With a residential electorate barely large enough to make up a small ward on any normal London council, the City of London attempts to bridge the gap by providing undemocratic business votes to non-residents. By any reckoning there is no need to divide this local authority into 25 wards with 125 councillors. Two councillors ought be plenty to cover the residential population, while wards with virtually no residents and only a few hundred business voters are ripe targets for anyone interested in election rigging – if they are able to get nominated. Without connections to the legal and finance industries it is difficult to get nominated in many City wards, and so alarmingly often there are uncontested ‘elections’. Anyone with views at odds with the finance industry is unlikely to find 5 people on the register of voters in business vote dominated wards who would nominate them. Senior City councillors, or aldermen as they style themselves, are supposed to stand for re-election every six years – and three recently chose 18 December 2019 as their date to face a ballot box farce, in the unlikely event someone else would be both willing and able to get nominated. Aldermen seem particular prone to standing for re-election around holiday periods, giving the impression they are trying to avoid scrutiny.
Peter Estlin stepped down as Lord Mayor at the beginning of last month but it looks like City residents are stuck with this reactionary as a councillor for at least another six years – as his Coleman Street ward election is uncontested.
Fourteen months ago we blogged about Alison Gowman giving Emine Erdoğan – wife of the current repressive Turkish president – an award ‘in recognition of her humanitarian service’. Footnotes at the end of this post reproduced parts of a 2002 petition from Malcolm Matson to the UK Parliament published under the title Hearing of Petition from Mr Matson that detail Alison Gowman standing unopposed in the past in the Dowgate ward (which she will ‘win’ again unopposed later this month), and an analysis of how she obtained multiple votes in City of London council elections.
Vincent Keaveny looks all set to be a future Lord Mayor, although he came third out of three in this years rigged election for that post – so he’ll presumably take his turn after Tim Hailes gets the top job next year in yet another sham City of London ‘vote’. This month Keaveny is re-standing unopposed in the Farringdon Within ward – so he’s guaranteed to ‘win’ that one!
Incidentally both Keaveny and Gowman have worked at what is now known as DLA Piper*, which perhaps acts as another indication of how the anti-democratic business vote skews elections in the City of London well away from anything resembling a democratic process. There are an absurd number of people who come from remarkably similar places and with shared interests at the heart of the City’s political establishment. Ordinary folk don’t get a look in. Dick Whittington and His Cat is City of London propaganda. The real Richard Whittington who first became Lord Mayor in 1397 – chosen by King Richard II rather than elected – came from a highly privileged background; his father was Sir William Whittington.
It is, of course, high time the City of London – the UK’s last rotten borough – was democratically reformed.
The header shows Vincent Keaveny with ‘ward beadle’ Wilf Jones. Above we see Keaveny without the ward help.
* For example both can be found on the list of officers (view both current and resigned) for DLA Piper UK LLP on the Companies House website: https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/OC307847/officers?