London mayor’s top aide quits over emails to Asian woman

March 5th, 2008 - 5:20 pm ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, March 5 (IANS) The campaign to be mayor of London heated up after the current mayor’s high profile race adviser quit over claims that he channelled 100,000 pounds of taxpayer’s money into projects run by a woman whom he also bombarded with sexually explicit emails. Mayor Ken Livingstone’s aide Lee Jasper, who was already under suspension over financial issues, quit after The Evening Standard claimed Tuesday that he had sent a string of emails to Karen Chouhan, company secretary of the 1990 Trust and director of the Black Londoners’ Forum.

Both these organisations work with Britain’s black communities.

The paper claimed that in one email to the 50-year-old mother of three, Jasper - a well-known race relations activist in Britain - said, “I love you in a flaming red sari, bangles, chains or failing that in a bikini!”

The paper said Jasper had failed to inform the Mayor’s office about any relationship with Chouhan or an interest in any organisation.

Both Jasper and Chouhan deny impropriety.

Chouhan told The Times: “I have known Lee for 22 years. Nothing was going on. It was banter. It wouldn’t surprise me if that kind of language had been used.”

A spokesman for the mayor’s office said: “No evidence has been presented for the criminal allegations presented by the Evening Standard. However, Lee Jasper has stated that in light of material published today that he has tendered his resignation. The mayor has accepted it.”

In his resignation letter, Jasper said: “It has become clear that a number of matters which are not of first importance in London are being used to distract from the crucial questions in the election campaign.

“The racist nature of a relentless media campaign (against me) and the consequent effects on myself and family has placed an intolerable strain on all of us. I have decided to put a stop to this by tendering my resignation.”

The resignation comes as a blow to Livingstone’s bid for an unprecedented third term as London mayor.

The two main rivals in the election are studies in contrast.

Livingstone has a strong left-wing background in the Labour Party, and is credited with not only implementing green policies for London but also attracting greater foreign investment into the city.

His main rival Boris Johnson of the Conservative Party is an MP and journalist who is known for his ready wit and often portrayed in the media as representing the upper classes in Britain.

Johnson said: “The resignation of one of the Labour mayor’s most senior and trusted advisers is further proof that Ken Livingstone has had his day.”

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