Our Mayor has gained much attention and admiration on twitter because he has declared his intention of tackling President Obama about the outstanding £5.5M that the US owes London, because American diplomats have consistently refused to pay the congestion charge. The congestion charge has, for many years, been a thorny problem between the US and London. Other foreign diplomats pay the charge, but the US and Germany refuse. The previous Mayor, Ken Livingstone, became so incensed at the failure of the Americans to pay the charge, he called the head of the US embassy a “chiselling little crook.”
President Obama is bound to be a more agreeable prospect than US redneck George W Bush. Boris met Bush several years ago, and they were getting on famously until Bush spied Boris’s wrist. ‘Are you wearing a Che Guevara watch?’ asked Bush. ‘It’s actually my sister’s,’ replied incurably truthful Boris. Like George Washington, he cannot tell a lie. ‘I don’t care about that,’ drawled Bush. ‘But in Texas we execute people for wearing those……..”
If anyone can get that £5.5M back for Londoners, Boris can…….. He is to meet the President at a banquet. “Maybe when President Obama’s hors d’oeuvre plate is whisked away he will find a bill for £5.5m,” said the Mayor. The total sum owing from diplomats who have not coughed up is £51M.
The President’s defence for non-payment is that US diplomats are exempt from taxes, but Boris argues the congestion charge is not a tax, it is a charge for services and Boris believes that London should test this in the courts If they win, that will be a nice fat payment of £51M winging its way into London’s coffers. Embassies with payments outstanding include the US, Russia, Japan, Germany, Nigeria, India, Sudan, Ghana, Poland and Spain.
Update: Instead of a bill under the plate of the Prez, Boris settled for waltzing up to the President, and remarking sunnily “I want my money!” A huge grin was the response, but US aides were harder nuts to crack.