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I’m sure that Hugo Chavez has done some good. Much more bad than good probably, but some good. And Ken Livingstone is certainly not totally evil. But when the two of them get together it is very implausible that it is good news for the world on average.

Though if Mr Livingstone spends a lot of time in Venezuela, that will be pleasant both for him and for Londoners, I am really quite puzzled what Latin America, or even Mr Chavez, gets from this deal:

Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, has found a new role as an adviser to the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and his political allies. During a surprise visit to Caracas, Livingstone said yesterday that he would act as a consultant on the capital’s policing, transport and other municipal issues.

“I believe that Caracas will become a first-world city in 20 years. I have a very extensive network of contacts both domestically and internationally which I will be calling on to assist in this,” he told reporters at the presidential palace after meeting Chávez.

But the most puzling thing of all is that use of the phrase “first-world city”. I was under the impression that the ‘first world’ was the capitalist western countries, the ‘second world’ the realm of state-socialism, and the ‘third world’ the unindustrialised rest, not clearly part of either. Continuing the metaphor of separate worlds – and wishing away trade and travel and telegraph – the Rev John Papworth has even coined “Fourth World” for the poorest of the poor and those rejecting economic development altogether.

I cannot believe Red Ken was trying to suggest that the Bolivarian Revolution will fail, and that in 20 years Venezuela will be fully part of the capitalist first world again. Surely Mr Livingstone means he wants Caracas to be a second-world city?

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24 comments to Malapropism

  • lucklucky

    Chavez gets the “respect ” of the European left that controls most news channels.

  • Miv Tucker

    Not so much a malapropism as freudian slip, surely?

  • Paul Marks

    My favourate bit of pro Chavez nonsense is the “look at the youth orchestra made up of poor children” line.

    A youth orchestra made up of poor children – founded thirty years ago.

    I admit that the one B.B.C. claim that I once heard, that Chavez created the state schools (a system in fact established by President Blanco back in the 19th century), was more extreme – but the youth orchestra nonsense is produced more often.

  • Kevin B

    The job should suit our Ken down to the ground.

    As mayor of consultant to Caracas he’ll be able to get things done without having to worry about those time consuming ‘democratic’ niceties like Assemblies and laws. As the dictator’s President’s best pal he’ll have the full backing of the totalitarian state so opponents will either pony up or disappear.

    On the other hand, if he upsets his pal Chavez, he might be the one with an ice-pick in his head. And wouldn’t that be a shame?

    As for his ‘malapropism’, perhaps his time in London has led him to believe that, thanks to the red – green – Islamofascist alliance he so skillfully put together, the political and economic circumstances of London, (and the other first world cities), will soon be indistinguishable from those of Caracas.

  • Kevin B

    I feel sorry for his newts though. After all, he will meet whole new classes of lizards in Venezuela.

    Will his very extensive network of contacts both domestically and internationally be deputised to take care of his London based reptiles?

  • WalterBoswell

    I’m sure that in Mr. Livingstone’s mind first-world and socialism are not mutually exclusive concepts.

  • Kevin B. Newts are not reptiles. They’re amphibians.

    And why the fucking fuck does anyone give a fuck about what Ken Livingstone thinks about anything anymore?

  • guy herbert

    Nick M,

    That was one of my subsidiary points. Why does Chavez think he’s buying anything of value?

  • Kevin B

    Nick M:

    Newts are not reptiles

    Call it poetic licence! I wanted to get in a reference to his London based reptile associates.

    Also, the reason we should give a flying fuck about ex Dear Leader is his very extensive network of contacts both domestically and internationally as well as the red – green – Islamofascist alliance he so skillfully put together.

    Just because the London electorate kicked him out, doesn’t mean he and his cohorts have given up on their designs.

    The comrades have had their setbacks over the years but they are still advancing.

  • WalterBoswell

    “Why does Chavez think he’s buying anything of value?”

    … and what will he do with the carcass once he’s discovered that Ken’s no trophy.

  • RAB

    Now then, nuts and bolts first chaps
    I can always come back to just pure loathing of the newt fancier.(Pissed as a newt takes on a whole new meaning with Ken).

    What of this supposed subsidised deal between Ken and Charaz, to provide cheap oil for London.
    Is this real? Fantasy? Wishful thinking? what?
    A big Ken announcement then dribble off exit stage left…?

    If it is real, and still in place, what does Boris have to say about it?

  • RAB

    That’s Chavez…

  • occasionalblogger

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Livingstone hadn’t told Chavez that he is no longer Mayor of London. However, just think of the benefits – the money derived from shipping all those bendy buses to Venezuela will come in handy; All those TfL and camera partnership toadies now rapidly learning Spanish to follow their leader; the income increase for taxi drivers if Livingstone follows his old methods of him and his staff spending millions of pounds in taxi fares while taxing ordinary motorists off the road so that the taxis can have a clear run; the list goes on. The greatest benefit, however, is that LIVINGSTONE IS NOT HERE!

  • I always thought ‘Third World’ was in contrast to ‘Old World’ (i.e. Europe) and ‘New World’ (i.e. the Americas).

    Whatever the derivation, the likelihood that 20 more years of Chavismo will convert Caracas into anything other than an even more pestilential hell-hole than now is risible.

  • Laird

    Well, according to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge, right?) “the term ‘Second World’ is a phrase that was used to describe the Communist states within the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence.” “First World” refers to the US and its allies, with the term “Third World” having now been supplanted by the phrase “developing nations”. So perhaps Red Ken means that in 20 years Venezuela will be a full-fledged ally of the West. Or perhaps (Humpty Dumpty-like) he simply uses his own definition of the term.

  • Conrad

    “When the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit”

  • Stan Wolarz

    I always understood that the number of “worlds” in the world came with the discovery of the Americas (the New World) by Europeans (from the western edge of the Old World) Use of the 3rd came about more recently,as a term to denote all the others – the also-rans of the world,now generally used to denote the poorer parts of old & new.The 4th World “with the kerosene record player” was evoked by Frank Zappa in his 1978 (I think) album “Joe’s Garage” part 3,final track,”Little Green Rosetta”

  • nick g.

    Chavez does good by showing us what not to do. We need continual reminders of how bad things can get. The Chinese have North Korea to show them how bad things were in Maoland China, the Europeans and Africans have Zimbabwe, and the Americas have Cuba and Venezuela. It would be possible to idealise that past if they weren’t there, after all. Better a small economy like Venezuela tries socialism and communism than a large one!

  • watcher in the dark

    What Ken and Hugo both get is the warm fuzzy feeling of being that teeny little bit more important.

  • I suspect that it is just a matter of Keen needs a job, one that pays moolah, and ‘ugo has helped him out. Just another case of Chavez using the poor bloody taxpayer as his piggy bank.

  • It’s a sinecure. Ken gets paid for doing nothing.

    Welcome to socialism.

  • guy herbert

    ~Yes, yes….

    But no-one has explained what Chavez gets (or thinks he gets) out of this deal. When Ken was mayor, then there was international prestige and recognition of a sort in links with London – and the Mayor of London‘s 70 press officers at the disposal of the régime. But how does he benefit from having a freelance restaurant critic on the payroll?

  • Paul Marks


    I am told that Boris Johnson had a look at the oil deal and discovered (no surprise) that it was not as good as had been presented – so it was pointless trying to continue with it.

    Although there was also the question of what London would provide in return.

    Cuba really does cheap (or free) oil from Chevez – but the Castro brothers provided doctors and other such in return.

    These doctors are not allowed to leave the country and must do as Chevez and his thugs order them to do.

    In short they are slaves – and I am not sure that selling slaves for oil would go down well in London.

  • I thought there was only a first world and third world. And that the distance was invented as a rhetorical point that there was a giant gap between the two. God forbid I disagree with Wikipedia, however (or maybe I wrote that article and am trying to increase visits – you can’t know!).