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London mayor calls US envoy a 'chiselling little crook'

I feel a bit like I'm telling tales here, Oooooh did you hear what he called so and so??  Without wishing to labour the point of Ken Livingstone's abusive and insulting streak I thought this particular remark would be of interest to US readers. From The Times and the BBC.

Ken Livingstone has been reported to a local government standards watchdog after likening the US ambassador in London to a "chiselling little crook"........Mr Livingstone’s latest outburst came in a row over whether diplomats at the US Embassy should pay the £8-a-day congestion charge.

Since last summer, when the charge increased from £5 to £8, the Embassy has maintained that it is a local tax and therefore, under the Vienna Convention, does not apply to foreign diplomats. It now owes more than £150,000.

Mr Livingtone’s ire was directed at the relatively new US Ambassador Robert Tuttle. The Mayor said: "Since this new ambassador took over in July they have not paid. When British troops are putting their lives on the line for American foreign policy it would be quite nice if they paid the congestion charge.

"We will find a way of getting them into court either here or in America. We are not going to have them skive out of their responsibilities. This new ambassador is a car salesman and an ally of President Bush. This is clearly a political decision."

Later, he was even more forthright, telling ITV’s London Today: "It would actually be quite nice if the American ambassador in Britain could pay the charge that everybody else is paying and not actually try and skive out of it like some chiselling little crook."

A spokesman at the US Embassy said the decision had nothing to do with the arrival of Mr Tuttle and added that British diplomats are not taxed in the US.

On Tuesday Conservatives on the London Assembly said they agreed the US embassy, along with 55 others, should pay the charge, but criticised the mayor's "outburst".

"I am not surprised that people have taken offence to these off hand and irrational remarks," said assembly member Bob Neill.

"It seems that these gaffes are coming on a weekly basis now."