The subheading of a story The Independent ran last weekend about Emine Erdoğan (wife of Turkey’s president) that didn’t detail the fact she was welcomed to an award presentation “in recognition of her humanitarian service” by City of London councillor Alison Gowman ran: ‘It’s extraordinary – what were the City of London thinking of?’ asks guest at prestigious Mansion House venue. Obviously the City of London suits were thinking of themselves and business opportunities for the financial services industry, while simultaneously ignoring the interests of their residents who have the misfortune to live in the last rotten and thoroughly undemocratic borough in the UK. Although a quick online check would have revealed Alison Gowman’s involvement, The Independent failed to cover this and related aspects of the story:
Leaders at the City of London Corporation have been criticised after the prestigious Mansion House was used to honour the “humanitarian” work of the wife of the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has thrown thousands of his own people in jail.
Emine Erdoğan accepting her humanitarian award at The Mansion House, note the City of London logo/crest on the lectern.
Emine Erdoğan was given an award by the Global Donors Forum at the prestigious venue “in recognition of her humanitarian service”.
Her husband’s regime in Turkey is seen by many as brutal and dictatorial, increasingly run by a clique of his close family and friends.
According to Amnesty International, since a coup attempt two years ago, more than 180 media outlets have been shut down and 170,000 public sector workers fired for activism or dissent. Currently, some 50,000 people are imprisoned awaiting trial.
One guest at the event said: “It’s extraordinary – outrageous – to do this here. What were the City of London thinking of?”
In her acceptance speech, Mrs Erdogan said her philanthropy was “about striving to establish a fair and just order and pursuing compassionate policies. It is about enabling social justice and equal opportunity.”
She was speaking within hours of her husband boycotting Europe’s annual conference on human rights for the second year running because organisers refused to refuse entry to organisations he disapproved of.
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “Clearly some people in the City Corporation have rather a tin ear and just do not understand the seriousness of what is happening in Turkey.”…
A spokesperson for the council, known as the City of London Corporation, said it had no control over who the Global Donors Forum chooses to celebrate: “The guest lists for events are a matter for them,” it said.
City of London criticised for giving humanitarian award to Turkish president’s wife by Jim Armitage, The Independent, 15 September 2018.
The day after this was published the story was picked up by the Italian papers Il Mattino and Il Giornale; both pieces were copied from The Independent and were just as limited in what they covered. Turkish media gave space to the award ceremony too, but it seems where there was a critical perspective it was different to that found in the Independent – with the AKP Parti (Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party) linked Daily Sabah focusing on the callous attitude of the western world towards Muslim refugees.
The City of London’s claim that it had no control over who Global Donors Forum celebrated is a moot point given its level of involvement in the 2018 event. It’s logo was all over Global Donors Forum promotional materials, Mansion House was used as a venue, the Corporation’s City Bridge Trust – of which Alison Gowman is chair – tweeted about the event and the awards; we also spotted retweets by The City of London, Alison Gowman and Fiona Rawes (the Corporation’s ‘Philanthropy Director’). The City of London spends millions a year lobbying on behalf of tax havens and the financial industry, all of which is in direct conflict with the interests of the majority of this local authority’s actual residents, and it has a well-oiled propaganda machine. Bamboozling the press and orchestrating social media campaigns is just a part of this.
The Independent’s story would have benefitted from covering the roles of Alison Gowman and the City Bridge Trust in the Global Donors Forum event, and explaining that the former was an ‘alderman’; which might be explained to those unfamiliar with the undemocratic feudal form of local government that operates in the City of London as a senior councillor. The Independent piece could have also mentioned that the City of London press office has been disingenuous when dealing with criticism raised in the media in the recent past. For example, after an event for the Italian far-Right politician Armando Siri at the council’s Guildhall HQ aroused controversy, The Guardian attributed the following position to this local authority: “The City of London released an official statement describing the event as a private lunch hosted by an outside body.” (City row after Guildhall is used to host Italian far-right politician by Ben Quinn, The Guardian, 22 May 2018.) As we have already observed (see earlier posts for more details and citations): “The claim that a City livery company is ‘an outside body’ – in this instance the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants (who hired The Guildhall for the Siri event)– is deceptive (livery company members participate in Common Hall – one of three council assemblies – where they get to vote on Mayoral candidates, sheriffs and other officials). 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….”
It is worth noting here how the City of London likes to cover all bases and will shower almost anyone with praise as long as there’s a potential profit in it. Media stories about Emine Erdoğan’s award outside Europe tended to stress it was for all her work with the needy but in particular for that with the Rohingya people. The City of London has also honoured Aung San Suu Kyi, who fronts the regime persecuting the Rohingya in Myanmar. Moving on from the Global Donors Forum Awards, another council member – Candlewick ‘alderman’, formerly a common councillor for Castle Baynard ward – Emma Edhem is anything but shy about stating she has worked for Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish embassy:
I successfully represented the then Turkish Prime Minister, now President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a highly defamatory libel action against the Daily Telegraph. This followed successful representation in the Court of Appeal of Remzi Gur libel action which set presedence in UK libel on damages.
I am a UK Politician and Barrister (lawyer), a member of the Honourable Society of Grays Inn, Ad Eundem member of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple and Freeman of the City of London. Past and present activities include President of the Turkish British Legal Society, Chairman of the Turkish British Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Board Member and legal advisor to the Turkish British Journalists Association, the Bar Council of England and Wales, the External Implementation Group to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Scholarship Panel of the Inner Temple, and I am regularly called upon to consult by the Law Society and Turkish Embassy.
Chairman – Emma Edhem, CC on a team page of the Turkish British Chamber of Commerce and Industry website.
Some of what the City might hope to get out of buttering up Erdoğan by flattering his wife is evident in an interview Edhem gave to Brexiteer website Global Britain:
Emma Edhem: I am pleased to report that on 26 April 2017, it was confirmed that Rolls-Royce, member of our Chamber, TBCCI, and Kale Group in Turkey, have announced the formation of a joint venture company to target aero engine opportunities in Turkey. Kale Group will own 51 per cent and Rolls-Royce 49 per cent of the joint venture, which aims to develop aircraft engines for Turkey, initially targeting the TF-X National Fighter Jet Project. This will be one more example of projects marking a new, deeper trading relationship between the UK and Turkey.
The Rolls-Royce-Kale JV is the industry response to a customer requirement to design, develop, test and produce a new latest generation turbofan engine in Turkey for Turkish Armed Forces and then export from Turkey to its external customers. This is the first time this is being done in Turkey. It is the ambition of this JV that it would be an industrial structure from which many other power plants could be developed. The Government to Government agreements and the JV are marking the beginning of new partnerships, based on knowledge transfer and the co-development of new technology and manufacturing capability with Turkish industry.
I would add, Defence & Aerospace is one the four panel subjects that our Istanbul UK-Turkey Business Forum will be focusing on this year… where BAE Systems and Rolls Royce are among the speakers. TBCCI always tries to maintain a leading role in business facilitation in both countries, and the Istanbul UK-Turkey Business Forum is one of our major platforms…
…In addition to standard financial services markets in Turkey, one significant opportunity for British companies is the Turkish insurance sector. The Insurance penetration in Turkey is lower than the global average and is open to growth.
Turkey’s ambitious economic growth plans, enshrined in its ‘Vision 2023,’ will require increasingly sophisticated insurance and reinsurance solutions to support high profile infrastructure projects, energy generation and the continued development of the financial services industry.
A study by the London Market Group shows that the London (re)insurance market remains the largest global centre for commercial and specialist risks, controlling more than US$91bn of premium in 2015.
With its knowledge, expertise, brand and reputation—the London (re)insurance market is perfectly positioned to offer new insurance products in Turkey, mitigating emerging risks and stimulating Turkey’s economic growth. The London insurance market can use its existing knowledge to raise awareness of insurance products amongst their Turkish counterparts and further grow the (re)insurance support it provides for Turkish businesses.
Exclusive Interview with the Turkish British Chamber of Commerce: Part Two, Dustin Broadbery talks to Emma Edhem, Global Britain, 28th July 2017.
Given the political situation under Erdoğan’s regime – both in terms of general concerns about human rights and specific issues relating to the treatment of Kurdish people (among other things) – many would view both exporting military technology to Turkey and giving the Turkish first ‘lady’ a humanitarian award to be reprehensible actions. However, until the City of London is subject to democratic reforms that will force it to take the interests of its residents into account when pursing its political polices, it will continue to act as it pleases and use its well-oiled and prodigiously funded propaganda machine to brush aside criticism. The City of London wields massive influence around the world through its lobbying operations, and so anyone who wants to bring about an end to repression and exploitation should also be campaigning for the abolition of this local authority’s undemocratic business vote – since the political set up of this municipality (erected on the undemocratic bedrock of business votes) enables it to act as a massive hurdle to a more equitable world.
City of London criticised for giving humanitarian award to Turkish president’s wife by Jim Armitage: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/erdogan-wife-emine-turkey-president-humanitarian-city-of-london-mansion-house-a8538486.html
City row after Guildhall is used to host Italian far-right politician by Ben Quinn: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/22/city-row-guildhall-used-host-italian-far-right-politician
Chairman – Emma Edhem, CC by Emma Edhem at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180917234943/https://tbcci.org/jv_team/chairman-emma-edhem-cc/
Exclusive Interview with the Turkish British Chamber of Commerce: Part Two, Dustin Broadbery talks to Emma Edhem at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180917235557/https://www.global-britain.com/global-britain-exclusive-interview-turkish-british-chamber-commerce-part-two/
There is an interesting 2002 petition from Malcolm Matson to the UK Parliament published under the title Hearing of Petition from Mr Matson that goes into detail about Alison Gowman’s positioning within the higher echelons of City of London politics:
…Jumping from page 13 of that ward list to page 33 we see a large number of highlighted electors who, as it happens, featured in the discussions yesterday, 277 of them, all of them enfranchised presumably by filling in Form B at 3 Noble Street. These are the partners of DLA, a leading law firm in the City. In that you will see one of the partners there who is on page 34, three up from the bottom on the left, a Miss Alison Gowman, a professional lawyer, who quite properly has a vote in the ward of Cripplegate, where I vote, by means of a property vote as a partner of DLA.
If you turn forward to tab 8, where you see the ward list for Aldersgate you will see that Miss Gowman actually lives in the Barbican and she has a vote in the Aldersgate ward as well. I am very pleased that the proposed Bill will prevent anybody having more than one vote in the City.
If you turn to tab 9, my Lord, we come back to our old friend the ward of Dowgate, which my fellow petitioner looked at yesterday. If we look at that we see exactly the same, 277 individuals as were on the electoral rote in Cripplegate. Of course given Miss Alison Gowman her third vote in the City. I do not know whether your Lordships have watched the Dave Gorman programme on television, where a man goes out and tries to find as many people by the name of Dave Gorman, but there nearly as many Alison Gowmans in the City as there are Dave Gormans.
Let us now move to understanding what happens in an election in Dowgate, there was an election in Dowgate this year…
Let us go for walks down Dowgate Hill. Had you walked down at some point in the year you would have seen on the ward board, this is tab 11, a notice indicating there was a vacancy for an Alderman. I went to the City Clerk’s office, Mr Simmons’s electoral registration office, who have been very helpful over the years. I sent a young researcher of mine down there to get a copy of the notice that was on the board. This is a similar facsimile one but if you turn the page you will see the letter that she received this week saying, “Dear Joanna, I refer to your visit to my office some days ago concerning details on the above election. I have now located the file for this election but regret that not all notices etc., have been placed on it.
“I enclose a copy of the Notice of Vacancy, this being the only notice placed on the file. The Notice of Ward Election which is also published would have contained details of the time and place of the Wardmote, the last day for the receipt of nomination papers and applications to vote by post or proxy, the time and place of the poll should the election be contested. This selection however was not contested, the only candidate being Miss Alison Gowman …”.
The files, in terms of the notices that have been issued, have not been given for the election in the Dowgate ward. If you look back, you will see that we have the simile of the notice that should have been up there and I draw your Lordships’ attention to note one at the bottom which makes reference to the abhorrent act of Common Council, as I see it, whereby Miss Alison Gowman has only been able to stand as a candidate there for alderman because she has convinced the Lord Chancellor that she is a fit and proper person to be a Justice of the Peace.
Let us turn to page 12, the guidance given to the candidates. No doubt Miss Alison Gowman will have had this guidance. I draw your attention to item two: “Ward Elections are the responsibility of the Alderman of the Ward for elections of Common Councilmen and the Lord Mayor for elections of Aldermen, as Returning Officers. They are run for the Returning Officers by the Ward Clerks in each separate ward.”
Here we have an election where the returning officer is the Lord Mayor of London, this great ambassador who is promoting the interests of the financial sector, and acting on behalf of the Lord Mayor at the grass roots on the day is the ward clerk. If you turn to page 13, let us have a look at number 6 Dowgate Hill, the large, red, brick building there with a huge “To let” sign hanging on it.
I mention the ward board which happens to be bang opposite this building. The bottom photograph there is of the ward board and on there is the notice saying that Miss Alison Gowman has been elected – or maybe it is a notice saying, “We are about to publish some draft ward lists for the coming year” – but if you look closely you will be able to see that the ward clerk is Mr Simmons who is sitting here today. Mr Simmons was responsible for running this election in the Dowgate ward on behalf of the returning officer, the Lord Mayor of London.
You asked, my Lord, about how she gets her vote there and I wanted to ask you to turn to page 14 because this building is unoccupied. The particulars are here from FBD Savills. If you knock on the Corporation’s door, they confirm it is unoccupied, at least if you knock on the rating door, because this is a grade two listed building. It is unoccupied for rating purposes, but it is clearly occupied for voting purposes, which shows that there is indeed a great deal of elasticity in the way that, left to their own devices, local authorities and other bodies might interpret this rather flimsy word “occupation”.
If you turn to page 15, you will see the registration of this building in the official rating lists. This is a copy of the Corporation’s rating lists and I have highlighted for you a rateable value of £390,000. Clearly there is a substantial revenue there that I and the other residents might like to be benefiting from for the provision of some of our services, which clearly has not been generated because somebody has failed to realise that in reality this building is occupied, if of course Miss Alison Gowman’s vote is legitimate.
If you turn to tab 16, my Lords, you will see a publication of the Corporation of London. This is entitled “Votes for the Business City”. I am not sure whether they are still hanging it up but they were very enthusiastically circulating this a few years ago, telling workers or people in the City how they can obtain a business vote. The way of obtaining a business vote is by the creation of a tenancy at will.
CHAIRMAN: That will be put a stop to though, will it not?
MR MATSON: I would argue not. I will address that looking at the Bill. Here is a tenancy at will and they are kind enough to draft for you a tenancy which they have preordained would work under the existing law in three sheets at the back.
Let us go inside the building at number 6 Dowgate Hill, where all these 277 votes have been qualified. At tab 17 I have for you a Land Registry plan and at the bottom you will see that this is 20 September 2002 at 11.04. At that date, we see that the building edged in red is the building we are talking about. From the particulars of the estate agents and the square footage of the property, I thought it might be interesting to see what the electoral capacity of this building was under this rather deformed property vote.
If you move to tab 18, you will see that the 15,790 square feet have a rateable value of £390,000, with rates payable of 43.7, so the rateable value per square foot is £24.70. The area required to gain a vote is 58.3 square inches, which means the electoral capacity of this building is 39,000 voters.
If you turn to page 19, you will see the area of a building in the City. That is a £10 rateable value. A tenancy at will over an area that size will give you a vote.
CHAIRMAN: In certain buildings, presumably. It is not universal.
MR MATSON: Presumably the business rate is universal. Given the fact that the market value is universal and that the £10 hurdle is universal, I would say it is going to be plus or minus a few inches.
If you turn to tab 20, again from the Land Registry, at the top of the first page I would draw your attention to the fact that this was issued on 20 September and clause four at the bottom particularly I would draw your attention to. The rates at the time of the initial lease on this were £750,000 a year, payable on review. If we turn the page, you will see the title absolute at the moment, 20 September, was in the hands of a company named Dealmill Limited, company registration number 2175169, shown here as having its registered office at 6 Dowgate Hill.
I am at a loss to see how we can get from a company occupying that building to 277 votes. Let us have a look at the company, Dealmill. Turn to tab 21. You will see the annual return filed this year at Companies House by Dealmill. It shows its registered office at 3 Noble Street, the offices of DLA, in the ward of Cripplegate, my ward.
If you look at the bottom, “Principal Business Activities”, at least we can see that this is a non-trading company. Whether or not that becomes a qualifying company under the Bill I am not sure.
If you turn the page, you will see that the company secretary is our good friend, Miss Alison Gowman, now a magistrate in the Dowgate ward. If you turn to page three, you will see that one of the two directors is also Miss Alison Gowman, the alderman of the ward of Dowgate. On the final page, you will see that there were only two one pound shares issued and on page five you will see, as you might expect, that one of those shareholders is Miss Alison Gowman.
It is not uncommon and indeed I am a director of a number of shell companies that have been unable to get funded or for one reason or another have not traded. I am sure, Lord Marsh, you have too. There is nothing at all wrong about this. As far as I can see, there is here a legitimate return from a legitimate company, very properly filled out.
If you turn to tab 22, you will see the directors’ report. I am sure most of your Lordships are directors of companies. The onerous and quite proper responsibilities as directors are to file a report at Companies House and here is a directors’ report to Companies House, as a public record, signed by the company secretary, Miss Alison Gowman, on 10 April 2002, testifying to the fact that there has been no trading this year and the fact that there were only two one pound shares issued.
If we turn to tab 23, your Lordships will see that there is a consistency of activity in this company in so far as, so far as I can see from here, the company was founded in 1987 or thereabouts and has never traded. I am not a lawyer and I have not sought legal advice on this but, first of all, a question in my mind is how can an untraded company enter into a binding obligation in terms of a lease without recording it in its books of account and making it part of the record that is put to Companies House?
There are more questions in my mind. Turn to tab 24. Here is a list and there may be errors in here but if our statistical academic was here he would tell me whether the probability of them was reasonable. Here is a list of all those voters at 6 Dowgate Hill. This is a straight copy of the list which is marked yellow on Dowgate Hill, which is identical to the list marked yellow on the Cripplegate ward list. Here, highlighted in green, are a number of individuals who, as far as I am aware – I may be wrong – are not partners of the firm of DLA. I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong going on here but there is an opacity and a complexity about it which befuddles me. As far as I am aware, one or more of those green ones are not partners.
If you look along the top, you will see on that exhibit that these partners are spread all over the place: London, Liverpool, Manchester. If you go to tab 25, I have done a pie chart there and only 35 per cent of them are in London. I recognise that the Bill has a provision for dealing with that, and of course that is good and proper, but if that were the only problem we would be nearly home and dry.
If you turn to tab 26 here is a list of 72 partners, 25 of whom are in London, who do not appear on the voting list. I recognise the fact that it is up to an individual partner to decide whether or not they want to vote in a City election but here we have the other side of that coin: we have a number of current partners in the firm DLA who are not on the list of registered voters in the ward.
In tab 27 I show you a current web page extract from Miss Alison Gowman who now of course has started to acquire substantial responsible appointments. She is now on the Board of Governors of the City of London School for Girls, the Community Services Committee, the Reference Sub-Committee of the Board of Governors of the City of London School for Girls, the school where my daughter went, the Reference Sub Libraries, Guildhall Art Galleries and Archives Committee, and the Reference Sub Port, Health and Environmental Services Committee. That of course will go on. Once she has become elected an alderman all sorts of wonderful doors seem to open up.
Tab 28 will not bore you with, simply to say that this is nothing new. This is the first time that there is an open arena where this can be put on the public record, but even a full page article in the Evening Standard in 1997 telling you here nothing less than what I have told you did not catch anybody’s eyes down here in Westminster.
I do not know what the answer is here. I want to be very clear that my criticism here is not of the firm of DLA, nor am I impugning anything of Miss Alison Gowman. I do believe that we have here a system that is very seriously flawed.
The entire entry can be found here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200102/ldselect/ldcolweb/21009/2100903.htm