Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Boris Johnson claims £1742 for 'occasional' taxis

He claims to cycle or get the tube almost everywhere, but Boris Johnson's latest expense claims show that he is becoming increasingly fond of taxis.

Newly released figures show that the Mayor claimed £1742 in taxi fares between the start of November and the end of January alone.

By comparison, the previous Mayor claimed just £729 on taxis in the whole of his final year in office.

When asked in January whether he was about to buy an official car, Boris's spokesperson replied that:

"He cycles everywhere he possibly can, and if he cannot he happily uses public transport or very occasionally a taxi."

I think that 'very occasionally' needs a little work.


Private Carriage

The news that Boris is claiming large amounts in taxi fares comes after our story about his team spending £1000 on them in just one night.

The story, which made its way into the Daily Mail was countered by claims that using public transport would have been too dangerous.

Since then, details of a new expenses regime have been revealed at City Hall.

The review which was set up after Brian Coleman's £18,000 taxi bills has not brought forward any radical changes.

However, under the new guidelines the Mayor and Assembly members will only be able to claim for taxis:

"where the use of public transport is impossible or inappropriate e.g. when carrying large or heavy packages."

Members will be prohibited from claiming for taxis used during their commute, and business class flights will only be paid for in 'exceptional circumstances'.

The changes still need to be signed off by the Mayor.

At a meeting of today's Business Management and Administration Committee, Brian Coleman described the new regime as "unnecessarily prescriptive." 


-Update- This story is now in the Evening Standard
Mayorwatch now has more

-Update-
In the latest written questions Murad Qureshi asked the Mayor: 

"Since 1 January 2009 how many journeys have you made by London bus?"

to which he replied:

"I undertake the vast majority of my journeys by bike and tube. I occasionally use the bus or a taxi if that is appropriate to the journey I am taking."

Shall we take that as 'none'?

Monday, 30 March 2009

Dispatches: The Trouble with Boris on Channel Four

Dispatches: 'The Trouble with Boris' starts in about half an hour from now. 

The fact they're leading with the Darius Guppy tape, suggests that there's probably not much new to be found here, but you never know.

I'll be giving my armchair commentary over on Twitter.


-Update- 20.15 - Pleasantly surprised so far.
-Update- 20.45 - It's been unremittingly critical just like the Martin Bright one was. Twitter reactions here
-Update- 00.00- More reactions:

  • Boris Watch: "Dispatches Boris Verdict: Entertaining, occasionally inaccurate, very biased, big air of disillusion, lots of stuff nicked from blogs."
  • Roger Evans: "Last year's Dispatches on Ken Livingstone featured various old lefties complaining about the mayor - so did this programme." 

Andrew Gilligan swings his hatchet one more time

You will by now have read this post about Andrew Gilligan's visit to the Starlight Music Academy last week.

Now read this article by the man himself and tell me he's still a credible journalist:

"The 6,000 square-metre building was at the centre of the City Hall grants-for-cronies scandal when Mr Jasper was accused of channelling millions of pounds of public money to friends' projects."

The 'building' was at the centre of the scandal? The building?!

"Mr Jasper was forced to resign after leaked emails revealed he offered to "honey glaze" Karen Chouhan, the married director of two of the projects."

What has this got to do with the Starlight Academy?

"Starlight claims it has provided arts outreach training for young people at risk since 1997, and in Lambeth since 2006. However, there are no current courses shown on its website. Its listed telephone number is a mobile which was switched off, and it failed to respond to emails from the Evening Standard posing as a would-be student asking about outreach courses."

There is no mention of his two and a half hour visit to the centre, nor the hundreds of visits he found in their log book for that week.

The man is a total joke.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Starlight Academy get a visit from Andrew Gilligan

The Starlight Music Academy are a Kennington-based organisation offering music and dance training to young people in the area.

As Dave Hill reported earlier this month, they had been due to lose their premises, but were given a last minute reprieve by the LDA.

Unfortunately for them they also have connections with Lee Jasper and Brixton Base. This has not gone unnoticed by Andrew Gilligan:

From: Orin Alexander [LDA]
Sent: 26 March 2009 09:42
To: Rebecca Arnold [GLA]
Subject: Offley Works - Evening Standard Article

Dear Rebecca,

Further to our letter to the Assembly on the subject of Offley Works, I wish to inform you that Andrew Gilligan has advised of his intention to write an article in today's edition of the Evening Standard which is critical of the LDA's decision to offer an extension of the lease to Starlight Music Academy. Apart from linking the organisation to Lee Jasper, it appears that his article will be based on his enquiries which suggest that Starlight Music Academy is "not doing anything". He implies that that there are more deserving organisations around who could benefit from such premises...

For some reason Andrew's article about Starlight "not doing anything" has failed to appear in today's edition.

Perhaps he has some final facts to check, or perhaps he's looking for some positive accounts of their work to add to the piece.

Or perhaps it has something to do with this account by the Director of Starlight themselves:

----- Original Message -----
From: Shanice Duffus
To: Starlight 
Sent: Thu Mar 26 12:02:46 2009
Subject: Fw: Surprise visitor to SMA yesterday


Guess who visited Starlight Music Academy yesterday?

Andrew Gilligan!!

Remember The Evening Standard journalist and reporter who was at the centre of bringing down Ken Livingston and Lee Jasper using accusations against Brixton Base to the benefit of Boris Johnson’s mayoral election campaign. Yes!!!

He arrived at SMA around 6:30 pm, our singing classes were taking place in the Starlight Performance Hall and dancers in the Academy Hall were beginning to assemble for their dance rehearsal class.

Andrew joined me in the SMA office which I pointed out we had built 2 years ago from an empty shell. I was already in the company of two of our trustees and an SMA media volunteer talking SMA business when he arrived.

All our attention then diverted towards Andrew and we all spent the next two hours or so answering his countless questions and us piling loads of evidence of the works we were engaged in doing in support of young people.

Firstly he wanted to know how many young people used SMA on a weekly basis as he claimed he was outside the Offley building last Wednesday (19th March 09) and he only saw two people come in the building, “one with a Black leather Jacket”.

I said he must have been at the wrong building because we had around 30 people in an SMA meeting and around 12 students in a vocal class. He insisted he only saw two and asked again how many people visit SMA per week I estimated around 100, again he disputed this so, to resolve the matter, I took him to the security desk, requested the signing in sheets for the past week and gave it to Andrew to count.

Andrew proceeded to count the entries but ONLY those who had specifically recorded their visit or business as SMA related. When I pointed out that some of the drama and dance students who had entered ‘dance’ or ‘drama’ and not SMA were also users of SMA services he refused to count them. This limited count that he insisted on proceeding with totalled 277 (two hundred and seventy seven) SMA visits within one week.

Almost three times my original modest estimate. Most people would have been astounded at the throughput but he still remained unconvinced of our popularity and our true legitimacy. This led to one of our trustees openly questioning his motives and attitude. He claimed to have checked with Lambeth, The Oval House and Raw Materials and none of them had heard of us.

We nevertheless showed him we were more than willing to provide him with any info he wanted. He pleased for a quite office but we said no. If we have to put up with this every evening to keep young people off the streets then he could put up with it for one evening.

With Andrew in tow in his investigative unconvinced mode and tone, we proceeded back to the office, through the Academy Hall, noisy with around 15 dancers beginning their rehearsal session and walked by through the Starlight Performance Hall, which was buzzing with the voices of around 15 singers who were enjoying their signing lesson. We then turned in to the SMA office.

He asked about our funding, we explained we get very little funding but do what we can with the little we get and explained that volunteers do most of the work. One of our trustees pointed out she has been volunteering with the organisation for over 8 years and has never even claimed entitlement towards petrol costs.

We took Andrew to see the lovely new studio recently refurbished and kitted with new equipment. He looked but felt it was too hard to admit it looked nice.

Back in the office, with Gilligan still dissatisfied, he asked to see our accounts. We showed him our 08/09 meticulous computerised accounting system with individual entries then went to our locked cupboard filled with files and pulled out our 07/08 audited accounts. He looked through them, made notes as we said he couldn’t take them away as we needed them for our files.

He enquired in to how we vetted out tutors, we showed him two large files filled with tutor and volunteer CVs, reference request letters, references received and where appropriate CRB certificates. He saw signed SMA Tutor Expectations documents, Principle and Values statements for tutors, thus demonstrating SMA had a history of having effective and robust checking systems in place and documents to ensure a safe and user friendly environment is created for young people.

He said whose our most eminent tutor, we called in Isaiah Raymond who happened to conducting the vocal class. Andrew asked Isaiah to tell him a bit about himself.

Isaiah explained he was the founder member of Raymond & Co. former MOBO award winners and winners of the GMTV gospel awards competition. He told of his successful album and the works he does in support of young people at SMA.

After Isaiah left the room Andrew switched to enquire about our relationship with Lee Jasper who had apparently been championing our organisation last week at a police consultative meeting. We told him that Lee was a friend of the organisation and that if it were not for Lee Jasper SMA would still be out on the streets with no where to run its services from.

He asked why we had defended Brixton Base in a letter last year to the Evening Standard. We said as far as were concerned, 1) Innocent until proven guilty and 2) It was a political campaign.

He insisted Brixton Base were guilty of offences, we asked if any charges had been brought to date and he said “no” but a house had been seized. We said we were not defending Brixton Base if they are guilty but know of many cases in our community where young people in particular had had cases wrongly brought against them and had even been charged to then be cleared of wrong doing. We left that discussion.

We asked him why the hostile and unfriendly attitude? He said, “There are groups around here who are not happy that we are in this building for free and they have to pay. ”

We told him that unlike most other organisations around providing services for young people we do not have any full time staff, get hardly any funding but if we were to get some money we would gladly pay for our keep.

We asked him what his concluding views were of our organisation. He said, well at first he thought it was a bit of a scam but realises its not. But, he said, he was still concerned that not no one has heard of us and that we want a 99-year lease on the building as well as requesting a meeting with Boris.

We asked him to convey our best wishes to Boris, and that he (Andrew) was welcome to come back and visit us at anytime.

He left SMA and took advantage of a quick look around at some of the other parts of the building that he had spent the past year writing about but had not seen the inside of.

It was around 9 pm when Andrew left to the deafening ringing of young people enjoying their singing and dance rehearsal class at SMA.

We wait to read what his views were of his visit to Starlight Music Academy.

-----Message Ends-----

Don't worry Shanice. I'm sure Andrew's fair and balanced account of your work will appear in the Evening Standard any time soon.



Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Brian Coleman hosts lavish lunches at our expense

Boris Johnson's Fire Authority is spending thousands of pounds of our money on a series of extravagant official lunches, Tory Troll can reveal.

So far this year, the Mayor's chair of LFEPA Brian Coleman has hosted two £88-a-head meals costing us a total of £1,500. 

A further three lunches are planned for the coming months.

Lib Dem AM Caroline Pidgeon, who refused her invitation said:

"I think at a time when you can get a lunch at Gordon Ramsey's for £30, and money is tight across the private and public sector, it beggars belief that the Chair of the Fire Authority thinks it is acceptable to have extravagant lunches at a cost of around £750. Is this the value for money Boris talks about?"

Later in the year the Authority will hold a further three lunches for 'key stakeholders' including new GLA Chief Executive and former Barnet associate Leo Boland.

By comparison, in 2007/08 the Authority held one official dinner costing £500, a third of what has been spent this year.

No Restraint

The news that Coleman and associates are fine dining at our expense comes as Boris Johnson implements dozens of job cuts across the GLA.

It also follows the Mayor's comments that all members of the Authority should show 'restraint' during the recession.

Speaking in January Boris told LFEPA members that:

"I am generally in favour of restraint and insofar as I have a vote in these things, insofar as I am able to direct it I will direct restraint...

"I am in favour of us all trying to set an example"

Once again Brian Coleman has provided us with one.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Day of the (not quite so) long knives at City Hall

Katherine Barney is one of the journalists at the Evening Standard who generally does a good job, but her City Hall job cuts story today was pretty shoddy:

"CITY Hall staff today told of a "climate of fear" as up to 120 positions were cut as a result of Boris Johnson's restructuring plans."

Now I'm willing to accept that this was mostly the fault of the sub-editors, but Boris is not axing '120 jobs' or anything like it.

In fact the grand total of 'real' jobs lost under these plans is just 45.

Now obviously if you're one of those 45, then it's terrible news, but it hardly amounts to a climate of fear within an organisation employing around fifteen times that many people.

On the other hand, being told by the Standard that 120 jobs are up for the axe (when they're not) may have gone some way to actually creating that climate of fear. 

A fact not missed by one commenter:


Cuts for cuts sake?

Now I'm willing to accept that some of these job cuts may have been necessary. 

But for an organisation which Boris has repeatedly described as massively overstaffed these are minor, tokenistic changes that Boris has made.

And with the salaries of his own Deputies and appointments, mysteriously unaffected by the downturn, there will be many who wonder just why Boris has decided to do this right now.


-Reactions and Links-

Monday, 23 March 2009

Boris Johnson gets in a spin over St George's Day


The Daily Mail love a bit of meat and Boris has just handed them a steaming plate of it:

"London Mayor Boris Johnson is to defy the politically correct brigade by staging a week-long festival in the capital to celebrate St George’s Day, with the red and white cross of England’s patron saint flying proudly from his City Hall offices."

Gor bless you Bozza!

"The move follows a series of incidents in recent years in which people have been banned from displaying the English flag on the grounds that it is racist and could offend Muslims because of St George’s association with the Crusades."

Bloody party-pooping Muzzos.

"Mr Johnson told The Mail on Sunday: ‘St George’s Day has been ignored in London for too long but I’m truly pleased to announce some fantastic events to mark this occasion...

‘St George’s Day is a time to celebrate the very best of everything English and the Cross of St George will proudly fly outside City Hall on April 23. I look forward to hopping on a Routemaster and encouraging everyone to join in the fun and celebrate England’s great patron saint.’

Saint Boris?

Now I hate to break up the party boys, but if anyone has ignored St. Georges day then it's Boris himself, who despite loving his country so much, has somehow managed to miss this event

This event:
This event:
And, er, this event:

But then maybe things were different over in Henley.



-Update-
The BBC didn't do themselves any favours either, claiming that St George's Day celebrations were not funded by the last Mayor:

video

Er, wrong:


Mind you, if you think that's bad, take a listen to yesterday's Vanessa Feltz Show.

I switched off once she started singing Jerusalem and blessing Boris. Unbelievable.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Sunday Express Apologises to Dunblane Families

It's been two weeks but the Scottish Sunday Express have finally apologised for their Dunblane story. Here's the full text from page five:

SUBHEAD: After our story about massacre survivors, we offer an apology

BYLINE: None

THE Scottish Sunday Express has enjoyed a long love affair with the people of our nation.

It is 81 years since the first edition of this great newspaper rolled off the presses in Glasgow.

Over that time, we have established a reputation for crusading journalism built on the twin cornerstones of honesty and integrity.

Scottish Sunday Express readers expect us to shine a light on the wrongs in our society, to expose the crooks, highlight the hypocrites and to give everyone the odd chuckle with the extraordinary stories that ordinary Scots so often have to tell.

We think we are pretty good at all that, and everyone involved in producing this newspaper takes pride in what we publish.

It is also hugely important to us that the Scottish Sunday Express reflects the feelings of the people of Scotland.

On March 8 we got that all wrong.

Our front-page story about the teenage survivors of the Dunblane massacre and their use of social networking websites has caused terrible offence, not only in that town, but across Scotland and around the world.

It is our belief that nobody was misquoted, but the story was undeniably inappropriate. It has upset the young people we named and caused great distress to their parents.

Where possible, we have spoken to the families involved and given them a heartfelt apology. Today we apologise to you, our loyal readers.

The Scottish Sunday Express is a big newspaper, with a long and illustrious history. We are also big enough to say we are truly sorry.

CAPTION: FURORE: We offer our sincere apologies to the people of Dunblane for the front-page story that caused so much offence

The online petition has so far received over 9000 signatures and the PCC investigation is still ongoing. Will this apology be enough?

Friday, 20 March 2009

Brian Coleman and the decline in trust at LFEPA

Boris Johnson's new Chair of the Fire Authority Brian Coleman is 'too confrontational' and 'lacks interest' in the views of opposition members of the authority, according to a new report.

According to the latest Ethical Governance Audit, ongoing tensions between Coleman and other members of LFEPA has led to a 'decline in trust in the political establishment.' 

Although Coleman is praised for his 'robust' and 'effective' leadership the report highlights a number of concerns about his behaviour and style of communication indicating that: 

'some reflection on use of language in public may be beneficial.'

The report recommends that Coleman should meet with the Chair of the Standards Committee as a way of 'anchoring behaviour and ethics at a senior political leadership level.' Coleman has yet to agree.
 
The report also recommends that all gifts and hospitality received by members should be made available online as they are for other parts of the GLA.

On this last recommendation the authority responded that: "consent [will] be sought from members individually." 

The report will be considered in a full meeting of LFEPA to be held next week


-Update- Now nicked reported by the Barnet Times

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Roger Evans in row over 'Climate Change Taliban'

The Conservative leader on the London Assembly is embroiled in a row about referring to opponents of expansion at City Airport as 'the climate change Taliban.'

A number of complaints were made against Roger Evans after he wrote the following about the airport protesters, many of which are his constituents:

"We were promised a flash mob objecting to plans to increase flights in and out of City Airport [at People's Question Time] but in the event there were about a dozen campaigners in red shirts who oppose all airport expansion. Boris was having no truck with the climate change Taliban and he pointed out that Newham Council had given their approval so clearly there was local support for a project that would create jobs during the recession."

Writing in the Guardian yesterday, John Vidal asked:

"Could [Boris] please do something about young Roger? He is in deep water in the area after describing people who are fighting the airport expansion as "the climate change Taliban". Roger, you really must not go calling peace-loving east London residents terrorists. Expect a slew of official complaints."

Green Assembly Member Darren Johnson said today:

"Roger Evans’ attitude is a clear disrespect of local people’s legitimate concerns. Airport expansion will affect the quality of life of thousands of Newham residents who are anxious about increased noise and airpollution. The real threat to Londoners health and lives doesn't come from a ‘climate change Taliban’, but from he air pollution that already causes 1000 premature deaths in the capital each year".

"The London Mayor supports the concerns of people in West London about noise and air pollution, but dismisses the people of East London who have expressed those same concerns about airport expansion. We shouldn’t be surprised at the Mayor’s attitude towards local people. After all, he will need to evacuate 35,000 people from the Isle of Sheppey to build his fantasy island airport on top of World War II explosives."

The offending comments have now been removed from Evans' blog although no acknowledgment has yet been made.

Taliban for London

Evans' follows in a long line of Tory 'humorists' from Richard Littlejohn to Brian Coleman who enjoy railing against the Traffic Taliban, and 'Taliban for London'.

But whereas the 'Town Hall Talibandits' may easily be dismissed in this way, those people opposed to the expansion of City Airport come from across the political spectrum.

And as their representative on the Assembly, Roger Evans would do well to treat them with some respect.


-Update- Statement added from Darren Johnson

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Brian Coleman complains about Evening Standard

Brian Coleman's latest urgent question for Boris:

Brian Coleman: Are you concerned that the Evening Standard dwells on the tittle-tattle of Political life in London rather than giving serious coverage to the issues that are affecting Londoners’ lives such as the recession and crime?



But let's try and be helpful to the Man Marmite.


Perhaps he could rephrase his question a little bit. How about this:

Brian Coleman: Are you concerned that I am dwelling on the tittle-tattle of my Political life in London rather than giving serious time to the issues that are affecting Londoners’ lives such as the recession and crime?

Well are you concerned about it Boris? You should be.



-Update- Brian Coleman's 'priority' question for MQT


Is that it Brian? Is that the most important issue for your constituents this month?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Express fails to apologise for Dunblane shame story

Below is The Scottish Sunday Express's apology for their Dunblane story quoted here in full:



"..."



Not quite good enough really is it? Still, they do at least include two letters of complaint about the story. 

I'll leave you to judge on the prominence they're given:

The second letter is from one of the Dunblane pupils:

"I WAS in primary one at Dunblane Primary at the time of the tragedy, and having lost so many friends I feel furious that I should now be made to feel guilty for simply being alive after such an event. Instead of focusing on young people acting in the same way as the vast majority of young people, why not concentrate on how well many of us are doing 13 years on?

Most of us are at university, myself included. One is teaching in China, one in Chile, and the rest are all doing well in the paths we have chosen. This is a hard enough week for both parents and their children, without making young people who are trying to cope with such a huge loss feel guilty for surviving.

Emilie Kelly, via email

I guess that says it all really. It's just a shame Derek Lambie can't bring himself to acknowledge it just yet.


-Update- The Guardian reports on the PCC case

Friday, 13 March 2009

Boris Johnson in a spin over Muslim Safety Forum

Much excitement around, over Andrew Gilligan's story about Boris's payments to the Muslim Safety Forum. 

According to Gilligan the Mayor was:

'very concerned to discover that taxpayers' money has gone to this organisation' 


"[reassured] to know that this does not appear to be something for which Boris can be held responsible"
 
Meanwhile Boris told BBC London that:

"we stopped that programme as soon as we got in..."

Before adding that: 

"It's now over for that particular Livingstone bung."

Which is of course all very reassuring. Except what's this from Boris's monthly report last July?

But then maybe Boris had forgotten about that. And besides, a commitment is still a commitment. Perhaps Barnes was only there to say goodbye?

The Muslim Safety Forum (MSF) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on the 2nd of July 2008 at the Islamic Cultural Centre. The first session saw keynote speeches by the Deputy Mayor of London Richard Barnes and the founder of Islamic Relief Dr Hany El-Banna.

Keynote? That doesn't sound quite right. A valedictory speech perhaps?

"The Deputy Mayor mentioned the importance of MSF and expressed his support for the work being performed by the organisation. He highlighted how the diversity, spirit and unity of our city can be captured with the words – “we are one London”."

And so we are. One London. One Mayor. One spin.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Express blames bloggers for Dunblane outrage

I just thought that I would share with you all the response of the Scottish Sunday Express to the complaints about their Dunblane story:

It's editor Derek Lambie has replied:

"Many thanks for your letter. As you are no doubt aware – thanks to mass bloggers on the Internet – we have been inundated with letters and comments. Many of them have been extremely personal.

"I can assure you each and every one of the Comments from readers and residents in Dunblane is being read and discussed."

Just savour that one for a minute will you: 'Thanks to mass bloggers on the internet.' So it's our fault is it Derek? 

It's our fault that you attacked the victims of Dunblane as soon as you legally could? It's our fault that you wrongly accused them of shaming their dead friends? It's our fault that you misled people into condemning them as well? It's all our fault is it Derek? 

Now if Paula Murray was a politician, or a celebrity, the people of Dunblane would by now have expected a full apology. 

In fact if history is a guide it would have been Paula herself who would have hit the offenders doorstep first.

But as it is what do we get? Absolutely nothing. Nothing that is, except a few words from her editor whining about being found out.

Well boo hoo Derek. You've bitten a group of (what you assumed to be) defenceless eighteen year olds, and now a few of them have bitten back. 

It's time to face up and apologise.


Please take time to complain to the PCC here.

Then read Tim Ireland's piece here, and complain to the Express here

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Shame of Paula Murray

The above scans were sent to me by one of Paula Murray's fellow hacks who like the rest of us recognises her Dunblane story as "a new and depressing low."

Now I'm not going to go over the story again here. The original article has been pulled from the Express Website and the PCC are investigating at least one complaint about it.

However, if you do want to see just how depressingly and hypocritically low this sank, then you can read it in cache form here. 

I also have PDF copies of the front and inside pages if anyone out there needs them.

But before this story disappears into the small print of a PCC report, I'd just like to point Paula in the direction of her own words upon joining the Scottich Sunday Express last year.

According to Journalism.co.uk:

After six years at the Record, Murray says her biggest challenge is learning the 'Sunday way'.

"It's tough to hold on to a good story [for Sunday] because there's the risk someone else in another publication will also get their hands on it."

Don't worry Paula. I don't think anyone else is ever going to touch this one.


-Update- Justin has now hosted the PDFs here. Tim has got some reactions out of the Sunday Express here.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Brian Coleman stung by Mike Freer's Marmite jibe

Of all the characters I cover here, I get more mail about Brian Coleman than I do about anyone else. In fact barely a week goes by without somebody tipping me off about his latest lunch, expenses bill or slanging match.

But for all I may write about him, it seems there's no sting quite like the sting of his boss:

Council leader Mike Freer, in nominating Mr Coleman (for Mayor), described him as a man “with very robust views” who is “not scared of sharing them”

“I would liken him to being the Marmite Mayor - you either love him or you hate him,” he added.

According to one source, this jibe (now included in the Evening Standard) has hurt the man more than most.

In fact so much did it hurt him, that the Barnet Times thought to delete all of the eight comments left beneath the original article.

In the interests of fairness, I've managed to dig out just three of these from the bowels of the interweb:

"Joe Robb, Barnet says:

Oh he'll just love being Mayor. He'll get to be chaufffered around, adorned in his official bling. Oh, hang on a minute......

Rog T, Mill Hill says:

If I was Marmite I'd sue. I'd prefer to compare him to slamming one's private parts in the door. A small minority think it's good but the mere thought of it brings a grimace to the rest of us.

Joe Robb, Barnet says:

Still, its great to see his marmite-like turgidity being given official recognition at last.

Isn't it just. Maybe we could send him a jar or two. Maybe he could even declare it.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Boris takes a trip to People's Question Time

I'm off with a pocket of bus timetables to watch Boris Johnson face the crowds at People's Question Time. Will you be there? LBC will. More soon...

Andrew Gilligan waves his Sword of Truth about

Following Andrew Gilligan's non-story about Alan Sugar's non-candidacy, I went along to Labour's 'Winning Back London' event to see what it was all about.

Half-expecting to see 'Kick Ken/Sign-up Sugar' banners on the walls, what I actually saw was an earnest, if uneventful discussion about where Labour went wrong last May and what it needs to do in 2012.

About 20 minutes in, the back door opened and in wafted the Gilligan himself, complete with trademark smirk and blazer.

Here's his oh-so balanced write-up of proceedings:

"Hence, over the past couple of weeks, the launch of a highly significant development in London Labour politics - an embryonic "Stop Ken" campaign. Last night, in a Westminster committee room, several of the key members gathered. Mr Livingstone's own campaign manager, Tessa Jowell, said: "When the people of London chose who to vote for, they did so for a reason. It is us, not the voters, who need to change."

"Steve Reed, Labour leader of Lambeth council, said: "If we'd concentrated on crime [during the campaign] instead of climate change, talked about the things that really matter to voters, we could and should have a Labour mayor of London now." Nick Raynsford, MP for Greenwich, wasn't there last night but also believes Livingstone's defeat was "self-inflicted". Ken's supporters often like to see any attack on him as an attack on the Labour Party itself, but these people are not leader-writers for the Daily Mail. They are Labour."

Now it probably won't surprise you to hear that Gilligan managed to omit all of the speakers (including Jowell) who said that nobody could have bucked the national trend any more than Ken.

Nor will it surprise you to hear that this supposed Stop Ken campaign meeting actually included Livingstone's former Deputy Mayor and Deputy Chief of Staff (clue: it wasn't a Stop Ken campaign meeting.)

And of course absolutely nobody will be surprised to learn that Gilligan was then given license to write yet another meandering comment piece about Ken Livingstone.

But then there has long been some puzzlement in media circles about that.

Image by Beau Bo D'or

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Brian Coleman rewarded with 'meals on wheels'

Professional freeloader Brian Coleman will have his position formalised by Barnet Council next month when he becomes its Mayor.

Coleman's responsibilities will be:

  1. to uphold and promote the purposes of the constitution, and to interpret the constitution when necessary
  2. to preside over meetings of the council so that its business can be carried out efficiently and with regard to the rights of councillors and the interests of the community. (The Deputy Mayor will preside if chosen by council to do so.)
  3. to ensure that the council meeting is a forum for the debate of matters of concern to the local community and a place at which members who are not on the executive are able to hold the executive to account
  4. to promote public involvement in the council’s activities
  5. to attend such civic and ceremonial functions as the council and he/she determines appropriate in carrying out his/her duties as first citizen of the borough.

Something tells me that it's the last of these responsibilities that he will take the most seriously.

Although quite why he should be given a chauffeur after squeezing us for £18,000 in taxi fares is anyone's guess. 


-Update- The Ham & High have also put the boot in.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Why was Gilligan's Alan Sugar story bumped off?

Photo by Prj45
As Dave Hill reports elsewhere, Andrew Gilligan's Alan Sugar story never really took off in the way he might have expected. So what happened?

Well apparently a broadcaster had intended to follow-up on the story but pulled out at the last minute after:

a) Sugar denied talking to Clark
b) Sugar denied talking to Gilligan
c) Sugar said the story was "complete bollocks"

Since then, the only other non-DMGT related newspaper to cover it is the Sun who have seemingly based their (limited) coverage entirely on the Gilligan story.


In fact I can now confirm that even the Evening Standard pulled back from the story in later editions after they received complaints about it's accuracy.

Because while the first edition of the paper had the story on the front page, subsequent editions knocked Gilligan's story back onto the inside pages.

And while the first edition of the paper claims that Labour's London Director spoke to Sugar about a mayoral bid, later editions had no mention of Ken Clark within the story:

EDITION ONE

"SIR Alan Sugar has been approached to be Labour's candidate for London Mayor in an attempt to stop Ken Livingstone standing again.

"The multi-millionaire star of reality TV show The Apprentice is being lined up by senior party figures as a credible runner against Boris Johnson.

"The Standard has learned that Ken Clark, Labour's London director, has telephoned Sir Alan for what Labour sources said was an "exploratory conversation" about him standing."

EDITION TWO

"SIR ALAN SUGAR has been approached to be Labour's candidate for London Mayor in an attempt to stop Ken Livingstone standing again.

"Senior party figures are lining up the multi-millionaire star of reality TV show The Apprentice as a credible runner against Boris Johnson.

"The Standard has learned the suggestion was raised with Sir Alan in a discussion with him recently."

Now obviously there's a big difference between a suggestion being raised by Labour's London director and that suggestion being raised by any old no mark 'recently'. 

The former would be a big story worthy of national attention, while the latter would be a kite-flying exercise by a man with a well known hatred of Ken Livingstone.

Authoritative Source?

Now for all I know, Gilligan's story might be completely true and well-sourced with fully recorded testimony and twenty-four carat evidence.

But when his integrity has been called into question so many times before, is it really a surprise that hardly anybody is willing to take him at his word?



-Update- The following was also changed in the 2nd edition:


EDITION ONE

"In a move seen as a calculated attempt to raise Sir Alan's profile in the run-up to the selection of Labour's mayoral candidate, he spoke via video link at a major fundraising rally for the London party at Canary Wharf last night."

"The businessman was cheered by the audience of about 200 Labour donors and key figures including the Prime Minister and former Downing Street spin-doctor Alastair Campbell."

EDITION TWO

"In a move seen as a calculated attempt to raise Sir Alan's profile in the run-up to the selection of Labour's mayoral candidate, a video of him speaking was shown at a fund raising rally for the London party in Canary Wharf last night.

"The businessman was cheered by the audience of about 200 Labour donors and key figures including the Prime Minister and former Downing Street spin-doctor Alastair Campbell."

So why does this matter?

Well it turns out that Sir Alan never addressed a cheering rally via video link as was first suggested by Gilligan.  

There was a short film shown about Labour in London, which included a clip of Sugar being pleasant about Gordon Brown, but so what? That's hardly news.