Livingstone set to twin London with Third World capitals

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Twinning, a totem of left-wing councils throughout the 1980s, is set to make a comeback under a new campaign by Ken Livingstone to link London with a raft of Third World capitals.

Twinning, a totem of left-wing councils throughout the 1980s, is set to make a comeback under a new campaign by Ken Livingstone to link London with a raft of Third World capitals.

Whereas the GLC twinned with Managua to "show solidarity" with the struggle of the Nicaraguan people, Mr Livingstone has now decided to set up special ties with Dehli, Dhaka and Kingston.

The cities, together with Johannesburg and Dublin, have been selected by the Mayor of London for "friendship agreements" that will reflect the ethnic make-up of the capital.

A team of seven Greater London Authority staff will lead a dedicated twinning unit, with an annual budget of £120,000 and a brief to develop economic, political and cultural links with cities abroad.

The "friendship agreements" will be accompanied by "world city partnerships" with more obvious candidates such as New York, Paris, Berlin and Tokyo. Even though it is now thoroughly post-communist, Moscow has also been chosen by the man once known as Red Ken.

Mr Livingstone himself is likely to travel to some of the cities, although his office is keen to stress there will be no "junketing on the rates" and that all visits will help London and Londoners.

The Mayor hopes Kingston, Jamaica, will send representatives to events such as the Notting Hill Carnival, while both Dehli and Dhaka will take part in cultural events for the Indian and Bangladeshi communities in London.

Links with Dublin will be used to develop a St Patrick's Day parade and the Mayor of the Irish capital will be invited over to join in the celebrations.

A GLA spokesman said "friendship agreements" would aim to strengthen the cultural ties that already existed between the cities and key ethnic communities in London.

Johannesburg, which was chosen because of its economic links in preference to Cape Town and Pretoria, could even offer London some lessons in how to tackle crime. The South African city, often described as the murder capital of the world, records 75 murders a day and six sex crimes an hour. Such figures make London's rising robbery rate pale by comparison, but the GLA believes crime-fighting is one area where the two capitals could co-operate.

"One possibility is that if Johannesburg is successful in tackling crime, then there would be lessons that London could learn," a GLA spokesman said.

There was no shortage of takers for the much more prestigious "world city partnerships" and Berlin, Moscow, New York, Paris and Toyko are are keen to swap information on policy.

Mr Livingstone has been particularly impressed with the Russian capital's train and metro services, while Tokyo is currently set to impose its own version of a congestion charge for motorists.

Berlin wants to work with London as the e-commerce capitals of Europe, while Paris is seen as a role model for cultural and artistic policy.

The Mayor is also keen to learn from New York about the "more advanced equal opportunities" policies of the city's private employers.

Mr Livingstone said that he was keen to see London lobbying on global issues and wanted it to join international associations to develop its role across the globe.

"London is extremely cosmopolitan and ranks alongside other top political, financial and cultural capitals of the world. But there is much we can learn from working with other cities," he said.

However, just in case anyone thinks the Mayor is going soft in his old age, his office made it clear that back-slapping phot-calls with the hardline Republican Mayor, Rudolph Guiliani, are off the agenda.

"We expect that officials, rather than the mayors, will be making the trips," a GLA insider confessed. "The overall message is that London is a city that needs to have international relations with other big cities. They are not ceremonial but full working relationships which produce practical resutls and are very much a two-way process."

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