The Mayor of London has defended his behaviour at the launch of a cycling event attended by Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq.

Yesterday the BBC apologised to the openly gay London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, Brian Coleman, and conceded that Ms Huq should not have attended the event as the Mayor made comments of a political nature.

A statement from the Mayor’s office plays down the significance of Ken Livingstone’s comments at the launch of the Hovis London Freewheel.

“During the press conference, the Mayor and Green Assembly member Jenny Jones briefly referred to Barnet’s spending on cycling and the Assembly Member for Barnet’s £10,000 taxi bill.

“Far from being the ‘political rant’ Mr Coleman suggests, this was a moment of jokey banter. It was certainly not in any way party political – no political parties were even mentioned.”

In a letter to Mr Coleman, the deputy director general of the BBC conceded that Ms Huq should not have attended the event said that her appearance at the press conference had been arranged by her agent without informing Blue Peter production staff.

He assured the London Assembly member that her contract does give the BBC a complete veto over what she can and cannot do and said there would be no repeat of the incident.

Today Ken Livingstone attacked Mr Coleman.

“The fact that he has complained to the BBC demonstrates how sensitive he is about the simple fact that he has racked up a cab bill of more than ten thousand pounds in one year alone, accounting for half of the entire cab bill for all the elected members at City Hall.

“It is a pity that in his sensitivity about his indefensible cab bill Brian Coleman has taken it out on a children’s TV presenter who was promoting cycling in London.”

The Hovis London Freewheel already has 21,000 Londoners registered to take part. The aim is to build on the increase of 83% in cycling in the capital since 2000 by getting more Londoners on their bikes.