Veronica’s crony


11:57 am - August 5th 2008

by Dave Hill    


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We were assuredly told by someone who writes for the Evening Standard that the prospect of Ken Livingstone running again in 2012 is hilarious, the best thing that could possibly happen to Mayor Johnson four years from now.

So why can’t “London’s Quality Newspaper” stop fighting the 2008 election? Haven’t they noticed that their boy won? Or are they, perhaps, secretly worried that Livingstone might yet present a threat to him?

I ask this only because they’ve seen fit to make the redundancy payments of Livingstone’s former advisers their front page story. Er, scoop. Needless to say Veronica’s Cat – who only ever deals in facts, you understand – manages to describe these people as “fanatically loyal” and “current or former senior members of Trotskyite group Socialist Action”, just in case there was any doubt in our minds that the severance sums are undeserved.

Of course, you eventually learn that there was nothing improper about the payments and that they are to be made under a policy approved by the Assembly to bring advisers’ employment rights into line with those of permanent GLA employees. But that hasn’t stopped the Standard describing these former mayoral advisers pejoratively as “Ken Cronies” in its headline and on its billboards all over town.

This is a rather promiscuous use of the word “crony.” Presumably, in the name of fairness and consistency, the Standard will from now on describe Tim Parker, Kit Malthouse, Sir Simon Milton, Ian Clement and the appealing Anthony Browne as “Boris Cronies.” And presumably too the rest of us can start calling Andrew Gilligan a “Veronica Crony”.

But that would be a bit of a cheap smear, wouldn’t it?

Update: The full statement from the Mayor’s office:

The Mayor of London is dismayed he has had to take a decision on the fate of the previous Mayor’s staff who were on fixed contracts. He feels he is not best placed to do so and that the law is flawed on this issue. Employment rights for these members of staff overtake the GLA Act which states they are on fixed contracts, hence the position the current Mayor finds himself in.

The Mayor wants to make clear that he has no problem with the staff who by all accounts served the previous Mayor well. The Mayor has followed legal advice on this matter and made a decision with the taxpayer in mind. These members of staff are entitled to these settlements. They are only receiving what they are entitled to. Some members of staff have over 20 years loyal service in local government and payments were agreed with this in mind.

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About the author
Dave Hill is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is a novelist, blogger, journalist, married resident of Hackney in east London and father of six children. His novels are about family life. Also at: Comment is free.
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Reader comments


Hah! and don’t forget the half a million for the transition team alone. Yes, I do wonder when Andrew Gilligan will stop fighting the 2008 elections… spot on.

2012, I imagine…

3. Martin Bright

I don’t quite see the point Dave is making. The payments to the ex-Socialist Action advisors are hugely disproportionate. This is tax-payers money being paid to them now, so hardly fighting the election over again. It strikes me as an utterly legitimate story. Cronies is a crude but accurate description of these unelected place-people. Those on the left who were ill-advised enough to back Livingstone and the bizarre group of Trots who surrounded him, should begin to examine the consequences of that decision. The Labour Party in London will take a long time to recover, especially if Livingstone continues with his laughable 2012 bid/

There are serious issues about Boris’s advisers — not least his decision not to fully reform the appointments and scrutiny process. But that doesn’t make the payments to the Socialist Action cabal any less shocking.

The point I’m making, Martin, is that a newspaper that’s supposed to be scrutinising Mayor Johnson seems more interested in rubbing Ken Livingstone’s nose in it and implying – in its choice of headline, decription, picture etc – that some sleazy wrong-doing has taken place. It hasn’t, whatever we may think about the size of the severance payments (a matter I don’t feel qualified to comment on). I think the Standard ought to stop fighting the election.

Also, you might reflect upon the fact that the mayor’s office has not denied that Johnson’s advisers – mostly “unelected place-people” if you prefer – will benefit from the same arrangements in due course.

You might also find this post interesting:

http://davehill.typepad.com/london3ms/2008/08/the-story-is-in.html

Regards.

Martin, don’t you think there is a strong whiff of hypocrisy about this?

They may be ex Socialist Action members but thats neither here or there, unless they enacted policies we can disagree with. In the same vein, Policy Exchange is running the GLA office now. Is that a problem in itself?

There are serious issues about Boris’s advisers — not least his decision not to fully reform the appointments and scrutiny process. But that doesn’t make the payments to the Socialist Action cabal any less shocking.

But those payments were already agreed no? Is anything being done here that wouldn’t happen in other govt depts or under Boris’s administration? I’m not defending it, but just saying this finger-pointing done by the Evening Standard is highly hypocritical (as Dave points out) unless they apply the same standards to Boris’s team.

6. Conor Foley

Martin, has it ever occured to you that you, Nick Cohen and Andrew Gilligan come across as rather obsessional nutters on this issue?

This is all rather predictable. The Evening Boris has zero credibility on the issue of the London Mayor. You might as well pick up a pamphlet from Tory Central Office. Why does anyone expect them to be anything else?

8. Andrew Gilligan

I continue to marvel at the Livingstone Fan Club’s stupidity and willingness to defend the indefensible – in this case, beyond even what Ken himself is prepared to do. The news value of this story is that all these people were political appointees, hired under a provision in the GLA Act that expressly says their appointments must expire at the end of the Mayor’s term. For them to exploit loopholes in employment law and claim unfair dismissal is deeply cynical and undermines any claim they may have to progressiveness or principle.

Boris Johnson:

“The Mayor wants to make clear that he has no problem with the staff who by all accounts served the previous Mayor well. The Mayor has followed legal advice on this matter and made a decision with the taxpayer in mind. These members of staff are entitled to these settlements. They are only receiving what they are entitled to. Some members of staff have over 20 years loyal service in local government and payments were agreed with this in mind.”

Seems a reasonable chap.

…deeply cynical and undermines any claim they may have to progressiveness or principle.

Physician, heal thyself. I wouldn’t come around here trying to lecture people on cynicism, progressiveness or principle, if I were you, mate…

The news value of this story is that all these people were political appointees

I suppose there was an open recruitment process for hiring Nick boles, Tim Parker, Anthony Browne and the rest?

Oh there wasn’t?? I suppose you’ll be making a stink about that Andrew? Oh you won’t? Why ever not?

Whether the story has any merit or not, and I suspect not, Andrew Gilligan does not deal with the fundamental issue, which of course is his hypocrisy in dealing fairly with both Labour and Conservative Mayor‘s. But if you take The Evening Standard shilling, I guess you don’t much care about double standards.

Sally,

It’s not just Gilligan’s hypocrisy at issue here, it’s also his bare faced lies. He said before polling day he’s subject Boris to the same scrutiny he had with Ken. He has not and he has shown little or no inclination to do so.

The man has no credibility as a journalist and to my mind him winning any award for ‘journalism’ speaks volumes about the value of such an award.

Is it absolutely wrong to pay huge sums of taxpayer’s cash to SPADS who knew they would lose their jobs and pay when Ken did (as with everyone who has performed a similar role in the past)?

Or is it only wrong if Boris doesn’t do it too?

Leon,

Yes, you are spot on. The idea of Gilligan receiving awards for journalism just shows how much the Insider, Westminster village is so far up their own backsides they would not know a piece of honest journalism if it hit them in the face.

“Another “Boris Crony”?”

I am sure Gilligan will get right on it……………………………….one day!


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