Boris Johnson: Ken Lingstone a ‘tax dodger’ and a ‘hypocrite’

Launching his mayoral re-election campaign, Mr Johnson mounted a colourful assault against Mr Livingstone as a “glove puppet” for the trade unions, saying: “I’m afraid that on May 3 I do see real risks for this city and this country.

“I see a risk that City Hall will be recaptured by a bunch of semi-reformed Trotskyist, car-hating, (Venezuelan President) Hugo Chavez idolising, newt fancying, tax dodging, bank bashing hypocrites and bendy bus fetishists.”

Mr Livingstone, who has attacked tax avoiders as “rich bastards” who should “not be allowed to vote,” channelled earnings of £232,000 in 2009 alone through a private company, Silveta Ltd, paying corporation tax at 21% instead of income tax at up to 40% and avoiding National Insurance altogether.

He set up the company jointly with his wife, allowing him to split his income 50-50 with her, even though it was earned entirely by him, saving further tax. He has also paid Mrs Livingstone from company funds as his “assistant.” He has piled up at least £320,000 in cash in the company, a tactic he admitted was a “tax avoidance option.”

Mr Johnson told the Conservative Spring Forum in London yesterday that he felt like a “man who has built half a bridge” and could see what needed to be done to complete his “modernisation” programme.

He unveiled his nine point plan for re-election, which includes council tax freezes, job creation, putting more police on the beat and cutting Tube delays. At the same event, David Cameron praised Mr Johnson as a “brilliant mayor of the best city on earth. And to anyone wondering about the best thing to say on the doorstep, I give you just two words: Ken Livingstone.”

Mr Johnson is neck-and-neck with his rival in the latest polls, prompting concerns in Number Ten that his campaign is “underwhelming” and lacks a simple offer for voters.