Livingstone broke rules over art exhibition, say Tories

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* Ken Livingstone stands accused of a "serious breach of protocol" over his decision to allow the anti-war artist Peter Kennard to hold an exhibition at City Hall.

* Ken Livingstone stands accused of a "serious breach of protocol" over his decision to allow the anti-war artist Peter Kennard to hold an exhibition at City Hall.

Earlier this month, Pandora revealed that the Mayor had financed Kennard's event to the tune of £10,000. This raised some awkward questions, since Kennard is a close friend of Livingstone, and recently donated money to his re-election campaign.

Now it emerges that Livingstone failed to get his legal officers to sign an approval form, to formally authorise the expenditure on last month's exhibition, which was called "Demo."

This seems to contravene rules for organising such events, which state that a "Mayoral Approval Form" must be signed by the London Assembly's Head of Law and Head of Finance before funding is released.

In a letter to Bob Neill, leader of the London Assembly Conservatives, Livingstone says he is now seeking to have the form signed retrospectively.

"MAF forms are there to ensure everything is above board and proper," says Neill. "The fact that one wasn't signed for Peter Kennard's exhibition raises several questions. At the very least, this is a serious breach of protocol."

If Tories do not get a satisfactory explanation for this oversight, I gather that they plan to report Livingstone to the Standards Board for England.

* LYNNE TRUSS won't have everything her own way, as she attempts to follow up her smash hit Eats, Shoots and Leaves with a self-help manual on modern etiquette.

A week after her project was announced, Pandora hears that Fourth Estate is to publish a rival guide to modern manners, before Truss's hits the shelves.

Pertinently, the author of the rival book is Thomas Blaikie, an acquaintance of the literary star, who studied English alongside her at UCL in the late 1970s.

"I've been working on this for ages," Blaikie tells me. "It's almost finished now, and ought to come out before hers. I feel galvanised to get it done now I've heard of the competition."

"Lynne's book seems to be like her punctuation one was: a zero-tolerance approach. Mine is more of an attempt to liberate people from uncertainty. I will be calling for the abolition of thank you letters."

* ROWAN ATKINSON evokes a conspiracy theory to explain his support for the human rights organisation, Amnesty International.

"You can't help feeling that within 20 years someone will have invented a machine to read your mind," he says, in an interview with BBC4's Arena , to be broadcast next month.

"There's absolutely no reason why this should not be the case, given the degree and the rate at which technology advances. And I think that's a horrible thought - a frightening, frightening thought."

With utmost seriousness, he adds: "I haven't a clue what Amnesty think about it. Absolutely nothing, I suspect. But it just puts you in the mind of how fragile and important freedom is."

* NOT EVEN the State opening of Parliament is immune from the modern-day jackboot of "health and safety" legislation.

Yesterday, the Tory MP, Hugh Robertson, a former commander in the Household Cavalry, spied a former colleague, with his horse, at the Palace of Westminster.

Robertson went to greet his old chum, but - although he was carrying an MP's pass - was prevented by police from approaching him, in case the horse kicked out.

"It wasn't a case of national security, but of health and safety," he tells me. "Eventually, the standard bearer had to stand with his horse just the other side of the cordon. It was bloody ridiculous."

* Our woman of the moment, Janet Street-Porter, was celebrating yesterday, after scoring full marks in the "bushtucker trial", which involved fishing a number of wooden stars out of a pit full of pythons.

When told of her task, JS-P announced that it was a "game for cretins," and said: "I've not signed up to come to the jungle to play brain-rotting games." But apart from that outburst - and one request for colleagues to "shut up" as she was getting "rattled" - she's been (strangely) tolerant of fellow contestants.

Meanwhile, the odds on her winning are tumbling. "Punters admire Janet's courage and no-nonsense attitude," says a Ladbrokes spokesman. "We've seen plenty of support for her, and have cut the odds on her winning from 10/1 to 7/1." Cheap at the price, I say.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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