Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Disgraceful double standards

It is quite apparent that Ken Livingstone makes his disdain or contempt for certain people or groups known through his press releases. You only need to compare and contrast issues that receive no Mayoral attention with those that spark a personal intervention to identify which people in our community Livingstone has no time for.

As we reported recently, following a wait of three weeks, the Mayor's media centre finally decided to mention the appalling rise of anti-semitism in London when it released brief details of a meeting organised by the London Jewish Forum to discuss the findings of Community Security Trust report. The impression it left was that the Mayor's team was paying lip service to the problem and Livingstone himself is not interested in it.

Contrast that example of the Livingstone horse being dragged to water with this article on the Mayor's website, 'Mayor of London supports rights of gays and lesbians to peacefully demonstrate throughout Eastern Europe including Moscow'. Far from one of Livingstone's cabal passing comment on the rights of gays and lesbians to protest peacefully in safety, Livingstone himself made a personal statement. One wonders if the reason why Livingstone chose to comment on this matter while ignoring anti-semitism is revealed in the final paragraph of the article:

'Mr Livingstone also criticised Mr Peter Tatchell. He said: "It is clear that there is a concerted attack on gay and lesbian rights in a series of East European countries fed by diverse currents. In Moscow the Russian Orthodox church, the chief rabbi and the grand Mufti all supported the ban on the Gay Pride march with the main role, due to its great weight in society, being played by the Orthodox church. The attempt of Mr Tatchell to focus attention on the role of the grand Mufti in Moscow, in the face of numerous attacks on gay rights in Eastern Europe which overwhelmingly come from right wing Christian and secular currents, is a clear example of an Islamaphobic campaign."'

In the twisted world of Livingstone some people with religion are more equal than others. Jews - bad (some of them like Israel you see); Right wing Christians - bad; Left wing Christians - ignored; secularists - bad; Islamists and Muslims - good.

In respect of the singling out of Peter Tatchell, one wonders if Tatchell's criticism of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe has made him a target for Livingstone's wrath. Livingstone has certainly gone out of his way to target the gay rights campaigner. Clearly you have to hate all the people Livingstone hates before you can be an approved member of the club.

The issue this whole subject lays bare is that Ken Livingstone is not a Mayor for all. He is only a Mayor for his chosen ideological favourites and woe betide you if you are not on Chairman Ken's approved list.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Anti Semitism acknowledged!

How could we ever doubt Chairman Ken? It took three weeks, but finally the Mayor's website has gushed forth about the action-packed response to a report by the Community Security Trust (CST) that showed anti-Semitic attacks in the UK had risen 31% in a year, with over half of all attacks taking place in London.

As pointed out on the Waendel Journal earlier this month, Livingstone had remained uncharacteristically quiet on the subject, despite his full throated demands for action when similar attacks have been visited on people from Muslims and Asian backgrounds.

The response to the CST report was in the form of a meeting between Jewish representatives and the GLA. It was not however initiated by the Mayor or the GLA. Instead it was organised by the London Jewish Forum (LJF). Livingstone himself was not involved. Instead he delegated Lee Jasper, Senior Advisor on race relations and policing, John Ross, Director of Economic and Business policy and Simon Fletcher, the Chief of Staff, to attend. It seems that only people like Yusuf Al-Qaradawi - who has called for the killing of Jews, approves suicide bombings and excuses the Muslim punishments proscribed for homosexuals - are worthy enough to receive an audience with the Mayor himself.

At least some progress has been made. The Mayor's site finally acknowledges the existance of the CST report, even if the rhetoric from Lee Jasper after the meeting that was noted in the article hardly infuses people with any great confidence that more will be done to stamp out anti-Semitic attacks in the capital.

Ken the eco-fraud

"Rethinking Rubbish in London" is Ken Livingstone's Municipal Waste Management Strategy. It was published in September 2003 and was in part supposed to address the issue of waste being taken outside of London and buried in landfill sites.

Livingstone was proud to tell us on the Mayor's website that: "Since the public consultation on the draft strategy in autumn 2002, a great deal has been achieved." and listed a number of what he considers to be successes. The release also stated:

'Over this period the Mayor has also worked closely with London waste authorities to develop waste contracts that deliver a consistent quality of service for all Londoners.'

But seeing as this was Livingstone's initiative you can understand my complete lack of surprise to discover in the Milton Keynes News that:

London waste is being dumped in Milton Keynes and the council knows nothing about it.

The revelation comes in the wake of a letter from city MP Phyllis Starkey to the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, asking for more information about what action is being taken to curb the problem.

Environment Agency records show that 11,669 tonnes of London waste was disposed of at the landfill site at Newton Longville between April 2005 and March 2006.

The figures show that the amount rose to 15,169 tonnes between April 2006 and September 2006.

It is obviously happening elsewhere too. It seems that despite all the self congratulatory press coverage Livingstone tried to generate back in 2003, the reality is, more than two years on, his masterplan remains nothing more than demand more money and export the problem for someone else to deal with. As the article shows the Lib Dem-led authority (No overall control) in Milton Keynes knew nothing of the fact its landfill was being used to take London waste. Embarrassingly for them and for Livingstone, it is Labour MP, Dr Phyllis Starkey, who has raised the issue.

Dr Starkey has helpfully enquired of the Dear Leader what extra powers he needs to deal with this problem - as if he does not have more than enough power already - but this is unlikely to welcomed by the man who once called her 'Phyllis Stasi' in one of his regular abusive and childish outbursts at anyone who dares to criticise or disagree with him. Meanwhile the sham environmentalist trundles on...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Venezuela oil deal to go through

There are so many contradictions arising from the oil supply deal agreed between Livingstone and his communist presidential ally in Caracas, Hugo Chavez, that I barely know where to begin. The main one of course is that at a time when Livingstone is trying to assert his environmental credentials, he is buying a type of fuel that we are told contributes to carbon emissions and therefore climate change. This exposes Livingstone as a mockery of an environmental leader and the measures he takes in the name of ecological protection as nothing more than cynical tax grabs.

The oil deal is good for London, a wealthy city. It is apparently designed to provide cheaper public transport for those people on benefits. But because of the deal the people of Venezuela will not get market rate for their oil being supplied to our capital. Yet again we see more contradiction in the Livingstone rhetoric as his desire for political grandstanding and bestowing mutual unqualified support for an ideological comrade comes before the good of ordinary people who are not part of the political class. Any claims that Livingstone makes in the future about being committed to reducing poverty or to fair trade will be a sham.

Livingstone also claims he loves democracy and hails the right of trade unions to protest against unfairness. Yet the deal he will sign is with the state oil producer of Venezuela, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), which is nothing like democratic and is controlled by Chavez via his energy minister, Rafael Ramirez. In fact so democratic are the energy minister and his boss - Livingstone's friend - that last November Ramirez told PDVSA employees to back Chavez in December's election or leave their jobs. Far from censoring his minister, Chavez said that Ramirez should make the same speech 100 times a day and people who did not support him should emigrate to Miami.

In 2002 the Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CTV) union, in conjunction with PDVSA managers and employees, staged a lock out at oil facilities to try to force an early election in protest at Chavez's dictatorial rule. 19,000 workers were sacked and replaced with Chavez supporters and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) was moved to call for an independent investigation into allegations of detention and torture of PDVSA employees who opposed Chavez.

These are the kind of people that Livingstone wants to link to London. These are the people he calls friends. Livingstone speaks of spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of Londoners' money on commemorations about slavery, then ignores the behaviour of his own chums in Venezuela who are effectively enslaving and infringing the human rights of anyone who oppose them in the democratic process - which they are also seeking to subvert in order to cling to power.

Would we have seen Livingstone sign a similar deal if everything described above had happened and the oil producer in question was Chile and the leader was Augusto Pinochet? Somehow I suspect we would have heard Livingstone berating the Chilean leader and ranting about rights and freedom. So where is the moral outrage concerning the actions of Chavez? Of course Venezuela cannot be criticised because the violence there is carried out by the revolutionaries. Livingstone is moral relativism personified.

It is this kind of rancid hypocrisy that defines the nature of Ken Livingstone. He treats the pockets of Londoners as his own personal piggy bank and provides succour to odious regimes who are guilty of some of the worst abuses of democracy the world sees today. His ego leads him to generate his own foreign policy which taints London with the stench of vicious regimes in Cuba and Venezuela. Everything he does is with the consolidation of his own power in mind. He reserves his moral indignation for those people who oppose him rather than those who blight the lives of ordinary people for the sake of a bankrupt ideology.

London deserves better. Much much better.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Congestion Charge zone extends

From 7.00am this morning the so called Congestion Charge zone was doubled in size as it extended westwards into Chelsea, Kensington, Belgravia, Pimlico, Notting Hill and Bayswater among other places. Livingstone is rubbing his hands and the thought of yet more revenue and the hope of a small reduction in traffic levels.

Since the CC was brought in during 2003 (when TfL and Livingstone insisted that the £5 charge would not increase and that the zone would not be extended - both have since happened) TfL and Livingstone have consistently maintained that the scheme has been a success. Even in their press briefings concerning this extension they claim that congestion in the west of town will reduce by more than 15% and that the number of vehicles used in the zone will drop by around 10-15%.

But the fact is that since the charge was introduced and the initial reduction in traffic volume, more and more people have been forced back onto the roads by the state of public transport. Yet more tube strikes are on the way too as Ken's friends play on his communist ideal of putting self interest ahead of service. The fact is the reduction in traffic volume from prior to the charge's introduction in 2003 to today is a mere 8%, a figure stated on the BBC this morning - and even that tiny amount has been achieved at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds, many job losses and unnecessary business closures. Small businesses are crying out for change and being ignored. It is nothing more than vandalism dressed up as populist policy.

Motorists have a Hobson's Choice between poor public transport and paying a revenue raising levy of £8 per day. More and more are choosing to swallow the levy which shows the congestions charge is failing. The 55,000 residents given a 90% discount off the charge inside the western part of the zone will benefit as they can now drive into central London for 80p rather than £8 - meaning even more traffic in the centre of town. But do not worry about the Mayor in all this. Ken is OK. He can continue using taxis and passing the cost on to the taxpayer.

Livingstone to gain control of rail outside London?

Commuters in the towns surrounding London may end up having their rail fares into the city dictated by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, under plans drawn up by the Department of Transport (DfT). The plan would see the Mayor take control of rail pricing in the Home Counties, which could result in people who have no say over the election of the Mayor in London being forced to pay for transport programmes inside the capital.

The obvious concern is that Livingstone, in the guise of Transport for London (TfL) could hike up fares for commuters who live outside London to pay for programmes in the capital. Livingstone could make use of this to benefit London taxpayers in the hope of enhancing his own electoral chances - at the expense of people who have no democratic ability to oppose any plans he makes. The whole idea flies in the face of democracy could hold non-Londoners to ransom. Unsurprisingly London TravelWatch backs the idea because of its vested interest in the capital's transport system.

I wonder what the reaction of Livingstone would be if the DfT handed control of transport pricing in London to Northamptonshire County Council, so the interests of commuters who go to London could be looked after from outside the capital? As long as the Mayor is Labour the flow of power seems to be one way into the Mayor's office. I wonder if the same would be true if a Tory controlled the city while a Labour PM sat in Downing Street?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Does Livingstone send 10 tonnes of newspaper a day to landfill?

As anyone living in London knows, it's only people like me these days that buy daily newspapers. Most people make do with the daily free sheets of which there are now three. The Metro (in the morning) and the London Lite and the London Paper in the evening.

As you can imagine these cause quite a lot of rubbish in the Tube and buses as people have a tendancy to leave them for the next person to read. According to TfL and the Mayor, the total weight of newspaper left on the Tube alone each week day is between ten and twelve tonnes.

What happens to all this paper is a little bit of a mystery. Obviously you'd expect, given the Mayor's "imppecable" green credentials it would all be collected and recycled, but I called TfL and asked and was told by a rather timid lady that the "majority of it gets binned". She suggested I email in for a more precise answer.

This does seem likely as another person I spoke to said that the cleaning contractors simply litter pick the trains at each end of the line, and then bin the bags when they're full. TfL/LUL's distribution services then pick up the bins from stations, and to this person's knowledge do not separate but instead send straight to land fill.

Should anyone be wondering what happens on the buses, the Mayor doesn't know as it's up to the companies that run them. So much for Livingstone's "green" strategy. I wonder if TfL would get fined for not recylcing like ordinary people might?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

World Civilisation or Clash of Civilisation?

Douglas Murray at Livingstone's recent event.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Is it unfair to attack Livingstone?

As per the post on the 18 Doughty Street post below? Perhaps his ideolgocal allies and collagues - which include members of the now defunct Trotsykite Socialist Alliance - might think so, but consider the latest press release from his people on his budget, headlined, 'Free travel safeguarded for now - 'nasty' tendency unrepentant'.

The 'sustained' attacks on 'free' transport he has been mouthing off about for some time have come to a head with this nakedly partisan press release and here it is, verbatim, in its entirety:

"Commenting on the Assembly’s budget debate today, which finally agreed the Mayor’s draft budget, Mayor Ken Livingstone said: ‘The large number of Assembly members who voted to abolish the free bus travel concession benefiting thousands of families with children should be the cause of real concern across London. ‘They have not given up on these cuts. ‘Today’s budget debate has seen free bus travel for under-18s safeguarded for now but there are some members of the London Assembly who seem to want to abolish anything that is free. Free school milk, free entry to museums, the Freedom Pass, and now free bus travel for under-18s - anything that is free gets threatened. ‘The nasty wing of politics is alive and active on the London Assembly and we should not take today’s safeguarding of free bus travel for children as the end of the attacks on this scheme.’"

So, any opposition to anything he does is 'nasty', and presumably everything he does is 'nice', yes? No prizes for guessing which opposition party he has in mind when he uses the term 'nasty'. Just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, 'free' transport is only free in the sense of being free at the point of demand - someone has to pay, in this case London's Council Tax payers.

Ken Livingstone attack ads

The team at 18 Doughty Street has launched the third of its attack ad campaigns designed to address issues politicians all too often shy away from discussing. The subject of this third ad is none other than the Dear Leader, Ken Livingstone.

You can watch the attack ad on the 18 Doughty Street website. When you have watched the ad do tell us via the comments section if you feel the ad is the sort of campaigning needed to energise politics and keep it honest. Or do you feel it would turn people off politics even more? Has Ken been hard done by, or has the ad accurately depicted Livingstone and his nature?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Ken's Low Emission Zone will make little or no improvement to air quality

A press release by London Councils (formerly known as the Association of London Government) yet again highlights that Ken's plans for a Low Emission Zone, aren't a green as he makes them out to be.

The plans, to charge high polluting vehicles to enter London, will bring virtually no added improvements to the capital's air quality despite costing around £600 million to introduce and enforce.

In Ken's defence he has quoted figures supplied by TfL, which show that the LEZ, would overall improve London's air quality by 11.6%, by 2010. All very credible, but he has so far failed to mention how this 11.6% is achieved.

However, in the same set of TfL figures it also does show that of the 11.6% forecast improvement in London's air quality, 11.3% will be achieved simply as a result of new European standards on emission levels for new vehicles, in that timescale.

So, that begs the question why is Ken so willing to spend £600million on just a 0.3% improvement on air quality, or is he simply attempting to continue his war on motorists by imposing yet another stealth tax and hiding it behind a green issue.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Communication breakdown or sour grapes?

A recent debate at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London mentioned on this site recently - A World Civilisation or a Clash of Civilisations – featured Ken Livingstone and Salma Yaqoob squaring off against Daniel Pipes and Douglas Murray.

Given that many people were unable to attend the event there has been quite some interest in a transcript or video recording of the main debate being released. Particularly as many of the reviews of the debate on the blogosphere rated it as one of Pipes’ best ever performances in exposing the failings of multiculturalism and rebutting Livingstone’s ineffective arguments in favour of it. Apparently the debate was not Comrade Ken’s finest hour of oratory.

Despite the fact that this event was put on at the expense of London taxpayers – and apparently was recorded on video and transcribed - there has been no sign of a transcript so far. One commentator on Daniel Pipes’ website called Tom Power revealed he had contacted the Mayor’s office to enquire about a transcript and had been promised that the main speeches rather than the debate would soon be uploaded to the GLA website. Daniel Pipes replied to the comment some six days ago and said he had received a raw transcript to edit. As of 10.00am, I had not been able to find anything on the GLA or Mayor’s website.

So I emailed the Chief Communications Officer at the Mayor’s Press Office, Ben McKnight, and asked him about the availability of a transcript. His reply was succinct:
‘Apologies, but we do not have a transcript, I am afraid.

Well that confirmed that I had not missed it hidden away somewhere. Anyway, knowing a bit about communications I decided to push it a little more by replying thus:
‘Dear Ben,

Thanks for your quick reply. I had been led to believe that a transcript of the debate had been promised by the GLA, so maybe I have come to your department by mistake?

Do you have a contact I could get in touch with who may know if/where
there will be a transcript made available? Thanks in advance once again.

Yours sincerely'
But Ben was having none of it and replied with:

Not sure who would have promised a transcript in advance. In any event ther [sic] is not one available.

So what are we to make of these emails? Has Comfort Labeodan, the Co-ordinator of London Stakeholders who replied to the enquiry of Tom Power got it wrong? Or does Ken’s Chief Communications Officer not know what has been promised on his watch?

Or could it just be that Comrade Ken would rather withhold the transcript because he has sour grapes about being bested by Pipes in front of a large live audience? Stay tuned and lets see if anything appears on the GLA site.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Livingstone going for road tolls

I'm honoured to be joining the team on 'Anyone But Ken', so I thought I would crack on right away with this piece of news.

The Supplemental Toll Provisions Bill is the name of a proposed piece of legislation going through Parliament that Conservatives say will enable Transport for London (TfL) - Ken Livingstone - to make any road in London a toll road, allowing them to charge motorists at will for car journeys. TfL and the newt-loving Comrade deny this is the case, with a TfL spokesman quoted as saying:
'It gives us additional powers to collect and enforce tolls. It does not give us any powers to set tolls.'
Strictly speaking the TfL spokesman is right. But he is deliberately ignoring legislation that does allow TfL to set tolls - this Bill is designed to give teeth to that existing law. I am not a legislative expert, but from a layman's view a quick look at the provisons of the Bill suggests the Tories have got it dead right, and that should the Supplemental Toll Provisions Bill make it onto the statute book, TfL and the Mayor of London would be able to create and enforce road tolls throughout the capital.

In any case, despite Livingstone's denial (not that his word means anything after his lies about extending the congestion zone - see 18 Doughty Street Livingstone attack ads) the Tories know full well what powers might be conferred because they are not exactly short of legislative experience. TfL and Livingstone are not being honest. The preamble of the Bill clearly states:

(2) It is expedient that further provision be made in relation to the manner in which tolls chargeable under toll orders made by Transport for London under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 (c. 22) ("TfL toll orders") are charged, collected, recorded, refunded and paid:

(3) It is expedient that provision be made enabling the imposition of penalty charges in respect of acts, omissions, events or circumstances relating to or connected with a TfL toll order:

(4) It is expedient that further provision be made in connection with the operation and enforcement of a TfL toll order:

(5) It is expedient that provision be made for the imposition of offences for acts and omissions in connection with a TfL toll order:

(6) It is expedient that Transport for London should have powers for the removal, immobilisation or destruction of motor vehicles in relation to the non-payment of penalty charges imposed in connection with a TfL toll order:
The underlined emphasis is mine. To me the section suggests that the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991, used in conjunction with the Supplemental Toll Provisions Bill, could give Livingstone and TfL the power the Tories claim would result from successful passage through the House. If TfL can make toll orders and this new Bill gives them the right to enforce the tolls, then their denial is laughable. Why else would TfL want so desperately for this Bill to become law? Certainly not just for the sake of it.

Livingstone's London. Your little piece of Cuba nestling in the glorious south east of England...

Just how much time does the Mayor of London have on his hands?

Is it within the remit of the Mayor's press office to monitor blogs by borough councillors and then to smear those with opinions different to his own as being 'extreme'? Maybe it is, maybe it is not - but it happens.

Councillor Phil Taylor of Ealing Northfield ward blogs and has noted the cost of 'free' travel for the old and disabled as being £213m, and makes the perfectly respectable assertion that "that much of this resource should be re-targeted at the very old who can’t even physically get on a bus. There are few people who are in work or on good pensions who would strongly argue that they should be the recipients of this largesse".

This, plus a comment from the Deputy Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, Roger Evans prompted a full blown shock and awe press release from the Mayor:

"This attack on the Freedom Pass is the latest of a series of threats to free travel schemes in London. Last month we saw a series of attempts to abolish my ability to guarantee the Freedom Pass. Amendments to my budget on the London Assembly sought last week to abolish the free bus and tram travel scheme for youngsters. The arguments used by those who are threatening the Freedom Pass are increasingly desperate and extreme.....Cllr Taylor’s call for the Freedom Pass to be “retargeted at the very old” is code for huge cuts which would hit hundreds of thousands of London older Londoners and disabled people, many of whom rely on the Freedom Pass to get to the shops and see family and friends".

Note that the Mayor has just opened up both barrels on his own foot in the final clause - 'many of whom' - an admission that there are users who do not rely on the scheme. It should be a matter of considerable concern that a well-funded press office is able to launch attacks on privately run blogs at London council tax payers' expense. I very much doubt that this will be the last time that the press office behaves in this way. Meanwhile blogger Tony Sharp notes that the Mayor has still not seen fit to comment on the surge in anti-semitic attacks against Jewish Londoners.