The ghost at the feast

On Friday went to the ‘thank you’ party for all those who worked on the London elections for the Liberal Democrats. Nice to see Dee Doocey and Mike Tuffrey who are two of our ongoing LibDem members on the GLA and get all the gossip about who was doing what with whom – in the sense of chairing committees and so on. All change again apparently as Liberal Democrats, Labour and Greens combine to try to make the Assembly work and really hold the Mayor to account.

However, the rules are stacked in favour of the Mayor when it comes to the budget – as it requires a two-thirds majority to reject the Mayor’s budget. The Tories have over a third of the seats – so enough to rubber stamp whatever Boris wants. Nowhere else can a budget be passed on a minority vote. Ho hum!

What was either sad or sweet – depending how you look on it – was apparently Ken Livingstone was in the gallery watching the Assembly meeting as it made its first decisions after the elections – the ghost at the feast. I can’t imagine what that felt like – to see the how going on without you – when you have been the sole proprietor for so many years. Poignant – maybe?

I’ve noticed a bit of speculation in cyberworld as to whether Ken will seek a parliamentary seat – perhaps mine or his old stomping ground in Brent. Can’t imagine why he would want to go back into the Commons – as he is reputed to have hated it. Maybe he believes he is the Prime Minister Labour never had and wants to give them another chance. No – he’s not that stupid!

Scandal at the London Development Agency: latest news

As the Evening Standard reports today:

Ken Livingstone has been accused of “misleading the public” after claiming an internal probe into the City Hall grants scandal was independent.

The Mayor was attacked by MPs from all three big political parties over his claim about the London Development Agency review. It examined allegations that LDA cash was misappropriated by friends of his adviser Lee Jasper…

Today the London Assembly heard evidence from two senior LDA officials dramatically at odds with Mr Livingstone’s claims.

Andrew Travers, who led the review, told Assembly members: “The review has been conducted by a team of LDA staff supported by a team of internal auditors – the conclusions of the review are mine alone.”

LDA chief executive Manny Lewis said the review had spoken neither to Mr Jasper, nor to anyone from the suspect projects or not employed by City Hall.

Labour MP Kate Hoey, Lib-Dem Lynne Featherstone and Conservative Greg Hands accused the Mayor of misleading the public. Mr Hands, MP for Hammersmith and Fulham, said: “It is deeply misleading for Mr Livingstone to suggest that the LDA has either been cleared or that the enquiry is independent.”

Ms Featherstone said: “Ken has no shame. It is almost as if if he shouts loud enough he makes what he is saying true, but the evidence shows that what the Mayor has said is not true.”

Ms Hoey, MP for Vauxhall, said: “The Mayor has been consistently misleading the public over the status of this review. It was not independent and it did not clear Mr Jasper or the LDA. People need to wake up about what is happening.” …

Assembly members fiercely criticised a Mayoral and LDA press release issued last Friday claiming the review had given the projects the all-clear. Lib Dem leader Mike Tuffrey described it as “spin” … [See my previous blog entry on this]

Mr Travers also confirmed that the review had not spoken to Brenda Stern, the ex-LDA whistleblower at the centre of the allegations involving one of the projects.