Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Livingstone reported to Standards Board over “chiselling little crook” attack on U.S ambassador

Civil liberties group Liberty and Law has reported London mayor Ken Livingstone to the Standards Board [11.00am] for what it believes to be a breach of the code governing the conduct of the Greater London Authority {GLA] over the way he has conducted his dispute with embassies based in London over the Congestion Charge because of their refusal to pay what he calls a "charge" and what they call a tax.

Liberty and Law believes that Mr Livingstone is in breach of the Standard board's code’s requirement that members of the GLA must - treat others with respect; that they should not do anything which compromises or which is likely to compromise the impartiality of those who work for, or on behalf of, the authority; and also that a member must not in his official capacity, or any other circumstance, conduct himself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing his office or authority into disrepute.

In his letter to the Standards Board Liberty and Law director Gerald Hartup drew attention to reports in national newspapers about the affair and how it was viewed. The Daily Mirror reports what has happened 28 March as:
Ken Livingstone: Us envoy “A chiseling [sic] little crook
Ken road toll fury at envoy

It started: Ken Livingstone yesterday branded a top American diplomat a “chiseling [sic] little crook for refusing to pay congestion charges.

The Guardian reported the affair 28 March: Livingstone under fire for likening US ambassador to crook

Ken Livingstone's colourful vocabulary landed him in more hot water yesterday when he likened the US ambassador in London to a "chiselling little crook".
The mayor of London criticised Robert Tuttle while bemoaning the US embassy's insistence that its diplomatic staff should not pay the congestion charge because they view it as a tax. Embassies are exempt from all local tax under the 1961 Vienna convention.

The Independent reported jthe event 28 March:
'A little crook': Ken's undiplomatic name for US ambassador
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, launched an attack on the US Ambassador yesterday, accusing him of being a "chiselling little crook".
Mr Livingstone, who was spared a suspension last month after being accused of anti-semitism, also likened Robert Tuttle to a car salesman.

... speaking at the unveiling of the new Wembley Park station yesterday, Mr Livingstone queried the motivation for the decision to stop making the payments. He said: "This new ambassador is a car salesman and an ally of President Bush. This is clearly a political decision. When British troops are putting their lives on the line for American foreign policy it would be quite nice if they paid the congestion charge," he said. "We will find a way of getting them into court either here or in America. We are not going to have them evade their responsibilities."

Mr Hartup commented: "Although like Mr Livingstone we believe the Standards Board should be abolished and that electorates should determine the suitability or otherwise of their representatives, until that position is reached it is important to ensure that even the most dignified and progressive of politicians is subject to the same rules as more humble office holders."

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Margaret Hodge blames Commuters for London unemployment

Speaking at Saturday’s packed State of Race Equality in London Conference Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform Margaret Hodge provided what may prove for the government an easy solution to London’s unemployment problem. There would be enough jobs for all Londoners she explained except for the out of town commuters who she claimed snap up 3 out of every ten jobs that could otherwise go to London residents.

One of these job snatching out of towners speaking at the conference was Transport for London supremo Peter Hendy, CBE who earns £300,000 a year commuting from Bath. He told Liberty and Law Journal that his salary was “outrageous” but that he would be able to earn more in the private sector [no doubt true]. He may have to under a Hodge regime unless he gets a second home to legitimise his employment in the capital.

A valuable contributor in the morning was Rose Fitzpatrick who explained her role as Deputy Assistant Commissioner was of the Metropolitan Police Service was to make the Metropolitan Police Service an employer of choice for black and minority ethnic people. She reported that minorities in the Service had increased by 82% since 2002 – but from a very low base. BME officers now constituted 7.4% and were targeted to reach 7.7% this year. She explained that support was now being given to BME individuals before, during and after the application stage and that 43% of applications were now coming from minorities.

The Mayor Ken Livingstone gave a typically brilliant speech in which he reprised to an appreciative audience how England’s colonial record in Ireland made them worse than the Nazis and explained how the problems in Ireland could be resolved were it not for Ian Paisley and his knuckleheads.

Conference MC Lee Jasper the GLA’s Director of Equalities and Policing had optimistically told delegates just before lunch “Don’t forget the London Philharmonic Orchestra will play requests for you. They will never have seen so many black people. You can all go out and shock them. Asking for Reggae tunes”. As it happens the orchestra had finished its performance and delegates instead queued stoically for a meal for over an hour because Lee’s catering ran out and he had to send off to Marks and Spencer’s for sandwiches.

In the final session the delegates showed a surprising commitment to ignore equal opportunities by agreeing with a workshop report that the new boss of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights had to be a black woman.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Police drop race and sexually discriminatory recruitment scheme after three months pressure by civil liberties group

Avon and Somerset Police Service today caved in over their attempt to discriminate against the employment of white males following three months of pressure from civil liberties group Liberty and Law.

Director Gerald Hartup had warned them that their positive action in randomly deselecting white males to bring about a more diverse workforce was in breach of the Race Relations and Sex Discrimination Acts.
He reported the Service to the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission on November 29 and also to the Information Commission.
Mr Hartup commented on the decision:
“I obviously welcome the decision of the Chief Constable to drop the scheme but am disappointed that it took him so long to do so. I am also concerned that he did so without the benefit of any input from either the CRE or the EOC whose investigations have been extremely dilatory.”

“I had asked the Chief Constable to suspend the recruitment process pending the advice of these two bodies but unfortunately he refused to do this. He deserves credit, however, for acting on his own initiative."

“I warned both the CRE and the EOC that it would be outrageous if their investigations took so long that in the event they determined that the policy breached employment law that the racially and sexually discriminatory appointments would stand. I asked them to request that Avon and Somerset suspend the recruitment process pending their investigations but they refused to do so."

“It is of course important that the white male candidates who were rejected on racial grounds are not disadvantaged and this can be achieved provided no appointments have yet been made.”

He continued: “It is important that these equal opportunities bodies get their acts together if they are to have any credibility with the public. We have the right to demand that they now act speedily to investigate and to come to a conclusion about the schemes of the Metropolitan Police Service and Gloucestershire Police Service.”

“The lesson to be learned from this fiasco is that public authorities must trust the public and not try to sneak through their plans. Local newspapers deserve great credit for their determination in reporting this abuse of power.”

A CRE spokesperson commented:

"What this case highlights is the difficulties, employers, like police forces, face when trying to tackle the problem of under-representation within their workforces. There is a need for a public debate that looks at how other measures may be used to help authorities to tackle under representation across all elements of discrimination. In the meantime, we will encourage police forces to use every legal step available to them to improve representation".

An EOC spokeswoman was able to make no comment because its investigation was still ongoing