What the hell is one supposed to make of this?
The point at which Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez decided that London should serve as a model for services and governance in Caracas was not immediately apparent. He came in May, visited City Hall amid much controversy and fanfare, and was soon gone.
But the result of his visit is likely to be an extraordinary deal struck with London Mayor Ken Livingstone that would see Caracas benefit from the capital’s expertise in policing, tourism, transport, housing and waste disposal.
London, meanwhile, would gain the most obvious asset the Venezuelans have to give: cheap oil. Possibly more than a million barrels of the stuff.
South American diesel would be supplied by Venezuela – the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter – as fuel for some of the capital’s 8,000 buses, particularly those services most utilized by the poor.
This is gesture politics at its most contemptible. It is particularly bad given that the poor of London are, by any meaningful yardstick, considerably better off than their counterparts in the South American nation. The idea that Venezuela, a nation led by a thug who’s democratic credentials could be best described as flaky, is some sort of benefactor to the oppressed masses of London, is an utter joke. It is also particularly ironic that as part of this “deal”, London will “help” Venezuela’s tourist industry. No doubt Venezuelans cannot wait to discover the joys of the British welcoming service ethic.
We tend to dismiss the antics of Ken Livingstone as political theatre. If he wants to stand on platforms with Irish Republican murderers, we giggle. If he provides platforms for gay-hating Islamic preachers, we are all supposed to roll our eyes in amusement. Good ol’ Ken, what a laugh.
Incidentally, I wonder what the British government thinks about this?