Richard North, 19/09/2004  

The Sunday Telegraph has finally caught up with the euro-loving Ken Livingstone’s shenanigans. In an article entitled Mayor’s ‘Moscow embassy’ angers London taxpayers they talk of the fact that Livingstone is about to go to Moscow to open an office there to represent London.

The successful candidate will be promoting tourism in the Russian market and collecting statistics about “the dynamics of development” in Russia. One may note in parenthesis that this is an odd time to start opening offices in Russia and collecting statistics about development but, perhaps, given Livingstone’s yearning for old-styled authoritarian socialism, that is not so surprising. Also, one assumes that he does not spend enough time on the streets of London to realize that the place is full of Russian tourists and visitors of various kinds. Perhaps, he means tourism to Russia. That depends largely on the Russian authorities not him or his minions.

The article mentions that there is already a London House in Brussels, which costs the London taxpayers £200,000 a year. The Moscow office will cost, or so they say, £10,125 a year for four years. And then the article quotes somebody they describe as “Peter Hume-Cross, the Conservative chairman of the Greater London Authority’s audit panel”.

There are just a few things wrong with all of that. Ken went to Moscow earlier this week, cutting short Mayor’s Question Time, the once-a-month session with the London Assembly when he is quizzed by members. Jessica Berry and David Bamber, the authors of the piece, might like to have a look at the GLA website for pictures of his “jolly” in Moscow.

Secondly, the London House costs more than that and a good deal of the money is provided by such supposedly poverty-stricken organizations as the Metropolitan Police Authority and Transport for London.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the London Assembly member they quote is Peter Hulme Cross, the UKIP chairman of the audit panel. I suppose they got one thing out of three right, so one cannot complain. But this does raise an interesting question: was this simply extremely slipshod journalism of the kind we are getting used to or has the diktat gone out not to have any positive mention of UKIP on the pages of the august paper?

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