Panorama: Ken Livingstone defends Lutfur Rahman, says he ‘fell asleep’ during BBC broadcast

Ken Livingstone with Mayor Lutfur Rahman

Ken Livingstone with Mayor Lutfur Rahman - Credit: Rehan Jamil

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone defended Lutfur Rahman today over allegations made by BBC Panorama, saying he “fell asleep” while watching the programme.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman on BBC Panorama Photo: BBC Panorama

Mayor Lutfur Rahman on BBC Panorama Photo: BBC Panorama - Credit: Archant

Last night’s Panorama accused the Tower Hamlets mayor of using public money to promote himself and secure his re-election in May.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman and the BBC's John Ware on Panorama Photo: BBC Panorama

Mayor Lutfur Rahman and the BBC's John Ware on Panorama Photo: BBC Panorama - Credit: Archant

Mayor Rahman rejects the charges, branding Panorama “racist” and politically biased after documents were leaked to him by a junior staffer working on the programme.

Speaking on the BBC today, Mr Livingstone said: “I think it was a game-changing programme. I mean, I’ve watched Panorama all my life. This was the first time I fell asleep in it.

“To have half an hour of them droning on saying, ‘Here is a politician using his office to promote himself and his policies’, well, didn’t they ever hear of Tony Blair, or me, or Boris?”

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He added: “That’s what politicians do. You use the position to win support for the policies you believe in.”

Mr Livingstone recently became an advisor for the mayor’s £900million revamp of Whitechapel area as part of his Whitechapel Vision plan.

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He also campaigned for Lutfur Rahman in the 2010 mayoral election against his own party after Mr Rahman was deselected by Labour and ran as an independent.

He continued: “The simple fact is Lutfur Rahman’s got quite a successful record. He’s built more social housing for rent than any other local authority.

“He was the first mayor to introduce the Living Wage, following the example I set. He’s actually introduced free school meals for kids.”

On Panorama’s claim that the mayor doubled funding to Bangladeshi charities, Mr Livingstone said: “This is one of the poorest boroughs in Britain. And of course he’s going to fund groups that support, I mean the Somali community, Bangladeshi community. He’s not going to provide money for the bankers down on Canary Wharf - they don’t need it.”

He also defended the mayor on the charge of lacking accountability, saying: “This is the weakness of the mayoral system. “The same allegations [were made] against me, that I was running everything.

“That’s why I think the mayoral system is flawed. It puts too much power into one person’s hands.”

He added: “I opposed having directly elected mayors. The only reason I stood is if you’ve got one, at least you want an honest one.”

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for local government, said he may appoint an inspector to investigate the programme’s ”serious allegations” about how Tower Hamlets Council is run.

An investigation has been launched by the Information Commissioner’s Office into whether data protection law was breached by the leak of data from Panorama, which the BBC said gave details of its confidential sources to the Mayor.

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