Sack The City of London Sheriffs!

The sparse local and financial media coverage for this year’s City of London sheriff elections was utterly uncritical of the office. No one was even questioning why this feudal institution continues to exist in what is supposedly a modern democracy, let alone suggesting this office should be abolished. The very existence of the anachronistic City of London sheriffs, who are provided with space in the Central Criminal Court, tends to undermine public faith in the justice system. Here’s how Finance.co.uk failed to address the ways the continuing existence of City sheriffs might be seen as poisoning the wells of justice by linking the judicial system to an undemocratic political authority:

Today, the historic annual election of sheriffs in the City of London has taken place, as Elizabeth Green and Vincent Keaveny were elected to one of the oldest civic offices of the country.

Every year after after Midsummer day, two sheriffs are voted in in one of the key calendar dates for the governing body for the financial district of London, the City of London Corporation.

The roles of the new sheriff, which combine modern day duties with traditional ceremonial routine, involve supporting the lord mayor, as well as serving as business ambassadors….

In their new roles as sheriffs, Green and Keaveny will be making both foreign and domestic business visits with the target of drumming up the business for the Square Mile.

The pair will also officiate at some sessions at the Central Criminal Court in the Old Bailey, where they will work and have accommodation….

The new sheriffs are voted in by the liverymen of the City of London livery companies at Guildhall. The City of London livery companies comprises the ancient and modern trade associations and guilds of London.

Traditionally, the office of the sheriff has been a prerequisite to becoming the lord mayor.

New Sheriffs For The City of London by Gregory Dy, Finance.co.uk, 26 June 2018.

Dy’s sheriff election piece details some of the close links between the City of London council and the livery companies. The job descriptions for the two sheriff offices can be found on this local authority’s website, and yet these functionaries are voted in by the livery companies. In the case of the Aldermanic Sheriff this was a formality since he was elected unopposed and chosen by the utterly undemocratic upper chamber in the council, the so-called Court of Aldermen.

VincentKeaveny
The new Aldermanic Sheriff Vincent Keaveny.

The Court of Aldermen clearly has seniority to the liveries – since its duties include approving the formation of new livery companies – and judged in the light of recent events the latter are not so much checks and balances to the City of London’s power, as a cat’s paw for this local authority (which in its turn is now a cat’s paw for the finance industry). When a livery company hosted the far-Right Italian senator Armando Siri at the council’s Guildhall HQ last month a Guardian story on it concluded: “The City of London released an official statement describing the event as a private lunch hosted by an outside body.” (See link to 22 May 2018 article by Ben Quinn in notes below – we have also posted pieces that address this meeting and the livery companies). The claim that a City livery company is ‘an outside body’ – in this instance the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants – is deceptive. Likewise, a livery source claims that the Guildhall event was filmed by Italian TV, which makes the claim it was ‘a private lunch’ appear disingenuous as well:

The Master attended a lunchtime presentation at Guildhall, also attended by a number of other Financial Services Group Livery Masters, delivered by recently elected Italian Senator and writer on tax reform, Armando Siri. He is the author of Flat Tax – La Rivoluzione Fiscale in Italia è possibile. He spoke about strengthening ties between Milan and London and explained some of the recently proposed Italian Coalition’s thinking behind their policy announcements. The event was filmed by Italian television, and there were plenty of interesting questions from the floor, including on the proposed 15% flat rate tax. The Senator spoke in Italian and communicated with the aid of a very able translator who is a member of the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants.

Worshipful Company of Tax Advisers website news section, Milan Trade Delegation by Anonymous, 29 May 2018.

Judged on this news splash it seems that for the Worshipful Company of Tax Advisers and others in the City of London, the far-Right politics of Armando Siri and his League party are just business as usual. The entire political system in the City of London stinks and many of the offices held by its functionaries should be abolished alongside the undemocratic business vote. Lack of democratic control and scrutiny means the City of London can’t be trusted by the general public and nor can any of the offices or organisations associated with it. Due to the many political anomalies that are a feature of this local authority there is a lack of accountability and transparency; its anachronistic structure renders it utterly opaque to most people who aren’t a part of it including many of its residents. This rotten borough undermines public faith in the rule of law through democratic institutions and in the case of the sheriffs, the justice system too. Such feudal hangovers have no place in a modern democracy and nor does the role of lord mayor, which the office of sheriff leads to. London doesn’t need two mayors as is currently the case, and clearly it is the Lord Mayor of London who achieves office within the rigged political system of the City who should go.

ArmandoSiri
Far-Right flat tax fanatic Armando Siri.

Personal details about the new sheriffs can be found in a number of places such as the City of London council and campaign websites. City Matters in its coverage of the recent sheriff election conveniently brought a number of these sources together. This piece by Jo Davy starts by profiling Liz Green:

The former marketing executive and third-generation member of the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters said her bid was founded on “wholehearted support of the livery, the Lord Mayor and the City of London.”

“If elected to the ancient role of sheriff, I would very much welcome the opportunity to further highlight the excellent work carried out by all livery companies in increasing outreach, improving lives and making the City relevant to all.”

She joined the Framework Knitters by patrimony in 1991 and in 2012 entered the Court of Alderman, serving as Master Framework Knitter through 2016/17.

“I am very proud to be a third generation Master Framework Knitter, following my father (1980) and both grandfathers (1944 and 1950), the latter of whom founded successful hosiery companies in Leicester, and my father worked for the family firm (Byford’s) until it was sold.” she explained. Her paternal grandfather was also Master of the Gardeners’ Company, while two uncles served as Master Framework Knitter, one of whom was also Master Baker.

Her mother, Baroness Byford, was elected Master Farmer in October 2013 but following the death of her father six weeks after her mum took office, Liz acted as consort throughout the year.

“We are the first mother and daughter to both be Master of a City Livery Company,” she said.

She added: “I pledge my full commitment, energy and skills to supporting the livery movement, the Lord Mayor, the shrieval team and HM judges.”

Mr Keaveny has been alderman for the Ward of Farringdon Within since 2013, and he is currently a member of the City’s freedom applications committee, and has previously served on the Corporation’s finance, planning and transportation, and City Bridge Trust committees.

Particular areas of focus for Vincent as an elected Ward member include planning and development, pedestrian and road safety, air quality and the City’s cultural offering

He also devotes much of his time to the next generation as a governor of the City of London School and is chairman of the Samuel Wilson’s Loan Trust and is a member of the Court of The Honourable The Irish Society.

In 2014/15 Mr Keaveny held the title of Master of the City of London Solicitors’ Company and is Under Warden of the Woolmen’s Company, but his livery status does not end there, and to his name boasts liveryman titles with the Distillers and Spectacle Makers.

To complete his social network Vincent is also senior patron of the Farringdon Ward Club and a member of the City Livery Club and City Pickwick Club.

City elects Liz Green and Vincent Keaveny as new sheriffs by Jo Davy, City Matters, 25 June 2018.

The undemocratic City of London is a bastion of privilege that serves the interests of the rich. The lord mayor and his ‘sheriffs’ jet around the world lobbying for tax havens and market ‘liberalisations’ that serve to further funnel money away from the many to a tiny wealthy elite. It should not be the job of a local authority to lobby on behalf of the finance industry and a tiny wealthy elite, which is why the City of London council is in urgent need of democratic reform.

Pippa Henslowe

GreenWithSheriffsSmall
Liz Green with two ‘sheriffs’ at her installation as Master of the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters.

Notes.

New Sheriffs For The City of London by Gregory Dy: https://news.finance.co.uk/new-sheriffs-city-london-town/

City row after Guildhall is used to host Italian far-right politician by Ben Quinn, The Guardian, 22 May 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/22/city-row-guildhall-used-host-italian-far-right-politician

Milan Trade Delegation (far-Right Italian senator Armando Siri’s event at the Guildhall) on Worshipful Company of Tax Advisers website via the Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180627233426/http://www.taxadvisers.org.uk/news/article.2001

City elects Liz Green and Vincent Keaveny as new sheriffs by Jo Davy: https://www.citymatters.london/liz-green-vincent-keaveny-new-sheriffs/

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