London's Left-Wing Mayor Under Fire Ahead of Reelection Bid

By Kevin McCandless | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

London ( - The mayor of London has come under attack for allegedly allowing Marxist advisers to run the British capital, giving millions in questionable grants to minority and liberal interest groups -- and drinking hard liquor at morning meetings.

Ken Livingstone, who has long been a controversial leftist firebrand, faced an angry session of the Greater London Assembly last Thursday over six cultural organizations that received funds from the city.

Earlier in the day, city councilors were told that the recipient groups, which have received roughly $3 million over the last few years to work with various ethnic organizations, are now under investigation by Scotland Yard.

Groups such as the Green Badge Taxi Company, which existed to train minority cab drivers in the capital, reportedly had little to show for the money, as well as poor or non-existent financial records.

Emails released by the agency responsible for giving the grants showed that Lee Jasper, the mayor's adviser on race matters, apparently pressurized lower level bureaucrats to keep funding these groups despite their misgivings.

Conservative newspapers have also raised an outcry over city funding to environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Forum For The Future, which are not under investigation but have publicly supported Livingstone.

Manny Lewis, head of the official London Development Agency (LDA), said he was satisfied that there was no evidence of fraud or corruption.

However, councilors complained that the LDA had handed over huge swathes of documents just hours before the session.

During the meeting, Livingstone said that the attacks on Jasper, who has friends and former colleagues in most of the minority groups in question, amounted to a "racist smear campaign."

He conceded that Jasper had been "a bit brutal" in some of the released emails sent to junior officials, but said that this attitude was sometimes necessary to get things done.

"Once in 100 times it has to get a bit nasty or London loses out," Livingstone said. "It's never going to be a vicarage tea party."

Livingstone is seeking reelection in May and has a strong opponent in popular Conservative Party politician and journalist Boris Johnson, who has been running even with him in a handful of recent polls.

After months of relatively smooth sailing in the British media, with whom he has clashed in the past, the mayor has seen a number of negative stories surface in recent weeks.

Atma Singh, a former high level adviser to Livingstone, publicly claimed that members of Socialist Action (SA), a Marxist group, had infiltrated city hall in order to influence policy.

Among others, Singh named the mayor's chief of staff as part of a faction which he claimed pushed the mayor towards leftist governments like Hugo Chavez' Venezuela and dreamed of recreating the city as a "beacon for socialism."

None of the advisers named would confirm or deny the report but analysts on the left have long written about the influence of Socialist Action.

"This bowing and scraping loyalty to Livingstone has materially put some SA leaders into the upper reaches of the middle class, of course at the cost of their socialist souls," wrote Tina Becker, a writer for the Weekly Worker in 2004. "SA nowadays stands for Salary Advancement."

Livingstone has also taken flak over his drinking habits. Found to have been drinking tumblers of whiskey during morning meetings, he told a press conference that was the only way he could deal with "mild bronchitis" he has suffered this winter.

Johnson and another candidate for mayor, Brian Paddick of the Liberal Democrat party, said in statements that Livingstone's accusations of racism were nothing but a "smoke screen."

"This old-school, 1980s divisive style of politics shows how out of touch Ken has become," Johnson said.

See Earlier Stories:
London Mayor 'Red Ken' Announces Oil Deal With Chavez (Feb. 20, 2007)
London's Lefty Mayor Under Fire Over Cuba (Jan. 5, 2007)
Venezuela, UK Capitals' Left-Wing Mayors Seek Closer Ties (Sept. 1, 2006)
London Mayor Says He's Targeted for Criticizing Israel (Mar. 01, 2006)

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