only counted once, no matter how many times it is repeated. On this tally Ken or his team have told 79 separate lies in the election campaign – four a week – and Boris or his team 12.

Thirty-five of Ken’s lies and four of Boris’s were about transport and are detailed below.

For Ken’s first 23 lies of the list, on issues of character and personal behaviour, see yesterday’s entry.

KEN LIVINGSTONE

Ken on Boris’s fares record in office

24.Claim: Boris Johnson is a transport “pickpocket” who has increased fares far more than Livingstone (Ken advertising campaign).

Reality: Boris put up Travelcard prices only fractionally more than Ken did, and has reduced some fares.

Ken on his own fares record in office

25. 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.” (Guardian, March 26)

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.”

Government statistics show substantial real-terms rises in fares under Livingstone.

26.Claim: “An independent audit did an analysis of [my record on fares] – and the fares when I left office showed, in real terms after inflation, bus fares were down 9%, and tube fares had gone up, in real terms, 1.4%.” (Ken, Guardian 26 April, BBC Vanessa Feltz show 12 Jan)

Reality: This was not an “independent audit” but figures produced by Mr Livingstone’s transport agency, TfL. Official Department for Transport figures not produced by City Hall show bus fares rose across his eight years by just under 7 per cent in real terms.

27.Claim: “I cut bus fares by 20%

Reality: The single bus fare went up by 43 per cent under Livingstone, from 70p to £1. Shortly before the 2008 election he reduced the fare to 90p, still a rise of 29 per cent.

28. Claim: “I went in to the [2004] election saying I will increase the congestion charge.” (Ken, BBC London, 5 Jan and in some of the debates)

Reality: Mr Livingstone’s 2004 manifesto made no mention of increasing the charge. Nor did he mention it at any point during the campaign. He had previously said that the charge would remain at £5 until at least 2013. However, shortly after being re-elected in 2004, he raised it by 60% – to £8.

Creation of the Freedom Pass

29.Claim: “I brought in the Freedom Pass… it’s the best thing I ever did.” (Ken, BBC London 26 March)

“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.” (Ken, Guardian 26 March) 

This claim has been repeated on many other occasions, including in Ken’s party election broadcast and some of the debates. 

Reality: The GLC introduced London-wide free bus travel for pensioners in 1973, eight years before Livingstone became leader and 27 years before he became mayor. Ken, then a new backbencher, had no involvement with pensioners’ free travel, 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.

Affordability of Ken’s fares cut

30.Claim: “We will carry out this ‘Fare Deal’ [fares cut] without cutting future investment or hitting services.” (Ken campaign, Making the Case for the Fare Deal.)

Reality: Channel 4 News’ independent Fact Check blog described this claim as “fiction.” Fact Check quoted TfL’s chief financial officer, Stephen Critchley, who said: “Lower fares revenues in the operating budget mean there will be less operating surplus available to fund capital expenditure that appears in the capital budget.” A TfL board member under Livingstone, Prof Stephen Glaister, said: “They’re right about that. The simple point is that a pound spent on reducing fares is a pound not spent elsewhere. This isn’t magic money.”

31. Claim: A seven per cent fares cut is “a costed and affordable plan.” (Ken, I’ll wipe out January’s fare rise)

Reality: Less than three months previously, Ken had said that a 7 per cent cut was not affordable. “[If] we’d gone for 7% we might have found in that final year there would be a deficit and I’m not prepared to take that risk,” he said.

32.Claim: The 7 per cent fares cut can be financed by “massive profits” being “stockpiled” at TfL (Ken, transport manifesto, p5)

Reality: As Ken himself said when mayor, “we [at TfL] do not make a profit; we are not allowed to make a profit.” (Mayor’s Question Time, 25 Jan 2006.) TfL is of course not a commercial undertaking but is subsidised to the tune of billions of pounds a year by the taxpayer.

33. Claim: The fares cut can be financed by a “huge surplus” being built up in TfL’s operating budget, which is “a completely separate budget to capital budgets which fund investment.” (Ken, campaign website)

Reality: TfL says there is no surplus and no such separation. As Mr Livingstone put it himself when mayor: “There has been some fascinating speculation in the press that I have a £500 million slush fund that I can spend between now and the election. You know me; if I had it I would, but I do not. There is the small matter of the need for TfL to balance its budget in law, and the balances we carry are all allocated against the range of projects coming forward.”  (Mayor’s Question Time, 20 June 2007)

In 2004 Ken made clear that “capital investment will be funded from grant provided by government grant and revenue surpluses.” (press release 12 Oct 2004).

34. Claim: The “surplus” is £206 million (£412 million in a full year).

Reality: TfL says the surplus is in fact £0.

35. Claim: The “surplus” is £338 million.

Reality: TfL says the surplus is in fact £0.

36. Claim: The “surplus” is £729 million.

Reality: TfL says the surplus is in fact £0.

37. Claim: The “surplus” is £830 million.

Reality: TfL says the surplus is in fact £0.

Savings to Londoners from Ken’s fares cut

38.Claim: “My fares cut…will save the average Londoner £1000 [over the four-year mayoral term]” (Ken, press release)

Reality: Livingstone claims, and TfL accepts, that his cut will cost it £269 million a year in revenue, about £1.1 billion over four years. Divided by 7.5 million Londoners this is an average saving of £149 over the four years, or £37 a year, little more than a tenth of that claimed.

39.Claim: “The average public transport fare-payer will be £1000 better off at the end of my mayoral term.”
(Transport manifesto)

Reality: Ken has now taken to making this narrower claim. However it too is untrue. Only a small minority of farepayers – those who commute every day by Tube or rail in the morning peak hour from zones 5 and 6 to central London – will save as much as £1000, as these calculations show. To make his claimed savings look better, Mr Livingstone is calculating them well beyond the end of his mayoral term and is taking the annual saving as the price of 52 weekly Travelcards (p36 of PDF). In fact, an annual Travelcard costs the same as 40 weekly tickets, not 52.

40.Claim: “The average farepayer in zone 2 will save £1000 over the four years.” (BBC London debate, 22 April)

Reality: Even a Zone 2 farepayer making the most expensive journey every day, a daily commute by rail in the peak hour, will only save £613, even assuming Ken delivers his promise. Most farepayers in zone 2 are not, of course, daily peak-hour commuters and will save far less than this.

41. Claim: “The average farepayer in zone 6 will save £1700.” (Ken, BBC London debate, 22 April)

Reality: The saving for a Zone 6 daily peak-hour commuter to zone 1, even if Ken’s promise was implemented, will be £1250. Most farepayers in zone 6 are not daily peak hour commuters and will save far less than this.

42. Claim: “My fare cut alone will make  the average farepayer in Croydon £1,457.70 better off over the next four years, putting £7.15 in their pockets every week.” (Press release)

Reality: Croydon is in zone 5. The actual saving for a daily peak-hour commuter from Ken’s “Fare Deal” would be £1043, assuming it was ever implemented, and most Croydon farepayers would save far less.

Can Ken in any case cut Travelcard prices, which are set jointly with the train companies?

43.Claim: “The Mayor sets the increase [in Travelcard prices] and the train operating companies have to follow that.” (BBC interview, 22 April)

Reality: As Livingstone himself said when Mayor: “Unfortunately, by law I have to increase Travelcards by 1% above the rate of inflation, because they are virtually jointly locked in to the train operating companies. I would need the agreement of the train operating companies to avoid increasing those fares.” (Livingstone, Mayor’s Question Time 20 June 2007)

Boris Johnson’s record

44. Claim: “Boris Johnson has cut a huge number of bus services across London.” (‘Londoners getting more for less,’ p6)

Reality: Bus mileage has in fact increased by 3.5 per cent under Boris, from 289 to 299 million miles a year. Far more routes have increased in frequency than have been reduced.

Ken’s document gives 32 alleged examples of “bus services cut,” of which by its own admission 7 were actually frequency increases, 4 were replaced by other routes, 3 were diversions with no loss of frequency, and 4 were cuts of just one or two journeys a day (two of which were on special once-daily routes used only by schoolchildren.) Every single one of the remaining cuts was minor – for instance, the E3 route was cut from one bus every 6 minutes to one every 6.5 minutes.

45. Claim: The “Sack Boris” group, a Livingstone front funded by the Tube unions, has clamed that service on the Tube under Boris is “plummeting.”

Reality: As Channel 4’s Fact Check blog finds, the Tube has performed “significantly better” on delays and excess journey time under Boris than under Ken, slightly better on station closures, and has seen “striking” reductions in the number of passenger hours lost under Boris.

46. Claim: “Sack Boris” also claims that Johnson has been “bad for cycling.”

Reality: Johnson has invested more than £100 million in cycling, with his bike hire scheme introducing entirely new groups to the bicycle. Cycling on the Transport for London route network has increased by roughly double the rate it did under Livingstone – 15 per cent last year alone. The rate of cyclists killed and seriously injured has fallen since he was elected.

47. Claim: “Tory Boris Johnson took an axe to £3.5 billion of transport infrastructure investment.” (‘More for less, p9)

Reality: Three of the four “infrastructure investment” projects Ken cites – the Cross River Tram, the DLR extension to Dagenham Dock, the tram extension to Crystal Palace, and the Oxford Street tram – were not, and never had been, funded and existed only on paper. The fourth, the Thames Gateway four-lane road bridge, was funded but was cancelled after it was rejected by a public inquiry and after strong local opposition to destructive new roads and traffic. The true figure is thus £450 million (for the bridge), not £3.5 bn.

48. Claim: The new Borismaster bus “is more than ten times the cost of a regular double-decker bus.”(Ibid, p10)

Reality: Ken’s claimed cost of £2.2 million per bus is 45% more than even he was claiming just two weeks ago, about 70% more than the actual cost (£1.3 million) and is in any case just for the first eight prototypes. If the cost of prototypes were an argument against developing new vehicles, we would still be travelling by horse and cart.  TfL says the actual production cost of the new bus will be £315,000 per vehicle, comparable with existing conventional hybrid buses.

49. Claim: Ken’s campaign chair David Lammy claimed that the “full number” of new Borismaster buses will be just eight, hence the high cost per unit.

Reality: TfL says there will be “hundreds.”

50. Claim: The Boris bikes scheme is “costing Londoners over £200 million.” (Ken, More for less, p10)

Reality: The set-up cost of the scheme, including its recent extensions, was £119.8 million of which up to £50 million is met by commercial sponsorship and at least £2 million by individual boroughs, leaving an actual “cost to Londoners” of £67.8 million. The taxpayer is also currently subsidising the running cost to the tune of about £8 million a year, though this is supposed to end within four years. The total liability to taxpayers over Boris’s first term is thus £83.8 million, less than half Ken’s claim.

51. Claim: “Londoners will pay an estimated £60m towards the cable car” (‘More for less,‘ p10)

Reality: The cable car is, as I’ve written, an absurd use of public money – but as always Ken spoils his case by exaggeration. The scheme is costing up to £60 million to build, including contingency, but has secured £36 million of commercial sponsorship and is also bidding for a further £18 million of EU funding. If fares which cover its operating costs are charged, it could end up costing the London taxpayer as little as £6 million. It is in practice likely to be more than that – but nowhere near £60m.

52. Claim: Boris is to blame for delays to the upgrade of Thameslink.

Reality: The Thameslink project is in fact entirely the responsibility of Network Rail and has nothing to do with him.

53. Staffing cuts on the Tube mean there is “no one on the platform, no one at the barrier” (Ken, Sky debate 19.4)

Reality: Ticket office opening hours have been reduced but there is still always a member of staff at every barrier or on the station.

54. Claim: “[Boris Johnson] promised to get the power to fine utility companies who cause delay through badly planned roadworks. Four years later he is still promising.” (Manifesto)

Reality: Untrue; after a great deal of delay by Government, Johnson now has this power.

Future projects

55. Claim: “I will develop [the] DLR extension to Dagenham Dock.” (Press release)

Reality: This would cost £750 million which Ken does not have. Close scrutiny of the small print reveals that he would in fact merely  “put pressure on the Tory government” to fund the scheme from its budget.

56. Claim: I will extend the Croydon Tramlink to Crystal Palace, a project which “has already been assessed as feasible at very modest cost.” (Press release)

Reality: It will cost £170 million at 2009 prices, perhaps £200m today. The link Ken gives to the “feasibility assessment” leads to an enthusiast site run by a tram-spotter.

57. Claim: I will “improve” the suburban rail service by giving all stations help points, passenger information displays and at least four trains an hour.

Reality: Every suburban station already has help points and passenger information displays. 92 per cent of them already have four or more trains an hour.

58. Claim: I will “bring back the zones 2-6 Travelcard.”

Reality: The Zones 2-6 Travelcard never went away.

BORIS JOHNSON LIES

1.Claim: A Tory MP, Mike Freer, tweeted that Ken wanted to “scrap” Boris’s Tube alcohol ban.

Reality: Untrue – he merely said that he would not have brought it in and has since said that he would keep it.

2.Claim: Boris “delivered” the London Overground while Ken just “talked about” it.

Reality: Untrue; a majority of the money was spent under Boris and it opened on his watch, but the funding was won by Ken and construction started under him.

3.Claim: Boris’s proposal to put the suburban rail service under TfL “would mean lower fares.”

Reality: Travelcard prices are the same whichever service you use. And single fares are nearly always the same, too, sometimes even cheaper (the Oyster peak single from Richmond to Victoria, for instance, is £3.60 on the Tube but only £3.50 on suburban rail.)

4.Claim: Bob Crow would be “handed the keys” to the transport network under Livingstone because Val Shawcross, his candidate for TfL chair, was an RMT “proxy” who had “stood shoulder-to-shoulder” with the union.

Reality: Shawcross joined one RMT demonstration, more than a year ago.

Next instalment: crime, housing, council tax.

Tower Hamlets: police move in as Lutfur Rahman denies everything

Lutfur Rahman: move on, nothing to see here

Lutfur Rahman, the extremist-backed mayor of Tower Hamlets, and his council are in their usual state of frantic denial about allegations of electoral fraud in their area.

Four separate news organisations – the Telegraph, the Evening Standard, the BBC and City AM – have found evidence of postal vote harvesting, ghost voters, personation, or all of the above, in Tower Hamlets.

Lutfur’s response has been a complaint letter to the editor about our “irresponsible reporting,” strikingly weak even by his own standards (he’s published it on his blog, so I feel at liberty to give him the gist of our response here.)

“Council officials, having reviewed the claims made by your reporter, have found that the two individuals, who it was alleged were not entitled to vote, were in fact entitled to do so,” writes Lutfur. “The police have confirmed that there is no substance to the allegations made by Andrew Gilligan.”

Sadly, this ringing assertion arrived in our inbox on the very day that the police announced that they were launching an investigationinto these, and other, allegations. And our claim was not, in fact, that the people we named were “not entitled to vote” – but that they had their postal votes harvested by supporters of Mr Rahman, or that others had impersonated them to cast their votes.

Lutfur’s chief executive, Aman Dalvi, has also responded to the six Labour councillors who separately complained to the council about electoral fraud. His letter mentions Abdul Manik, who as I mentioned last week cast a vote in the Spitalfields byelection on April 19 despite being (a) in Bangladesh and (b) dead.

“Our records show that the individual received their postal ballot well before departing the country and therefore could have voted,” Dalvi writes. “We have verified this with the family.” Odd – I verified my reporting with the family, too, and distinctly remember Mr Manik’s daughter, Jona, telling me that her father had been in Bangladesh for months before he died. And what “records” can a local council hold about the movements of people in and out of the country?

Dalvi also says that “we are aware of only one allegation of postal votes being collected from a voter.” I alone have made three such allegations; other reporters have made more.

A brief reminder of the numbers at that Spitalfields byelection: despite heavy rain on polling day, turnout was almost double that of the previous byelection in the ward (31 per cent to 17 per cent); 36 per cent of votes were cast by post, though only 14 per cent of TH electors have postal votes; the number of people registered for postal votes in one suspect block, Brune House, more than doubled in two weeks; turnout of postal voters in that block was a remarkable 77 per cent. Oh, and Lutfur’s candidate, Gulam Robbani, won by just 43 votes.

In his letter, Dalvi states that Tower Hamlets’ rejection rate for postal ballot papers (where they are not counted because of suspicions about their authenticity) is 10 per cent, extremely high by any standards. In the Spitalfields byelection, it was 14.1 per cent, more than 40 per cent higher. Tower Hamlets might say that that proves how stringent they are – but it is actually further support for our concerns about the integrity of the process. And all I can say is that the people whose abuses I reported did have their votes counted, raising further doubts about how effective the checks really are.

Ken Livingstone: four new lies every week throughout the campaign

Perhaps the key reason that Ken – if all the polls are to be believed – will lose on Thursday is that nobody trusts him. They are right not to.

Throughout the campaign I have been monitoring the lies that the two main candidates have told. The final tally is now in. I have counted each different lie only once, no matter how many times it, or variants on it, was repeated. Since January, on this basis, Ken Livingstone or his campaign have told at least 79 different lies, an average of more than four a week.

Boris Johnson and his campaign have told at least 12 different lies, an average of three a month.

Ken in particular has repeated some of his most significant lies – such as that his fares cut will save the average farepayer £1000 – dozens of times in different leaflets, direct mailshots or media interviews. I do not count such repetitions but if I did, it would add up to perhaps two to three hundred.

Over the next two days, I will itemise each lie in detail, starting today with the two men’s lies about their character, finances and personal behaviour.

Personal honesty

1.Claim: Ken told the New Statesman in February: “I think I have gone through my entire public career never telling a lie.” To the Guardian last week, he claimed: “I’ve always told the truth.”

Reality: See below.

Expenses

2.Claim: My expenses as mayor were “minuscule.” (Ken, LBC debate, 3 April)

Reality: Ken claimed more than £50,000 on the City Hall credit card, including £256 for a pair of shoes, more than £6,000 on alcohol, £6,404 on first class flights to Florida and £466 for dinner with a Cuban translator.

3.Claim: “I only [claimed] about four lunches a year” as mayor (Ken, LBC debate, 3 April)

Reality: Ken charged 47 lunches or dinners on his corporate credit card alone in his second term as Mayor – one a month (links here and here.) He had countless other lunches or dinners at other people’s expense.

Use of actors in election broadcast which made Ken cry

4.Claim: “Contrary to some reports, the people in the video are not actors…all are genuine Labour supporters.”  (Simon Fletcher, Livingstone’s chief of staff)

Claim: “No actors were used in the broadcast.” (Labour spokesman, Guardian 14 April)

Reality: The South London Guardian has discovered that some of those who appeared in the film were actors, including an actor who dressed up in overalls and was filmed in McMullen Motors in London Road, Mitcham, pretending to be a mechanic. This actor took 40 minutes to get his lines right, according to Neil McMullen, the garage owner. Mr McMullen he was approached by the agency on the Saturday before and they brought in an actor for the filming on Tuesday. He said: “He did fluff his lines a bit. He was reading from one of those cards that had his lines written on it.”

“Rich Jews” meeting

5.Claim: Asked whether he had said in a private meeting that Jews would not vote for him becase they are rich, Ken described the claim as “completely untrue. It was a very good meeting.” (Ken, BBC, March 19)

He repeated this on Newsnight: “It’s completely untrue. I’ve never said that.” Asked: “They made it up?” he replied: “Yes.” (Ken, Newsnight, April 4)

Reality: The Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, who attended the meeting, wrote:  “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.’” Ken now accepts he said this.

As for being a “very good meeting,” Ken now admits that it was “heavy going.”

“Positive campaign”

6. Ken has claimed to be running a “very positive campaign” and attacked Boris Johnson’s supposed “dark and negative” tactics.

Reality: Ken launched two major advertising campaigns depicting Johnson as a criminal, compared him to Hitler and his chief of staff to a Serbian war criminal, blamed him for the riots, said he should be poisoned, attacked him as a “part-time mayor,” said that he “wished for” high unemployment, and arranged for him to be chased by a man dressed as a giant chicken.

“Fresh team”

7.Claim: Ken says that his is a “fresh team for London.”

Reality: His principal evidence for this appears to be the presence of his running-mate, Val Shawcross, who was in fact his fire authority chair for the entire eight years of his mayoralty. The man running Ken’s campaign, Simon Fletcher, was Ken’s chief of staff for the whole eight years and Livingstone himself has been a full-time politician since 1971.

Tax avoidance

8.Claim: “I have paid 35 per cent of my income in tax.” (Ken, Evening Standard 19 April, Standard debate 11 April, Sky debate 19 April, BBC debate 22 April, and many other occasions)

Reality: Mr Livingstone channelled his six-figure earnings through a personal company, Silveta, jointly owned with his wife. He pays 20 or 21 per cent corporation tax instead of income tax at up to 50 per cent and avoids National Insurance (up to 9%) altogether. He does pay some further tax on any dividends he takes out of the company, but at a lesser rate.

He has admitted income-spreading, where he holds a large sum earned in one year as a cash pile in the company and takes it out in smaller chunks over several years to avoid higher-rate tax. He splits his dividends with his wife, benefiting from the fact that she pays no tax on dividends, to save further amounts of tax. He also claims generous tax-deductible expenses – some of them, including the salaries of staff for his campaign, probably not allowable.

His effective tax rate cannot be calculated because, alone among the candidates, he has refused to disclose his full earnings. However it is likely to be in the low twenties or below. Even on the false figures he has published, however, he pays less than 35 per cent.

9.Claim: “I have paid three times the average rate of tax” (Ken, Sky debate 19 April)

Reality: The basic tax rate in the UK is 22 per cent and the basic National Insurance rate is 12 per cent (9 per cent for the self-employed). Mr Livingstone, though earning six-figure sums, has probably paid less than the basic rate of tax and has avoided NI altogether.

10.Claim: Holding a cash pile in a personal company (£250,000 in Mr Livingstone’s case) is “not avoiding tax.

Reality: Mr Livingstone had earlier described precisely this practice as a “tax avoidance option.”

11.Claim: Ken has “no idea” how much his wife Emma Beal is paid by Silveta Ltd, which they set up to handle his private earnings. (Ken, Standard 19 April)

Reality: Mr Livingstone and Ms Beal are co-directors and equal shareholders of Silveta and must by law both agree the dividends they pay to each other. Mr Livingstone splits his income with her, even though it was earned entirely by him, to avoid further tax, benefiting from the fact that as a basic-rate taxpayer she pays no income tax on dividends. Her dividends are almost certainly exactly the same as those he has taken himself – namely £125,555 over the three years of the company’s existence. By paying this dividend to her, Mr Livingstone will have saved himself £31,000 in tax.

12.Claim: “All the candidates have published their tax returns.” (Ken, BBC debate 22 April and many other occasions) 

Reality: All the other main candidates have published full, accountant-certified statements of their earnings and tax. Only Mr Livingstone has refused. All he has published is details of the earnings taken out of his personal company, Silveta, not the earnings paid in. Even these figures are not certified by Mr Livingstone’s accountant.

13.Claim: “I’m quite happy to publish details of everything I’ve earned over the last four years.” (Ken, BBC Newsnight debate, 4 April)

14.Claim: Mr Livingstone’s certified accounts will be published “shortly” on his website (Ken spokesman, Evening Standard, 24 April)

Reality: Mr Livingstone has not done so.

15.Claim: “No journalist has contacted my accountant to ask anything about my tax arrangements. I’d be quite happy for them to do so.” (Ken, BBC London, 26 March)

Reality: Numerous journalists including the BBC, Evening Standard and myself have repeatedly contacted both Ken and his accountant asking about his tax arrangements and we have all been rebuffed.

16.Claim: “The simple fact is, and the hypocrisy of all this is, Boris Johnson has exactly the same arrangements [as me] to handle his earnings from television. Almost everybody in the media, who is not employed directly, has exactly the same arrangements.” (Ken, Guardian 12 March, LBC debate 3 April)

Reality: Johnson released full tax records showing he paid full income tax and NI on all his earnings and had channelled none of it through a personal company to avoid tax. Before becoming mayor Boris was briefly a director of a company called Finland Station, but the other directors, David Jeffcock and Barnaby Spurrier wrote to the Guardian saying: “The allegation that FS is or was in some way a ‘service’ company through which Johnson paid his freelance television earnings is completely untrue. Johnson was paid a pounds 30,000 fee by FS for writing and presenting After Rome, a two-part series for BBC2. This fee, as his accountant has made clear, was subject to income tax, not corporation tax or capital gains tax.

“Johnson received no dividends from FS. At no stage did he ever pay any money into the company. Nor was any money paid in on his behalf… nor were any members of his family remunerated by us in any shape or form.”

Payments to mother of secret child

17.Claim: Asked whether he had paid Jan Woolf, the mother of his secret son Liam, £6,500 from City Hall funds, Mr Livingstone replied: “No.” (LBC debate, 3 April)

Reality: The documents showing the payments to Ms Woolf’s personal company, Rootball Productions, are here.

Lee Jasper affair

18.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.” (Ken, Guardian 26 March)

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.

Freebies from Beijing regime

19.Claim: “I’ve done three visits in China, none of which I was paid for – all of it was done at my expense.”  (Ken, BBC debate, 22 April)

Reality: In August 2008, Mr Livingstone travelled to the Beijing Olympics at the expense of the Chinese regime, who gave him free business class flights worth £5,000 and a hotel room costing more than £1,000 a night. He then defended the regime’s human rights record.

Broadband system

20.Claim: “I proposed to Mrs Thatcher’s government when I was leader of the GLC – we wanted a broadband system linking every home and shop.” (Ken, BBC, 19 March)

Reality: Livingstone’s leadership of the GLC ended in 1986. Broadband did not exist at the time.

Fake battle bus

21.Claim: On 16 March Livingstone’s campaign issued what it described as a “picture of” its “Fare Deal Express” battlebus which would be touring the outer boroughs.

Reality: No battlebus existed at that stage. Instead, a picture of a regular London bus was taken from Wikipedia and crudely Photoshopped with Ken’s campaign logos.

Boris to abandon mayoralty early

22.Claim:  “I’ve no doubt whatseover, and I’d be prepared to bet money on this, that if [Boris] was elected mayor, he would seek a parliamentary seat for the 2015 election.” (Ken, Channel 4 News, 1 March).

Reality: Six weeks before Ken said this, Boris said: “I really don’t see how I can run for Parliament in 2015. Let’s kill this. I’m ruling myself out.

Poll standing

23.Claim: In the polls “me and Boris are both running ahead of our parties”  (Ken, ITV London, 23 February.)

Reality: Every poll taken since the race started has shown Livingstone running behind his party.

 

BORIS JOHNSON

Return from holiday after the riots

1.Claim: “I did come back as fast as was possible” (Newsnight, 4 April and several other occasions)

Reality: Johnson did not come back as fast as possible. Speaking to the BBC on 6 August, the day of the first rioting in Tottenham, he said: “I am not going to come back at the moment because I have complete confidence in the police and I think that they are doing a very, very good job.” He did not return to London until the morning of the 9th, by which time the riots in the capital were over.

Next instalment: lies about transport.