Mayor of London's race adviser Lee Jasper has been sacked after months of news media revelations about him using his powerful unelected position to get millions of pounds of tax payers' money handed to organisations run by his cronies.
This comes as no surprise to me. I have known Jasper at close quarters in Black politics for more than two decades and his way of operating has never changed.
He first came to my notice at left-wing political meetings in the early 1980s, as an articulate polytechnic-educated type from Oldham, Greater Manchester, who spouted radical Black empowerment rhetoric and I liked what he had to say. I supported him as what I then thought was an authentic voice of Black protest and encouraged him to join the Labour Party 'Black Section' (BS) campaign which I led.
The movement was founded in 1983, but Jasper didn't last more than a year because he split from the organisation when we refused his demand that a 'one million pounds fund' should be set up for the 'Black voluntary sector'. This was to be run by him and his cronies. But the proposal at our annual conference was defeated so the likes of Jasper, David Weaver, Joel O'Loughlin and Claudia Webbe split from us to form the National Black Caucus (NBC). They all eventually became beneficiaries of London City Hall bounty.
Not long after the NBC was formed, white liberals were guilt tripped about their racism by Jasper 'we're Black innit' hustlers and cajoled into bank-rolling events like lavish residential conferences to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds.
Chief among the NBC's backers were the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), funded by taxpayers' money. Yet democracy-minded white liberals like those people who ran the NCVO happily ignored the fact that no Black person could just join the puny, unrepresentative NBC. They had to be invited by Jasper and Co. Furthermore, the male-dominated group was accused of sexism by women it marginalised.
Contrast the achievements of the serial public funding milkers of the NBC with those of the self-financed BS which won its long, hard struggle to gain constitutionally-guaranteed representation for African Caribbean and Asian Labour members. The BS saw to it that:
- three Black council leaders gained office
- there was a four-fold increase in Black councillors throughout the UK
- in 1987, we made history when four of our members were elected MPs
The BS also formed the leadership of the Anti-Racist Alliance (ARA), which helped set up the ground-breaking Stephen Lawrence campaign for justice.
Meanwhile, Jasper was hopping from one London borough to another securing hundreds of thousands of pounds in grants for 'community projects' run by his friends and himself. He pulled off his scams principally in Lambeth (where he has a home at Clapham, though claiming to be the voice of the Brixton ghetto), Kensington and Chelsea (the well-paid worker for the legendary Mangrove centre in Notting Hill) and Southwark (leading light of the Unity and Sojourner Truth projects).
He told me he wanted to become Mayor of Lambeth, an ambition way beyond his reach because he couldn't even get selected as a Labour council candidate, such was the deeply-held suspicion he aroused among those colleagues in the party who knew him best.
He was fired from his post at the Mangrove, in Notting Hill, west London, because he was hardly ever there to do his job. Instead, he spent most of his time south of the river in Southwark and Lambeth, doing deals.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds of public funds were lost when the Unity and Sojourner Truth projects crashed in 1996, 10 years after being founded, and much of the money was unaccounted for in typical Jasper fashion. But the cowardly Southwark Council leadership refused to call in the fraud squad for fear of being branded racist by Jasper and Co. Frankly, a white person wouldn't have got away with such blatant corruption.
There was much anger in the Black community, to the extent that the popular boss of a Peckham security firm promised one of the small business units in the Sojourner Truth centre by Jasper, but repeated let down, took matter into his own hands. He confronted Jasper and thumped him.
There is a sinister twist to the Jasper saga. He has always played a double game with the police. Such under-hand behaviour is even more frowned on by the Black community than his voluntary sector opportunism. I once witnessed a prominent figure walk up to Jasper at a Southwark Council event and bluntly greet him with the words: "Hello Lee, how's my favourite police informer?"
It is a fact that Jasper, when vice-chair of the ARA and privy to very sensitive information from Doreen and Neville Lawrence at confidential meetings about the investigation into the murder of their son, was moonlighting as a £500 a day adviser to Hendon's police college. Yet, he never declared this to the grieving couple or his colleagues in the ARA.
It is a fact that, after stoking up community anger with a rabble-rousing speech outside Brixton police station after the death in custody of a young Black man, Wayne Douglas, in December 1995, he disappeared to let firebrand barrister Rudy Narayan take the flak for the serious civil disorder that followed. The late Rudy Narayan never forgave Jasper for that. Indeed, Jasper had the cheek to pop up the next day with the police to appeal for calm.
I always wondered about him being leader of the Lambeth Police Consultative Group and head of the Met Police's 'Black on Black violence' Operation Trident advisory group. After all, as an outspoken Black Section member he had enthusiastically supported our policy of boycotting such bodies.
I forgave Jasper for his egotistical antics in the BS and, almost a decade later, invited him to join the leadership of the ARA. But, again, he played a divisive role. When I was full-time National Secretary, he would burst into my busy office and demand that he should get 'media exposure as a leader' of the successful campaign. I agreed but said he needed to do some work to earn it. But he made it quite clear that he was too busy with getting new-found Lottery and other charity loot to be attending protest events for the Stephen Lawrence and other anti-racist campaigns in which we were daily involved.
A chief characteristic of his way of working, revealed in the Evening Standard which showed he had signed as 'Jasper the General', politically embarrassing, sexually suggestive emails to his intimate, Karen Chouhan, has been cronyism. He has always rewarded his friends, including Chouhan, whom he put in charge of the 1990 Trust, one of his front organisations which received City Hall cash. That's why the £2.8m of Londoners' money going to organisations favoured by Jasper, which has stirred up such controversy, is no surprise to me.
The police investigation of these groups, and ultimately of Jasper, is a surprise, given the charmed life the Met's top brass have allowed him so far - something that has annoyed lower ranks routinely taunted as racist by him. These were the same top brass who caved in to Jasper and his cronies who threatened a riot if they did not turn a blind eye and allow them to run lucrative unlicensed stalls at Notting Hill Carnival.
What has irked me, as a mixed-race person who has always been proud of his Finnish and Jamaican heritage, is that Jasper, in the company of Black activists like myself, sought to deny that his mother is white. Though clearly light-skinned, he would claim that both his parents were Black. This was so revealing of his cynical, con artist politics. No wonder he is disliked by grassroots Black activists in his old stomping grounds of Brixton and Notting Hill.
I'll declare an interest here. Jasper provided the fig leaf of Black participation when power mad Ken Livingstone and his Socialist Action gang tried to get rid of me as National Secretary of the ARA in 1994, and in so doing employed all the witch-hunting smears in the press of which they now accuse the news media. Their coup failed miserably, because of my Black support. But they dealt the once mighty organisation a destructive blow from which it never recovered by breaking away, taking TUC, Labour Party and other white liberal support with them, and forming the rival National Assembly Against Racism, led by their puppet Jasper.
Now Britain has no effective anti-racist organisation left. When Livingstone was elected London's Mayor, he rewarded Jasper for his treachery by giving him a plumb race and police adviser job. And Livingstone also gave the most prominent among the SA gang key jobs in his administration too.
Now, eight years later, the worm has turned and it is Jasper who has been fired. But a former ARA Executive Committee member Muff Sourani, a highly-respected ex-trade union official, who knows Jasper well, said: "A better result would have been for him to be put behind bars."
Livingstone's big political crime is that he knew all about dodgy Jasper, not least because people like the Mangrove boss who fired him and others, including me, warned him. We told the Mayor that Jasper and his cronies should not be allowed near so much as a child's piggy bank.
If prime minister Gordon Brown is the canny Scot I believe him to be he should move switfly to remove Livingstone as Labour's candidate for Mayor well before the election in May. And replace the City Hall leader who is now so mired in sleaze that not only does it look likely that the Tory bigot Boris Johnson can defeat him but Brown himself will suffer the electoral consequences.