Former London mayor Ken Livingstone has got himself a nice little earner – from his old friend and fellow socialist, Hugo Chavez (pictured right with Livingstone). The Venezuelan president has invited him to work as a consultant on policing, urban planning and transport in the country’s notoriously badly-run capital, Caracas, in the run-up to local elections in November.
“I believe that Caracas will become a first-world city in 20 years,” Livingstone told reporters on a surprise visit to Venezuela. “I have a very extensive network of contacts both domestically and internationally which I will be calling on to assist in this.”
It is two years since Livingstone and Chavez first attempted an arrangement between the two capitals with a deal to supply London with cheap fuel for its bus fleet in return for advice on city management. When Boris Johnson became Mayor in May, he made the cancellation of this agreement one of his first priorities, at the cost of £7m in compensation.
Yesterday, the mayor’s office said of Livingstone’s new arrangement: “Boris Johnson made it clear during his election campaign that he did not want to be on the payroll of Hugo Chavez and did not believe a poor South American country should be subsidising one of the wealthiest cities in the world.
“Ken Livingstone is free, as a private individual, to offer his advice and services to whomever he wants.”
Asked by journalists in Caracas what he was being paid, Livingstone said: “It depends to what extent we will be tapping into our individual resources. The whole cost of this trip has been paid for by the government of Venezuela and as an unemployed citizen I would not be able to pay for my own fare otherwise.”
Some might call this arrangement the reverse of former NY City’s Rudy Giuiliani’s national security expertise.
And I guess that £7m had to go somewhere after all.