Azara Blog: Boris Johnson scraps deal with Venezuela

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Date published: 2008/05/25

The BBC says:

Boris Johnson has decided not to renew the controversial oil deal agreed by his predecessor with Venezuela.

The deal with Caracas, was essentially an oil-for-advice exchange, an exchange that Mr Johnson labelled "crackers" during his election campaign
Mayor Johnson will be quick to point to this decision as well as his move to scrap "the Mayor's personal newspaper" The Londoner, which had an annual budget of £2.9 million, as evidence that he isn't taking long to live up to his manifesto pledge of getting better value for money from City Hall's £11 billion annual budget.
Ken Livingstone argued that the deal his administration agreed with Venezuela's state oil company would lead to a quarter of a million of the poorest Londoners benefiting from half price bus and tram travel.

Mr Livingstone maintained that the scheme, whose beneficiaries were those receiving Income Support payments from the government, would lead to a rise in the living standards of some of the most deprived people in the capital.

He has repeated that claim today, and it may well be echoed by those benefiting from the discounted travel.

Boris Johnson has said he will honour the concessions that the scheme provides until its original end date - August this year - but those that had taken it up will be asking where they will find the money to cover the dent in their back pockets.

Transport for London figures show that after three months of the scheme 56,000 people had taken it up.

And whilst this may not quite be as many as the 250,000 claimed by Mr Livingstone there may still be some disgruntled Londoners for Mr Johnson to soothe; how, or if he'll do this he hasn't said.

Johnson does not have to worry too much about these "disgruntled Londoners" since probably hardly any of them voted for him. This Venezuela deal was particularly unsavoury (stealing money from the dirt poor of Venezuela to help the somewhat poor of London in order to improve the image of Chavez) and so it is good that Johnson has at least scrapped that.

And of course it's early days in the Johnson administration so it remains to be seen whether he can really permanently cut back on the marketing and spin that characterises all bureaucracies in search of self-glorification and self-justification.

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