By Ian Dunt
One of the biggest gay pride celebrations in the world is in danger of turning into a shambles, amid recrimination between organisers and the mayor's office.
The World Pride event, which is due to take place just three weeks before the Olympics, is being drastically curtailed amid claim and counter-claim from the Metropolitan police, festival organisers and City Hall.
“The actions of the authorities will turn what would have been a positive event for London into a PR disaster," said Peter Tatchell, who helped organise Britain’s first Gay Pride parade 40 years ago.
"Vast numbers of people will be left feeling let down and angry."
The advertised start time has been moved from 13:00 BST to 11:00 BST, a rally in Soho has been cancelled, floats have been banned and a post-parade event in Trafalgar Square has been shortened.
"These ill-advised decisions are likely to result in hundreds of thousands of people milling aimlessly around the West End," Tatchell added.
"It is a recipe for confusion and disruption."
The Mayor's Office insisted the decisions were not made by them, in a comment which directly contradicts sources inside the World Pride event.
"The mayor is very keen that Pride goes ahead and is working with all the relevant agencies and the organisers to ensure a safe and successful event," a spokesperson for Boris Johnson said.
But sources in World Pride insisted the moves were a joint decision between the police and City Hall.
The group appears to have been unable to guarantee upfront payment of suppliers, including safety equipment like crowd barriers – a condition imposed on the event by City Hall.
But insiders told politics.co.uk that City Hall had been more relaxed about the rule during previous Gay Pride events.
Without the ability to pay for supplies up front, organisers were forced to apply for a 'commissioner's order', which effectively turned the festival into a protest under police authority.
Critics warn the changes to the arrangements and the lack of organisation around the events will lead to thousands of people milling around the West End.
"The scheduled orderly parade could well descend into mayhem, with the much of central London becoming gridlocked for hours with vast confused crowds," Tatchell warned.
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By Ian Dunt
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