Jonathan Myerson is a screenwriter, dramatist and journalist and was a Labour Councillor for Clapham Town ward in Lambeth in 2005. During that time he became "heavily involved" with the issue of the South London Green Badge Taxi School, one of the projects associated with Lee Jasper, funded by the LDA and accused by the Standard of misusing its grants. One of the men who ran the project, Greg Nowell, was arrested yesterday by detectives investigating money-laundering.
There are two things in particular that strike me as significant about what Jonathan writes here. One is his confidence that Jasper was initially sure he was doing the right thing in having faith in Nowell and Grey. The other is his belief that Jasper backed away from the project after seeming to recognise that it was going badly wrong. These paints a picture of bad judgement and a reluctance to face awkward facts rather than cronyism.
My other observation is a more general one about facts, journalism and truth. There's a distinction to be made between the accuracy of facts and the accuracy of the story built around them. The Standard's telling of the Green Badge tale may be factually flawless - I've no evidence that it is not - but that doesn't necessarily mean that the story conveys the full truth of Jasper's part in it. Remember, unlike Jonathan Myerson, Andrew Gilligan was never actually there.
The other fascinating insight Jonathan has provided is not contained in what follows, but he's told me all about it. It's that he attempted to interest the Evening Standard in the story at the time, but couldn't raise a flicker. He got it published in the Guardian, though. Now read on.
Yes, I think Lee Jasper screwed up badly – when he and I met about it, he blustered but had few answers to the serious questions I raised and the Green Badge guys were clearly ripping off the LDA (and anyone else stupid enough to give them a grant), but when I confronted Lee with several unanswerable questions about the Green Badge’s non-existent accounting and lack of computers (for which they had been given a specific grant) and nonsensical desire to buy the freehold of the property, he was clearly surprised and wrong-footed.
He left the meeting promising me answers but they never came. It was noticeable that he had been strongly supporting the Green Badge guys up until then - I think it was he who asked for our meeting – possibly following my Guardian piece - but afterwards immediately dropped the subject, slammed on the brakes and stopped any support of them. There is no doubt in my mind that he had wanted them to succeed (I think they were a post-Scarman scheme) and had backed them whole-heartedly, then suddenly realised they were simply not trustworthy, or had been corrupted by the grants available. Equally I do not believe for one moment that he was gaining personally from their corruption/fraud. That was never the issue.
He passionately wanted schemes like this (training young black men to do the Knowledge) to succeed and had perhaps been blind, naively blind, to the growing absence of any real activity, real teaching – and, I suppose, blind to the luxury of Mr Nowell’s office compared to the Spartan, not to say abandoned, air of the rest of the building. The Green Badge guys certainly believed in themselves – their blustering, aggressive behaviour to me, their councillor, was evidence enough of this – and so it is hardly surprising that Lee fell for them as well. If Lee is to blame, it is for not having the guts to call in the fraud squad [back] then."
In Jonathan's telling of the story for The Guardian, names were changed. "Tony Williams" is Clive Grey, "Saul Devine" is Greg Nowell.
UPDATE: Jonathan has just been in touch again. He writes: "I repeatedly contacted – nay, badgered – the Evening Standard to cover this story at the time and they were completely uninterested."