City of London, the last rotten borough in England

From Tribune, news of a half-hearted attack on the City’s anti-democratic institutions by the Labour party:

LABOUR will this week challenge what it sees as the secrecy and unaccountability of the City of London’s government, as it seeks to become the first political party to be represented there in its 900-year history.

A slate of candidates is being put up for the elections to the Corporation of London’s common council, its main decision-making body.

Local Labour activists accuse the councillors – who are often business people non-resident in the Square Mile – of being part of an elite serving the interests of bankers.

Peter Kenyon, secretary of the 52-strong City of London Labour Party, said: “They were certainly very active in lobbying for the regulatory framework that proved to be fundamentally flawed and has plunged us into recession. The leaders of the City are looked to by our political masters as being sources of expertise.

“It’s very important for us to wake up and open the eyes of the electorate as to the extent of the influence of people they are electing.”

The current Lord Mayor of London, Ian Luder, is a partner in accountancy firm Grant Thornton, while Stuart Fraser, the corporation’s chair of policy and a common councilman, is a senior stockbroker. Both sit on Chancellor Alistair Darling’s financial services global competitiveness group.

Labour’s manifesto, launched last week by minister for London Tony McNulty, calls for all City employees to be paid the London living wage of £7.45 an hour.

It also promises to “speak out against special treatment and tax breaks for get-rich City financiers”, adding: “Too many common councillors neither live nor work in the City and are selected for their social connections”.

However, the balance of power on the council is unlikely to shift as Labour is only putting forward seven candidates for election to the 100-strong body.

Among them is Mark McDonald, a barrister of the Middle Temple who unsuccessfully ran to be Labour Party treasurer last year. No councilman currently declares themselves to be a member of a political party in the register of interests.

Mr Kenyon added: “We are not seeking to take over common council, but we are seeking to introduce a level of openness and transparency, which has previously been denied.

“We’re not seeking to overturn the role of people who had senior positions [in financial services]. It’s not to say that those skills are not relevant. But equally other sorts of skills are needed.”

The Corporation of London is the last authority in Britain whose members are elected partly by a business franchise. As well as about 8,000 resident voters, nearly 24,000 votes are distributed among businesses based in the City, with the voting share proportional to the number of staff each firm employs. (Emphasis added)

6 Responses to “City of London, the last rotten borough in England”

  1. David Lindsay Says:

    I am not sure about party slates for the City of London. It does seem rather sad that anyone now deems such a slate necessary. But the Branch Labour Party clearly does.

    And I have to say that there cannot be many places these days with eight thousand people and 52 Labour Party members, never mind seven of those willing to put up for the Council.

    They want all City workers to be paid the London living wage of £7:45 per hour. Jolly good. But do they mean that only as a minimum? Or dare we hope that they also mean it as a maximum, making £7:45 the flat hourly rate of pay for all employment in the City?

  2. Mick Hall Says:

    The city is the public face of how much of the UK works in reality.
    It is an absolute disgrace that this rotten borough still exists, but hardly surprising when most politicians see no urgency about the need to do away with our one half unelected parliament.

  3. Robert Says:

    Funny how now Labour wants this, I wonder why as they get ready to leave power I suspect for A VERY LONG LONG LONG LONG PERIOD.

  4. Evan Millner Says:

    Labour is putting up candidates in residential wards, and is opposing not ‘rich bankers’, but for the most part, local residents. For example, in Portsoken Ward, where Kenyon himself is standing, 5 of the candidates live on local Social Housing Estates, one is the local dairyman, and the seventh is the Labour candidate, from outside the ward. If Labour really cared about local representative democracy within the City, as it claims to, then it would not be putting up a candidate in what is one of the most deprived wards in England, opposing the ‘little people’ who actually live in that ward. No-one has ’selected’ the candidates in our ward to stand for election as common councilmen, they are standing to represent fellow inhabitants of the ward, to deal with very local issues.
    The Common Council is open, committee meetings are open to the public, and there is no party whip – the City is run very well, as the councilmen vote according to their own consciences, on all matters. Far from the City of London being a rotten borough, it is a shining example of a well run County Palatine, hated by centralists such as Kenyon for its ancient independence. The City’s Common Council is older than the Common Council that we call Parliament, and the democratic institutions of the City, such as its Common Council (and its wardmotes, where the inhabitants of each ward may pass binding resolutions) date back to Alfred the Great, their origins lying in the curiae of each Vicus of Roman Londinium. Democracy in the City is alive and well, and the City has always had intense pride in its history of defending civil liberties and the ancient freedoms that our nation is built on. In the City’s governance, common sense prevails over doctrinaire positioning. The City is extremely well run as a result. It is also simply not true that the Common Council is packed with bankers. Commoners of the Common Council are drawn from all professional backgrounds. Would that all councils in England had the City’s ancient right to self-rule, granted in Magna Charta and subsequent Charters. The country would be a better place for it.
    In order to comply with the spirit of electoral regulations, my imprint: Printed and promoted by Evan Philip Millner, 19b Petticoat Tower, City of London, E1 7 EF on behalf of himself as candidate.

  5. charliemarks Says:

    You don’t deny that there is a business franchise? It’s not very democratic, is it Evan?

  6. #OccupyLSX, right wing smears and the tax-dodging Barclay Brothers | Guy Debord's Cat Says:

    […] This blogger alleges that St Paul’s Cathedral is effectively run by former Ye Olde Cittie of London bankers and a former City of London Mayor. Even if it isn’t the case, some readers will know that the City of London Corporation is run like a private fiefdom. I am tempted to say that this is the last vestige of feudalism in Britain but that would be inaccurate. It is, in effect, the last of the Rotten Boroughs as this blogger points out. […]

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