Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

This Is the First Stage in Rescuing LDA Disaster

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

This Is the First Stage in Rescuing LDA Disaster

Article excerpt


IN JOURNALISM, it is important to spot not just what politicians say, but also what they don't.

With a certain predictability, Ken Livingstone has described the report of today's "forensic audit" into his stewardship of the London Development Agency as a "damp squib" from a "Conservative Partydominated" panel. What he hasn't done, however, is deny any of the audit's actual findings.

Those are, to recap: that "money was misspent on a massive scale" at the LDA; that it "served as the Mayor's chequebook" and "poured money into projects that were ill thought-out" on the basis of mayoral whims and political favouritism rather than need; and that "tens of millions of pounds" were wasted. As squibs go, that doesn't sound particularly damp to me.

Readers may remember that before the election, when first confronted by the Evening Standard with very similar allegations, Mr Livingstone denounced them as total lies. He now seems to have made a major shift in his position.

His new, revised defence appears to be that yes, the LDA did do all the things of which we accused it, all those months ago, and which Patience Wheatcroft's audit finds today but that she "misunderstands the nature of the mayoral system in London".

"The electorate select a mayor ... it is up to that person to get on and take decisions for London. If you don't like those decisions, you can be pejorative and call them 'whims', or you can say that the mayor is setting out strategic priorities".

"Strategic priorities" is not the phrase most people would use to describe the millions of pounds in City Hall grants paid to more than a dozen projects run by friends of Mr Livingstone's adviser, Lee Jasper, money which then mysteriously disappeared with little or nothing to show for it.

As a result of the Evening Standard's investigations, five of those projects and nine of Mr Jasper's friends, including his City Hall deputy, Rosemary Emodi, are under police investigation.

Mr Livingstone may seize on today's finding that the misspending was not due to corruption at City Hall. …

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