Pro-Ken Muslim group claims Boris 'would scrap the Koran'Andrew Gilligan
Ken Livingstone supporters are claiming that Boris Johnson would ban the Koran in adverts in the capital's Bengali-language press.
The claim is one of a number of last-minute tactics - condemned by Mr Johnson today as "poison" and "desperate" - being used by Mr Livingstone's backers to sway crucial votes. The "dirty tricks" were uncovered in a Standard investigation which also found that:
Bengali-language leaflets are being handed out at mosques saying that Mr Johnson "hates Muslims" and it is a "moral duty" for Muslims to support Mr Livingstone.
One of Mr Livingstone's key advisers has promised to give members of one ethnic community "well-paid jobs", with salaries of up to £80,000, if he is re-elected.
TfL has embarked on a massive pre-election advertising blitz in parts of the ethnic press, which have then offered full support for Mr Livingstone's re-election.
The Bengali-language leaflet, a copy of which has been obtained by the Standard, was handed out at Friday prayers last week at mosques in Brick Lane and other Bengali parts of the East End. According to an independent translation, it says: "Boris has expressed his hatred against Islam, the Koran and the Muslims... It is Muslims' moral duty to support Ken." The other side of the leaflet is in English. It carries a less incendiary message and makes no attacks on Mr Johnson.
The leaflet was produced by the British Muslim Initiative, whose offshoot, Muslims 4 Ken, was recently exposed by the Standard as involving a declared supporter of suicide bombing. It carries no imprint for a printer as required by electoral law.
The BMI has also placed a large advert in the main London Bengali paper, Janomot, which misrepresents a quote of Johnson's to allege that he would ban the Koran. The advert quotes Mr Johnson as writing, on 21 July 2005: "The proposed ban on incitement to religious hatred makes no sense unless it involves a ban on the Koran itself." It fails to include the rest of Johnson's sentence, in which he describes such a ban as "absurd".
Mr Johnson said today: "This is more than sleazy. It is actually dangerous. It is misleading people about something of sacred importance."
Mr Livingstone's campaign refused to comment. It is also directly promising to appoint members of some ethnic communities to publiclyfunded jobs if he is re-elected. The current issue of Noticias Latin America, a Spanish-language newspaper serving London's South and Central American community, carries a large picture of the Mayor on its front page alongside the headline: "Well-paid jobs for London Latinos."
The story says that Redmond O'Neill, a senior mayoral adviser, has promised "labour benefits" to London Latinos if Mr Livingstone is re-elected. It says: "Ken Livingstone is to give the opportunity for many Latin American families in London to improve the quality of their lives by getting jobs driving black taxis and buses, with benefits, a pension and a future." Salaries are up to £80,000 a year - about three times that of an actual bus driver.
In the newspaper, otherwise totally devoted to events in Latin America, more than 50 per cent of the advertising space in the current issue has been paid for at public expense by City Hall, including two full-page adverts from TfL, a half-page from London Elects, the body running the election, urging Latinos to register to vote and another advert for an event funded by the LDA. There is also a full-page advert by the newspaper's own publisher, urging Latinos to back Mr Livingstone. In total, around three-quarters of the ad space in this month's issue is devoted to the mayoralty.
The same issue of Noticias includes a glowing endorsement of Mr Livingstone by the paper, which translates his pledge card into Spanish, and says: "There are some people, whether left or right, whose actions speak for themselves. You don't have to be an expert to know that. One of those people is Ken Livingstone."
TfL said: "It is simply not true to say that TfL resources have been used to 'buy' support in the ethnic press. TfL has a clear and perfectly legitimate policy of providing public information on transport issues to all of London's diverse communities."