Mayor and Ferrari clash over heroes' parade

Ferrari: “listeners are not drones”

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has branded local radio station LBC 97.3 FM irresponsible and accused it of harassing City Hall staff by encouraging listeners to phone his office to secure support for a post-Iraq war military victory parade.

LBC broadcaster and veteran newspaper journalist Nick Ferrari, who presents a phone-in show weekdays between 9am and noon, devised a campaign for an “Our Heroes Parade”, to welcome British armed forces back from the Gulf and into the capital.

According to Ferrari, his programme contacted the Mayor’s office for comment and support in principle for the parade on 14 April, the first day of the campaign, but got no response. After two days of no reply, the presenter discussed what had happened on air, and suggested that listeners get in touch with their mayor.

However, a row broke out last week, after Livingstone wrote to Ferrari, accusing him of disrupting work at City Hall.

“I do not think it is a proper use of a radio licence to encourage listeners to ring up and jam the switchboard of a public body,” Livingstone said in his letter. “Far from the organised phone calls helping the situation, all you did was harass members of staff and divert them from doing other more productive work,” he continued.

In a final salvo at Ferrari – who has been appointed editor of Richard Desmond’s proposed rival newspaper to the Evening Standard – Livingstone said he would be grateful “if you could explain whether it is your intention take a similarly irresponsible app-roach to City Hall when and if you become editor of the proposed new London evening paper?” The Mayor also sent a copy of the letter to Desmond.

Ferrari in his reply said that listeners called the Mayor’s office of their own volition. “I assure you they are not mindless drones who follow my every whim – they agreed the request was worthy of a reply.

“I find it extraordinary you should state their action prevented your staff ‘from doing other more productive work’. What could be more important than hearing from those who elect and fund your office? In the past you have been an advocate of ‘direct action’. Why have you changed your attitude now?

“A state of hostility and confrontation helps no one and I would welcome your appearance on my programme at your earliest opportunity to allow you to put your comments on this, me, LBC 97.3, the listeners who called and anything else. Just name your time.”

Ferrari said that subsequent daily requests for Livingstone to appear on the programme have been declined. “I have asked him to comment on the programme every day since day one. It’s day five now and he’s still declined.”

The Mayor’s office was unavailable for comment.

By Wale Azeez

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