The serialisation of Lord Mandelson’s memoires in the midst of a Labour leadership campaign has provided the stimulus for the inevitable public examination of the inner workings of the previous Government.
But it is not only the record of the national Labour party that is proving controversial. Speaking to Tim Donovan on yesterday’s BBC Politics Show, Ken Livingstone was forced to defend his record as a former Mayor of London against allegations of ‘cronyism’.
The accusations revive suggestions made by Evening Standard reporter Andrew Gilligan that Mr Livingstone’s race relations adviser Lee Jasper misused public money from the London Development Agency to fund projects run by personal acquaintances.
Responding to comments from Oona King – his rival for the Labour candidacy for the Mayorality – that his administration was beset by “the perception of cronyism”, Mr Livingstone said: “A two year police investigation concluded that there was no wrongdoing.”
“Four separate internal inquiries – two London Development Agency and two Greater London Authority – cleared him [Mr Jasper],” he added.
But do the reports in question support Mr Livingstone’s case as strongly as he claims?
Whilst all five reports referenced by Mr Livingstone failed to find any evidence to uphold the more damning accusations made by Mr Gilligan, they are not quite as clear cut as the former Mayor portrays.
An investigation lead by the London district auditor Michael Haworth-Maden found that certain funding decisions taken by Mr Jasper were “inappropriate given his interests.”
Indeed this is something recognised by Mr Livingstone himself in an interview with LBC radio on 6 March 2008, when he said: “He breached the [GLA’s] code of conduct absolutely, I’m disappointed.”
In reference to Mr Livingstone’s administration, the auditor’s report also noted that there were “weaknesses in the approach adopted by the [Greater London] Authority and a failure to demonstrate value for money.”
Mr Haworth-Maden’s report was commissioned by the Greater London Authority after the findings of the London Development Agency initial report were disputed by several Assembly Members. In his report, Mr Haworth-Maden himself criticised an investigation by GLA’s Director of Finance and Performance, Martin Clarke, which found no evidence of malpractice.
So whilst the sheer number of inquiries conducted on the Lee Jasper affair might seem to give weight to Mr Livingstone’s defence of his record, enough criticisms and unresolved issues remain from the reports to make the former Mayor’s claim that Mr Jasper was ‘cleared’ something of an over-simplification.