Livingstone style diplomacy and the Congestion Charge

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Where are the decent policy announcements from Ken Livingstone ? Instead of anything that actually makes life better for the majority of Londoners, without wasting our money, all we seem to get from hm is a weekly "foot in mouth" utterance, where he manages to insult someone or other, for no good reason, making himself look ridiculous, and besmirching the international reputation of London.

The Guardian reports:

Livingstone under fire for likening US ambassador to crook

Hugh Muir
Tuesday March 28, 2006
The Guardian

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 London Congestion Charge is obviously a tax.

Mr Livingstone told ITV's London Today: "It would actually be quite nice if the American ambassador in Britain could pay the charge that everybody else is paying and not actually try and skive out of it like some chiselling little crook."

How do personal insults, on television, against the US Ambassador, help to make London a better place to live ?

He blamed Mr Tuttle for the impasse. "Since this new ambassador took over in July they have not paid," he said. "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."

Who believes that Ken Livingstone genuinely supports our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan etc ?

Is he willing to to exempt them from paying the London Congestion Charge tax when they get home ?

Will he be using his vast entertainment budget to fete and celbrate British war veterans ?

It is reported that US embassy staff are ignoring about 300 penalties. Another 55 embassies are also refusing to pay.

Is Ken Livingstone going to personally insult all 55 Ambassadors and their countries ?

Rick Roberts, a US embassy spokesman, said the embassy had decided not to pay the charge for official vehicles on July 1, before Mr Tuttle arrived in Britain, and that he had not been involved in the decision. He declined to discuss the mayor's comments: "The mayor has a tendency to hyperbole. I'm not going to dignify that."


It looks as if Ken Livingstone has been reported to the Standards Noard for England, again, over these stupid remarks.

"Mayor defends US toll payment row"

Liberty and Law director Gerald Hartup:

"Livingstone insults Britain�s dead soldiers in spat with US ambassador"


Ken Livingstone has a talent for getting a headline. He can be at times exasperating, offensive (I refer to his tipsy concentration camp guard comments) and endearing. The current topic, embassies paying their road tolls, definitely falls into the latter category. Contrary to earlier comments, other embassies are paying up - the UAE for example have agreed to pay the congestion charge after being criticised over non-payment. The UK embassy must pay road tolls in the US, so why should Tuttle et al be allowed to disregard the congestion charge? Once again contrary to earlier comment, the congestion charge is a toll and not a tax.

@ L P Harris - I do not agree that the London Congestion Charge is a Road Toll and not a Tax.

With a Road Toll, e.g. on the Birminghham Northern Relief Road, you have a choice of tolled or non-tolled routes to your destination.

There is no such choice with the London Congestion Charge.

The TfL spin that somehow they are providing a "service" is utter rubbish, as neither congestion nor pollution have been reduced by the London Congestion Charge, which has only reesulted in only the profits for Capita Group plc.

The payment of the London Congestion Charge by "Embassies" is a bit more complicated.

There is a difference between the Emabassies and Consulates physically located within the Central Zone e.g. the US Embassy (which should have some sort of residents' discount), and those outside of it e.g. those in Kensington etc.

There is also a difference between vehicles being used for official Embassy business, and the private vehicles of Embassy staff with diplomatic priviliges, and those of local employees and other staff who are not diplomats.

It cannot be right to charge an Ambassador £8 when he is on official business visiting the Queen or the Foreign Office.

None of the published figures so far have been broken down into these categories.

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