David Wootton, Aung San Suu Kyi & Freedom of the City of London

The Freedom of the City of London award is once again making local press headlines due to this ‘honour’ having been bestowed in 2017 on Aung San Suu Kyi. This cynical politician has done nothing to halt the genocidal activities of the Myanmar regime she leads. The lawyer and City of London councillor ‘Sir’ David Hugh Wootton chairs the committee in charge of dispensing the award. Here’s how City Matters covered the issue a couple of days ago.

A renewed call has gone out to strip Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi of her honorary freedom of the City of London because of the plight of the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

On 6 December, Councillor Munsur Ali asked the Court of Common Council to update him on the progress of looking at policies to revoke the freedom.

If approved, the de-facto leader of Myanmar would be the first person to be stripped of the honour.

The film-maker said the request was made a year ago, and added: “It has taken so long for this policy to be drafted.

Tens of thousands of Muslims fled the country after a military crackdown last year.

Chairman of the freedoms application committee, Sir David Wootton, said: “While it deplores the situation in Myanmar it is not the time or circumstance to begin the process to remove the honorary freedom.”

He said he would be happy to “gauge the balance of opinion” of councillors.

Cllr Ali said he had seen the Rohinga refugee camps for himself.

“The international community has spoken, the UN has called for the Myanmar rulers to be tried for genocide.

“We know many institutions have taken away the freedom – the City of Oxford, Sheffield, Newcastle, Glasgow, Dudley, the LSE, and Unison.”

She was awarded the honour in May 2017 at a ceremony at Guildhall “in recognition of her non-violent struggle over many years for democracy and her steadfast dedication to create a society where people can live in peace, security and freedom”.

AungSanSuuKyiCityFreedomThe Chamberlain of London, Dr Peter Kane, paid tribute to her achievements and presented her with her illuminated Freedom scroll in an inscribed box.

She had spent years living in house arrest under the military regime in Myanmar but continued her campaign for democracy. She is prevented from holding the top job in the country.

Last October the Court of Common council passed a motion to see if her honorary freedom could be revoked.

Councillor Ali said he plans to bring a new motion to the council regarding the matter.

A spokesperson for the City of London Corporation said: “The City of London Corporation condemns the shocking humanitarian abuses carried out in Myanmar.

“Elected Members have agreed a process by which an Honorary Freedom could be removed and we continue to closely monitor the situation in Myanmar.

“The City of London Corporation has already written to the Ambassador for Burma, expressing our profound concern about the current situation in his country and a wish that Aung San Suu Kyi should play a more active role.”

Fresh push to recall Aung San Suu Kyi’s freedom of the City by Julia Gregory, City Matters, 13 December 2018.

Why David Wootton thinks ‘it is not the time or circumstance to begin the process to remove the honorary freedom’ is something we believe he should explain at length. That said his position clearly has more to do with the neo-liberal politics of the City of London and its jockeying for the interests of the rich at the expense of ordinary people around the world, than the wishes of the local people he and the majority of his fellow councillors so blatantly fail to represent.

Wootton5aScilly
David Wootton leads a Provincial Grand Lodge of Cornwall masonic parade on the Isles of Scilly, 16 October 2017.

It is high time the Freedom of the City of London was abolished alongside the business vote that sustains the undemocratic council that doles out this alleged ‘honour’. Likewise it is absurd that having been awarded Freedom of the City is a necessary qualification for standing for election to this local authority. People who actually live within City boundaries are angry about disgraced politicians like Aung San Suu Ky and Ian Paisley Jr, not to mention the paedophile Keith Harding, being handed this award. Wootton and his cronies feel able to ignore the views of residents because 80% of council seats are controlled by undemocratic business votes. For those who know little of Wootton, here’s how the sympathetic right-wing Daily Telegraph described the pig’s ear he made of his term as Lord Mayor in 2011/12:

Wootton’s term kicked off with the Occupy London fiasco. Then Barclays admitted to rigging Libor rates; both HSBC and Standard Chartered were accused of money laundering; there’s been the payment protection insurance and derivatives mis-selling scandals, plus rows over fat cats’ bonuses, small business lending levels, and the interminable financial crisis.

David Wootton: champion of the City who favours a moral code by Louise Armitstead, Daily Telegraph, 2 September 2012.

Since it was the City’s avarice that led to the crisis and scandals which in part paved the way for the Occupy London democracy protest, Armitstead’s words at the start of her piece about feeling sorry for Wootton are at best misplaced. Likewise it is difficult to see how anyone can be both a champion of the City and have a meaningful moral code. But then one shouldn’t really expect sense from neo-liberal propagandists in the City or the press. Like the most Lord Mayors, Wootton is also a freemason. The number of Lord Mayors of London who have belonged to the men only Guildhall Lodge since its founding in 1905 is so disproportionate to the percentage of masons in the general population and raises so many glass ceiling issues, that this matter is something Wootton and others who hold high rank in both freemasonry and the City of London ought to seriously address. However, as the attitudes of the the City of London Standards Committee demonstrate, it seems those in the City who are affiliated to the United Grand Lodge of England are incapable of doing this.

Wootton7WithLordDavid Wootton has the fanciest apron as he and fellow City of London councillor Edward Lord (far right) hand out Grand Lodge certificates to members of the Hotspur Lodge 1626 (Newcastle Upon Tyne) on 21 October 2016. Those with the almost plain white aprons – but with blue spots – are fellow craft, those with the light blue borders on their aprons are master masons. There is no one with a plain white apron in the picture, this indicates the lowest masonic rank of entered apprentice. The dark blue border with gold trim indicates higher office, the other individual with one of those is Provincial Grand Master Ian Craigs (far left).

Wootton served as Senior Grand Warden of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London in 2007. In 2012 he was Past Grand Sword Bearer. He has been Assistant Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England since 2014.

Notes.

Wootton6aCityLivery
Photo above and the header show David Wootton leading the formation of a new lodge for the City and Livery Past Masters, 14 February 2017. This is one of many masonic lodges attached to City Livery Companies; the latter play a role in the virulently undemocratic politics of the City of London and their unelected members get a say at Common Hall on who occupies various City of London offices.

Fresh push to recall Aung San Suu Kyi’s freedom of the City by Julia Gregory: https://www.citymatters.london/fresh-push-recall-aung-san-suu-kyis-freedom-city/

City A.M. also covered the story, City of London Corporation accused of ‘dragging feet’ over Aung San Suu Kyi award by Alexandra Rogers, 13 December 2018. Here via Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20181213121740/http://www.cityam.com/270520/city-london-corporation-accused-dragging-feet-over-aung-san

David Wootton: champion of the City who favours a moral code by Louise Armitstead, Daily Telegraph, 2 September 2012 at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20160426134953/https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/9515665/David-Wootton-champion-of-the-City-who-favours-a-moral-code.html

Wootton8RochdaleDavid Wootton (right) with Provincial Grand Master ‘Sir’ David Trippier (left) at the bicentenary of the Lodge of Faith 344, Rochdale, 30 March 2015.

Wootton5bScilly
David Wootton leads a Provincial Grand Lodge of Cornwall masonic parade on the Isles of Scilly, 16 October 2017.

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