14 NOVEMBER 1981, Page 15

Livingstone as leader

Sir: Clearly Richard West shares with most British journalists the urge to indulge in a 'hate Ken Livingstone' item from time to time (31 October). As this is so universal, perhaps it could be formalised along the lines of the 1984 hate sessions, so that we could then relax and get back to considering more important matters.

High on this list is the fact, so well pointed out by Mr West himself in his re cent excellent book, that Britain's cities have been butchered in a way hardly seen in Europe by a combination of road builders, planners, and office block developers. Part of the strategy has been to raise fares to a level double or triple that of other European cities, then axe the unused services and replace them with motorways, for which, in this way, an artificial demand has been created. The motorways allow bulldozing of the city and open the gate to the high-rise builder.

Ken Livingstone is the first GLC leader to try to save what is left of London from degenerating into a sleazy third-rate imitation of Detroit, and to this end he has cut fares (which are still much above European levels), improved services, cut road building and put severe restrictions on office block development. Obviously the planner-roadlobby-office-builders hate him, but if he considers the matter Mr West would find that Mr Livingstone is largely on the side he supports.

Mr West makes much of remarks Mr Livingstone is supposed to have made about Red China, the IRA, nuclear bombs, sex equality etc, but frankly, even if these were correctly reported, I don't see Mr Livingstone's continuance in office leading to our being enslaved by some Maoist-IRAanti-nuclear-lesbian, while I do see Mr Livingstone's being hounded out of office resulting in the physical destruction of what remains of our capital.

George Stern

6 Eton Court, Shepherds Hill, London N6