Thursday, November 30, 2006

Livingstone - Friend of the Poor

Every month the Mayor publishes a list of the decisions he has made, and they usually involve spending money. There are some interesting recipients of his largesse, for example:

3 November 2006:


1. To enter into a contract with the CBI, in which the GLA will provide £30,500 in sponsorship for the Gala Dinner drinks reception at the 2006 CBI Conference and to waive the contracts code of practice for this purpose.

And if you thought taxpayers would be picking up the bill....

The estimated gross cost of this project is £30,500 and the net cost to the GLA is £6,000. The balance of £24,500 will be met by the LDA (£6,000), TfL (£6,000) and sponsorship income (£12,500). The GLA's net cost of £6,000 will be met from the 2006/07 Private Sector Programme budget.

Then you would be right.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mayor's Diary - Latin Edition

Some more details of the mysterious Cuba visit came out at Question Time:

Angie Bray: Please can you list your meetings in Havana / Venezuela?

Ken Livingstone: In Cuba I met with:

Lord Colin Moynihan, Chair of the British Olympic Authority.
Simon Clegg, Chief Executive of the British Olympic Authority.
Juan Contino Aslan, President of the Havana City Provincial Assembly of the Popular Power (Mayor of Havana City).
Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Minister Marta Lomas, Ministry of Investments and International Cooperation.
Jaime Crombet, Deputy President of the Assembly of the Popular Power.
Fernando Ramirez, Head of International Development, Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.
Eusebio Leal, Historian of Havana and Member of the National Assembly of Popular Power.
Doctors of Operation Miracle, eyecare project restoring sight.
Doctors at the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Institute.
Relatives of the Cuban Heroes (the Miami Five) imprisoned in the USA.

I did not go to Venezuela.

Livingstone claims that he met the Cubans to discuss hosting a celebration of the Cuban Revolution in London. If that is the only reason, they must need even more senior figures to organise a party than New Labour does.

And what great titles! Let's hope he doesn't get any ideas...

Rename the GLA, the Greater London Provincial Assembly of the Extremely Popular Power.

Rename the Olympics Operation Miracle.

And who gets to be the Historian of London? (The Mayor's Office read this blog....)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ken's not the only one not going to Venezuela

A month ago Livingstone reported on his meeting with the Venezuelan Minister for Europe. A request had been made for London to provide 'observers' for the coming election. This claim was repeated several times - but the trip is now cancelled.

Sally Hamwee: According to newspaper reports (Morning Star 30/10/06) you made a promise at the 'Venezuela and democracy conference' held at City Hall on October 28th to send observers from your office to monitor Venezuela's coming presidential elections. Who will you be sending from your office and from which budget will the costs of their trip be met?

Ken Livingstone: I will not be sending a delegation to observe these elections.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hot Off The Press - December's Londoner

Headlines include:

Latest poll says people back the Mayor's new powers to build more lower priced homes for the capital (front page)

Oyster pay-as-you-go Tube fares frozen at 2006 rates next year

London Councils in grant U-turn

Dramatic firework displays will light up the skies over London as we welcome in 2007

Everyone has the right to religious expression (Mayor's column)

New Olympic schemes will give a head-start to London's unemployed

Rail link boost for East London

Don't miss out: It's not too late to register to vote

Jewish festival celebrated

New driving force behind London's taxi service

'Muslim women do have the right to wear the veil' (Talking Point)

Recycling around the Christmas tree

This special Christmas issue was supported by loyal advertisers including TfL (pg4), Recycle for London (pg6), TfL (pg16) and TfL (pg20). Also available on request in Braille, large print, audio tape, Hindi, Bengali, Arabic, Greek, Vietnamese, Turkish, Chinese, Urdu, Gujarati and Punjabi.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Big Question

To abolish the GLA or not.

I'm taking part in a lively discussion over at Conservative Home about the strategy we should adopt for the elections in 2008.

Dr Lee Rotherham is making the running for the abolitionists and I understand that Simon Fawthrop is also offering himself on a similar platform - if they win they will scale the Mayor's office down as far as possible, in preparation for a government Bill to abolish this tier of government altogether.

Other candidates are saying that we should keep the Mayor and Assembly, and use them to introduce high quality Conservative governance (I think - the problem is that they aren't saying very much at all at the moment). The arguments on each side seem to be:

For Abolition: It worked in the eighties; A new approach to mobilise 'anti politician' voters; A demonstration of our commitment to cut bureaucracy.

Against Abolition: Inconsistent with our message of change; No discernible public demand for it; Giving up before we've started.

I'm in the 'Against' camp but of course I have an interest to declare. I'm genuinely interested in what you think and feel we should have this debate sooner rather than later - so don't be shy of commenting.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Livingstone's Ambassadors

Yesterday the Mayor slipped out a statement about his plan to open an office in Caracas. This will be the third of his 'embassies', with the GLA already having a presence in Europe and China. The European office recently published a glossy leaflet to highlight their achievements, which include:

Won places for London's experts on European Commission working groups that shape EU policy.

Amended the European Employment Guidelines to benefit London's labour market.

Organised events and study visits to inform transport policy makers across the EU of the functioning and success of London's congestion charge.

Won support from 15 larger EU cities for the Mayor of London's statement on a common asylum policy for the EU.

The council taxpayers will be pleased...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The South American Fiasco

Last week the Assembly demanded costs of the failed South American visit. The figures are revealed in a detailed response today:

Cuba - The Mayor and five officers:

Flights: £11,086
Accommodation: £1,530
Meals: £132
Transport: £195.30
Telecoms / Business services: £202.80

Caracas - four officers (but not the Mayor)

Flights: £12,948.13
Accommodation: £3,469.20
Translation: £75.50

The Labour members of the Assembly also asked for details of the Mayor's achievements on the trip. This information was provided at MQT on 15th November.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Lib Dem's Economic Spokesman is Economic with the Facts

Someone in Twickenham reads their Lib Dem focus. They were surprised to learn of a new appointment for Geoff Pope, a Lib Dem Assembly Member. I decided to check focus 'facts' with the Mayor:

Roger Evans: A recent publication by the Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesman, Vince Cable MP stated that Geoff Pope 'sits on the board of Transport for London'. Can you confirm when this appointment was made?

Ken Livingstone: Geoff Pope is not, and has never been, a member of the TfL Board.

Let's hope Vince is more careful with his figures than he is with his facts....

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Empire Grows

In response to a question from Bob Blackman, the Mayor predicts the timetable for an expansion of power.

Bob Blackman: When do you expect the new Mayoral powers will come into operation?

Ken Livingstone: Those powers not requiring legislation have already come into force - the Mayor has assumed the London Housing Board's responsibilities from GOL and recruitment to the London Skills and Employment Board is currently taking place.

Those powers requiring legislation will be included in either the GLA Bill or, in the case of skills, the Further Education Bill, with one exception - the provision whereby the Mayor will appoint the Chair of the MPA is included in the Police and Justice Bill, which is currently going through Parliament. Depending on the timing of Royal assent to these bills, it is envisaged that these new powers will come into force in either October 2007 or April 2008.

Note the new job opportunities being created in London's growing government.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

PQT Alert

People's Question Time this month is on 21 November at 7pm in Bromley Civic Centre. This is the six monthly Q & A session that the Mayor is obliged to face, by statute. Anyone can come along and I do hope that the citizens of South East London will make the effort to let Livingstone know how they feel.

You may obtain tickets from:

or phoning 020 7983 4762

or online at

or by texting PQT followed by your name, address, full postcode and the number of tickets you require to 62967.

Last time we visited Hackney and witnessed a lefty love in, with a hall packed full of Livingstone supporters. I even got booed for suggesting people should pay for their train tickets....

So let's get a good crowd along to Bromley and make it a night to remember.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Icing on the Cake

News of further Olympic costs:

Dee Doocey: Will there be an Olympic fine art programme?

Well, why bother to ask...

Ken Livingstone: LOCOG's Culture, Ceremonies & Education team, led by Bill Morris, is currently engaged in a far reaching scoping project to determine the exact nature and extent of the Cultural Olympiad. This work is being done with the GLA and other stakeholders to ensure we have an agreed programme. No final decisions have been taken on the exact content of the programme at this stage.

A quango with a long name, an old lefty name check, no mention of costs - it must be Ken's GLA. Although today's news that the VAT bill will be over £1 billion might introduce a touch of realism.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

We Are Londoners

And we know it - which didn't stop Livingstone running an advertising campaign to remind us...

Sally Hamwee: How many (a) bus stops and (b) poster board sites in London have displayed 'We Are Londoners' campaign material? Please list the sites used and the criteria for their selection.

Ken Livingstone: The 'We Are Londoners' campaign appeared on 735 TfL owned bus stops and a total of 285 poster sites across London. In terms of posters the campaign consisted of outdoor, underground and overground posters. The poster sites bought by the GLA were standard advertising packages secured on the basis of availability. A complete list of the addresses of the paid for sites is available on request.

Friday, November 03, 2006

El Presidente's Diary

Livingstone's list of meetings during October has a South American theme. These are just a few of the events drawn from his latest monthly report:

UN Global Cities for Equal Opportunities conference - 6 October
Dinner with James Murdoch, Chief Executive of BSkyB and others - 10 October
Bridget Prentice MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs - 11 October
Unveiling of UCATT statue - 11 October
Yvette Cooper, Minister of State for Housing & Planning and the Thames Gateway Group - 12 October
John Reid, Home Secretary, Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Sport & Tourism,Sir Ian Blair, Commissioner of the Met Police - 16 October
Kevin Spacey, Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theatre - 16 October
Conference of UK Money Transmitter Association - 17 October
Dinner with Kenneth Clarke MP - 17 October
Rodrigo Chaves, Venezuelan Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs - 18 October
Forum of Mayors at 10 Downing Street - 19 October
Mayor Daley of Chicago - 19 October
SERTUC - 19 October
Baroness Andrews, Minister at the Department for Communities & Local Govt, David Lammy, Minister for Culture - 24 October
Mayor Delanoe of Paris - 25 October
Venezuela & Democracy conference - 28 October
Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for Transport - 30 October
Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham - 31 October
Meeting with delegation of Venezuelan MPs - 31 October
Keith Norman, General Secretary of ASLEF - 31 October

The Mayor is devoting a lot of time to one country....

Thursday, November 02, 2006

How Much Will it Make?

The latest predictions for the Western Extension of Congestion Charge.

Sally Hamwee: What are your most up to date estimates for the income that will be generated by the Western Extension of the Congestion Charge in its first and subsequent years of operation?

Ken Livingstone: In the 'proposed western extension of the congestion charging scheme report to the Mayor September 2005' a prediction was made for additional revenue of between £49 million to £66 million. This estimate did not include the newly introduced Pay the Next Day service which reduces income somewhat.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Flag for London

Some members are known for asking unusual questions. This one from Labour member Murad Qureshi must have caused some head scratching in the Mayor's office:

Murad Qureshi: With your campaign to encourage a civic identity of being a Londoner, is it not time for a London flag similar to that which you see in Devon and Cornwall?

Ken Livingstone: There is a flag with the London logo on it, which the GLA uses when it requires a generic flag. We have no plans to develop an official flag for London.

Well, that's a relief. How about a national anthem? Our own currency perhaps? Border controls, which Livingstone could fail to enforce? Members shouldn't encourage the Mayor's ego like this...