On 20 March 2018, Shravan Jashvantrai Johsi was elected as a common councillor in Bishopsgate with a total of 72 votes – out of at total of 173 cast. John Michael Allen-Petrie was elected a common councillor in Billingsgate on 22 March with a total of 40 votes. In the Billingsgate ‘election’ 90 votes were cast in total, so while from one perspective Dawn Linsey Wright looked like she came a close second with ten less votes, in percentage terms Allen-Petrie had a comfortable victory.* Such discrepancies serve to illustrate one of the many things that are wrong with the electoral system in the City of London; there are far too few voters to councillors and this should be rectified. Given the number of residents, 2 councillors would seem a more appropriate number than the 125 currently in office. But it is even more pressing to abolish the business vote if we are to establish democracy in the City of London and get rid of the Alice In Wonderland governance that currently characterises this council.
The Bishopsgate election was mildly more interesting than the one in Billingsgate because of the presence of two ‘anti-establishment’ candidates in relation to the City of London’s business first anti-democratic politics. Patrick Thomas Streeter got 57 votes standing as an independent, while Adedamola Aminu managed 20 votes standing for Labour. While Labour is a mainstream party in the UK, the City of London has an entirely different political system to the rest of the country and this is the only place where Labour could be considered ‘anti-establishment’. Although many councillors belong to mainstream political parties, they stand as ‘independents’ in the City, this is one among many ways the establishment here blocks democratic transparency. Often residents don’t know who they’d like to see voted out of office since the old boys club running the council isn’t identifiable by party colours. Likewise residents can’t actually get rid of those responsible for polices they don’t like because business votes decide about 80% of council seats. Nonetheless, Labour’s representation on the City of London council is currently at an all time high of 5 common councillors.
Four candidates stood in Bishopsgate, the other being ‘independent’ Joanna Abeyie, who got 24 votes. Of the candidates, Patrick Streeter** is the most curious. He has previously been a common councillor in the City, and also a Lib-Dem councillor in neighbouring Tower Hamlets. He’s enjoyed brief periods in the media spotlight for demanding more transparency in the City, especially as regards its sovereign wealth fund City’s Cash, and for trying to gatecrash and address a demonstration outside the Lib-Dem party conference in Sheffield in 2011. Pictures of Streeter being escorted away from demonstrators by the cops – for his own safety of course – only added to his notoriety within the City. The Observer reported the latter incident like this:
Patrick Streeter, the poor man’s Boris Johnson and would-be Lib Dem London mayoral candidate, mounted a grassy knoll and tried to speak to the gathering. A high-vis-vested organiser grabbed the Old Harrovian and escorted him towards bemused police officers. It would have been a citizen’s arrest of sorts, had not the press posse got there first and demanded of Streeter what had prompted this “highly provocative behaviour”.
Looking smug, Streeter consented to be led away. He’d taken his message to the people, which is: “I need publicity if I’m to stand any chance at all of being selected to run for London mayor.”
He didn’t say that, of course, but it’s what he meant.
Liberal Democrat conference delegates enjoy a day of living quite dangerously by David Sharrock, The Observer, 13 March 2011.
The fact that Streeter and Labour Party candidates function as anti-establishment figures within the City says a lot about the cosy and anti-democratic political set-up in this rotten borough. Another indication of what’s wrong is the fact that Karina Robinson has been openly campaigning to become Candlewick alderman prior to there being any official announcement of the election on the City of London council website. Knowing in advance of the rest of us exactly when elections are coming up gives insiders and establishment figures yet more anti-democratic advantages. Here’s how Robinson explained away her preemptive campaign in The Telegraph last week.
In today’s world, would any sane person decide to stand for public office? I just have. I am cold calling voters in the hope of being elected as alderman of the ward of Candlewick when the election is called this spring, the first step in what could be the path to becoming lord mayor of the City of London.
Why I’m putting my head above the parapet in the City by Karina Robinson, Daily Telegraph, 22 March 2018.
When we last checked on 28 March we still couldn’t find this Candlewick contest listed on the forthcoming elections page of the council website. Robinson’s national media splash about her campaign was the first we heard of the contest. It may be that elections are initially announced through Ward Clubs; these institutions are another way in which the City establishment seeks to undemocratically control local politics. The fact Robinson sees election to alderman as a possible step to becoming lord mayor reveals exactly where she’s coming from. London doesn’t need two mayors, and the lord mayor Robinson hopes to become travels around the world at huge expense lobbying on behalf of the finance industry, big business and tax havens. Like the City of London as a discrete area of political administration, the posts of alderman and lord mayor should be abolished.
Header image: cops escort Patrick Streeter from the scene after he tried to address a demo outside the 2011 Lib-Dem conference in Sheffield. Photo by Paul Drabble.
*The other candidates in Billingsgate were Timothy George Christie Becker who won 6 votes, and Alpa Raja who received 14 votes.
**Patrick Streeter is probably the second most visible anti-establishment figure to be elected to the post of common councillor, he is eclipsed by Father William Taylor AKA William Campbell-Taylor, the first Labour councillor to be elected in the City. Click here for our coverage of the dirty and dubious electoral brawl last year in Portsoken, where Taylor failed to win the office of alderman.
Liberal Democrat conference delegates enjoy a day of living quite dangerously by David Sharrock: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/mar/13/lib-dem-conference-protests-sketch
Why I’m putting my head above the parapet in the City by Karina Robinson: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/03/22/putting-head-parapet-city/