Hiscox insurance boss Bronek Masojada was elected to the post of Billingsgate alderman with a grand total of 52 votes on 31 January 2019, after controversial hard-right City of London councillor Matthew Richardson stood down. 108 votes were split between five nominally independent candidates; a sixth candidate, Social Democratic Party (SDP) representative Jonathan Bergdahl, got no votes. Given that Bergdahl needed five people to nominate him, receiving no votes is quite an achievement. Since Billingsgate ward has three councillors to represent an electorate of just a couple of hundred business voters, 108 votes represents a respectable 46% turn out. Influence is easily wielded when there is such a ridiculous small electorate and this is something that raises suspicions that the entire City of London council is not only completely undemocratic, but possibly also deeply corrupt. Since the City of London pretends to be non-political, it’s establishment presumably disapproved of an SDP candidate and Bergdahl paid the penalty with not even those who nominated him, voting for him.
Masojada’s victory may have been based on the politics of a rotten borough, elected by 52 over-privileged business voters since virtually no one lives in Billingsgate ward, but it was anything but pyrrhic since the City and it’s aldermen wield undue influence around the world. Headed by the Lord Mayor of London, who is chosen from among it’s alderman, City of London councillors are a major lobbying force defending the interests of corrupt tax havens and the neo-liberal agenda of lax to non-existent financial regulation. That a couple of hundred members of the financial industry based in Billingsgate should get three councillors to represent them where they work, is positively feudal and an affront to modern democratic values. Not just Billingsgate but the entire City of London requires urgent democratic reform.
As for Masojada, according to a profile published by the Mail On Sunday on 11 January 2014, he likes to take holidays in places like North Korea, so no doubt the 57 year-old South African born CEO of rich people’s insurer Hiscox feels completely at home in the utterly undemocratic City of London. The same Mail On Sunday piece included a picture of Masojada’s racing car, which is described as being ‘fast and furious’, since his hobby is motorsport. More curious is a Mail quote from this newly elected alderman which is run after a reference to his Masters thesis (he went to Oxford):
Masojada got a taste for insurance when writing his Masters thesis about the strength of Lloyd’s as an investment. In the 50s, 60s and 70s, he concluded, the market’s individual investors – called Names – enjoyed fabulous rewards.
‘Because of the tax arrangements and the underlying business, people made out like bandits,’ he says.
We see the way the entire City of London operates today as still being comparable to ‘bandits’. After all, Masojada got elected as a City of London councillor with fewer votes than he’s had birthdays, and it isn’t unusual for those standing for office in this rotten borough to achieve it uncontested. As we keep saying, it’s high time something was done about this undemocratic sham! A Telegraph profile of Masojada run on 25 August 2008 reveals he likes ‘airport thrillers, such as those by Ken Follett.” The same piece talks about Hiscox’s decision to redomicile to Bermuda, Masojada opines: “I think that the changes to tax with the non-domiciles issue and corporate tax over here has made the UK a less competitive place to do business… Bermuda is a credible rival to London.”
Equally disturbing is the fact that last year the firm Masojada heads, Hiscox, reported a gender pay gap of 26.2% on a median basis, and a 31.1% mean figure. The company’s bonus gender pay gaps were even bigger – 49.5% median and 71.1% mean. Alongside Masojada’s absurdly undemocratic election, the gender pay gap at his firm Hiscox leads us to believe he is unlikely to do anything meaningful in terms of tackling the glass ceiling at the City of London council. To date the top council job of Lord Mayor of London has had 691 incumbents and 689 of them have been men, with one female Lord Mayor last century and one this century! Democratic reform is urgently required to rectify this.
Billingsgate election results downloaded from the City of London council website.
‘Don’t worry … I’ve got it covered!’ Boss of upmarket insurer Hiscox tells of life in the fast lane by Alex Hawkes, Mail On Sunday, 11 January 2014 at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180721162603/https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-2537773/BRONEK-MASOJADA-INTERVIEW-Dont-worry-Ive-got-covered-Boss-upmarket-insurer-Hiscox-tells-life-fast-lane.html
Bronek Masojada chief executive, Hiscox: Success comes at a premium by Yvette Essen, Daily Telegraph, 25 August, 2008 at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180426100611/https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/2795248/Bronek-Masojada-chief-executive-Hiscox-Success-comes-at-a-premium.html
Hiscox reports an average gender pay gap of 31% by Gavin Hinks, Board Agenda, 13 March 2018 at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20190206235337/https://boardagenda.com/2018/03/13/hiscox-reports-average-gender-pay-gap-31/
We’re led to believe this might be Masojada in action as a ‘boy racer’, 33 appears to be his car.