Start at the bottom: The charitable side of ... Ken Livingstone

Mathew Little

The Mayor of London has a soft spot for snakes and frogs, but he's done little for elderly pigeons.

Ken Livingstone's love of newts is well known, but his philanthropic concern extends to all cold-blooded creatures (apart from John Redwood).

A man with a natural affinity for the unpopular and downtrodden, the London Mayor is patron of Froglife, the charity set up to protect Britain's amphibians and reptiles, including frogs, toads, snakes, lizards and, of course, newts, many of which are fatally downtrodden by the heels of unfeeling humans. "Some people don't like them," laments an incredulous Ken on the website. "It is not unusual for snakes or frogs to be persecuted, or even killed, out of fear or misunderstanding."

Ken launched the charity's Pond Doctor service, which offers advice to Londoners on creating garden oases for frogs. Froglife says its "passion for these animals is shared by its patron".

But Ken's fondness for reptilians is matched by a distinct aversion to pigeons. He provoked a storm of protest from animal rights groups - and the nation's twitcher-in-chief, Bill Oddie - by banning the official pigeon-feed seller from Trafalgar Square in 2001. Animal Aid accused him of signing a death warrant for "hundreds of juvenile and elderly pigeons".

Aside from his love of pondlife, Livingstone is also the patron of two charities assisting people in London who have HIV. The Complementary Health Trust offers the full gamut of alternative therapies, from acupuncture to aromatherapy, homeopathy and shiatsu. The charity uses volunteer practitioners in its Islington clinic and in hospitals throughout the capital.

And the Cara Trust - Cara is the Gaelic word for friend - provides emotional support to people living with HIV and Aids. It also educates faith groups that provide care to people with the virus.

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