Spiral Notebook: Driving the getaway-with-it car



By Giles Broadbent

I try to limit how often I pick apart Mayor Lutfur Rahman's empty rhetoric, partly because it's a full-time job and partly because it wearies the soul.

However, an occasional example suffices to cover the whole.

Recently Mr Rahman dispensed with his tax-funded Mercedes and, under the headline "Mayor to scrap council car", he declared: "To ensure the highest standards of probity and transparency are maintained, I will no longer be making use of the official car and I hope that the Labour speaker of the council will follow my example."

He then drew attention to others in rival boroughs who should don hair-shirts and running shoes just like Tower Hamlets' leader.

A number of revelations have emerged since. Firstly, his use of the phrase "I will no longer" drives a coach and horses through the English language. It translates as "not actually now, nor even no longer but on April 14 - three months after the original announcement - when I am forced to by electoral law".

(Breathe in the sheer audacity of marrying such an obfuscation to a demand for applause over his love of "transparency".)

After that date, there are "no plans to bring back the car", said a spokesman.
Er, except that Labour has this week pointed out that the mayor has put a £114,000 provision in his budget for a car should he be returned to office.

Not "to scrap" then, as stated, but to park briefly out of sight, idling in a layby, like a getaway-with-it car.

No comment from the council on that discrepancy, but this is par for the course in LutfurLand so no-one should be in the least bit surprised.

Still, one has to ask - if this is what he tells us to keep his car, what would he tell us to keep his office? And if he considers this episode reflects his "highest standards of probity", what exactly goes on in Mulberry Place when that vaunted halo slips?

As you will have deduced, I am an impeccable source of insight and wisdom on the subject of Chinese macro economics (now that I have watched Robert Peston's excellent BBC documentary on the subject How China Fooled The World).

I know, for example, that no country has expanded at the speed of China without there being a painful reckoning at the other end.

★ Regeneration | Fixing broken China
I also know that ABP chairman Xu Weiping is displaying admirable ambition in his quest to raise funds for a £1billion Chinese business park at the derelict Royal Albert Dock.

I know both these things. But I try not to think how the two notions might comfortably co-exist.

Follow Giles Broadbent on Twitter: @MediaGulch

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