Livingstone aide quits after Evening Standard investigation

One of London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s closest advisors has quit following a three-month investigation by the London Evening Standard in which the paper has made a string of allegations of financial impropriety.

Lee Jasper, the mayor’s race advisor and longstanding colleague, announced his resignation late last night following the latest of the Standard’s revelations – that he failed to declare a relationship with Karen Chouhan, head of the 1990 Trust charity, which received £65,000 from City Hall.

The paper has also alleged that hundreds of thousands of pounds were paid by the London Development Agency, which Jasper administered, to charities and businesses with links to him only for little or no work to be done with the cash. Prior to hie resignation Jasper had been due to face questions at a public meeting at City Hall this morning.

The Greater London Authority insisted there were no foundations for the allegations.

The Standard’s reporter, former BBC and Sunday Telegraph journalist Andrew Gilligan was yesterday nominated for a British Press Award for his work investigating City Hall.

Jasper said he resigned due to ‘the relentless nature of a relentless media campaign’which had created an ‘intolerable strain”.

In his resignation letter he said: ‘I am proud of my record in contributing to the huge reduction in racist attacks in London, the work I have carried out in partnership with the Metropolitan Police Service in relation to Operation Trident, reductions in the levels of domestic violence and the increased employment of black, Asian and women officers.

‘However, it has become clear that a number of matters which are not of first importance in London are being used to distract from the crucial questions in the election campaign.”

The Standard hit back with its own statement rejecting any suggestions of racism. It said: ‘The Evening Standard investigations have always been about demanding transparency on the spending of public money. We have always insisted that the mayor has to be held to account for the actions of Lee Jasper whom he personally appointed, and the way London Development Agency grants have been approved and managed.

‘It was never a question of racism. While the Evening Standard welcomed police investigations into how grants have been spent, it did not call for them.

‘Our demands remain for public auditing of the grants, and responsibility being taken by the mayor and his officials for any mismanagement.”

At a question and answer session last night Livingstone dismissed the Standard’s stories as part of a ‘disgraceful campaign’and said he would reappoint Jasper if his name is cleared.

Asked why he had not sued the paper for libel he said: ‘We can’t afford to. You have to put up about £100,000 up front with lawyers.”

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