Given that the undemocratic way in which the Lord Mayor of London is elected has been the subject of recent media coverage, it isn’t surprising to see in the local press that there are rumours of reform. Of course the City will propose only the mildest of reforms in an attempt to head off the more sensible move of abolishing the office of Lord Mayor – and also the Court of Aldermen and the business vote – in this rotten borough. Anyway, here’s what was published earlier this week as an exclusive on proposed reform of the ‘election’ process for Lord Mayor:
The City of London Corporation’s highest body is considering changes to the way it selects the Lord Mayor as part of its efforts to attract a more diverse range of candidates.
Guildhall’s ancient Court of Aldermen is comprised of 25 elected members – one from each of the Square Mile’s different wards. It sits alongside the City of London’s Court of Common Council, which is comprised of 100 elected councillors.
The Court of Aldermen selects the new Lord Mayor of London every year in conjunction with the corporation’s trade guilds – known as Livery companies.
City A.M. understands the Court of Aldermen has been engaged in secret talks about reforming the opaque election process, which has remained largely unchanged for nearly 800 years.
A senior Guildhall figure said they have discussed bringing in independent appraisers for the annual election, increasing transparency and opening up the process to junior members.
They added: “It’s about ensuring that it’s not an old boys’ network and making sure the rules are properly applied.
“The selection has to improve and reflect the fact that the City of London has a very diverse population.
“There are set term limits and I think in two years there will be greater changes…I’m hoping in the next two years the balance is shifted.”
Currently, Lord Mayors are chosen in private sessions that are conducted by Guildhall heavyweights.
Some members of the Court of Common Council and the Court of Alderman believe the current process inhibits diverse candidates from being selected.
In nearly 800 years there have been only two female Lord Mayors.
A senior Court of Common Council source said all 125 elected officials should have a say in who is elected – not just the 25 aldermen.
“Some are beginning to worry that the process is likely in breach of the equalities act, and it’s lack of transparency damaging to our reputation.” they said
The City of London Corporation was approached for comment.
City of London mulls over historic Lord Mayor selection reform by Stefan Boscia, City AM, 9 December 2019: https://web.archive.org/web/20191210034555/https://www.cityam.com/exclusive-city-of-london-mulls-over-historic-lord-mayor-selection-reform/
What Reclaim had already pointed out, that the current Lord Mayor is the fifth member of his family to get this top post, was reiterated in a recent Evening Standard profile of incumbent William Russell.
…he’s kidding no one if he’s trying to prove his appointment, as the 692nd Lord Mayor of London, breaks any moulds.
Russell is the 690th white, male Mayor of London, for one thing. And despite his election by City aldermen, his appointment almost sounds hereditary: he’s the fifth member of his own family to be Lord Mayor in the past 110 years. He still remembers attending the Lord Mayor’s parade for his grandfather, Sir Ian Bowater, in 1969, aged just four and a half.
And like our prime minister, swathes of our royalty, and a significant chunk of Parliament, the Lord Mayor is yet another old Etonian. Boris, in fact, was in the year above him at school, although Russell becomes uncharacteristically tongue-tied with politique diplomacy when asked about him.
“We were contemporaries, but there are no stories,” he says, “we were at the same school, but he was never one of my fr-…” Stopping himself before dismissing a friendship with the prime minister, Russell concludes, “Boris was the year above me!” with all the earnestness of a year eight appalled at the idea of talking to a year nine.
“When it comes to schooling, I had no say in the matter,” although he did choose to send his four children to private schools including Rugby…
While the City remains best known for Gordon Gekko types, one in five people employed in London still don’t earn a wage they can live on.
Russell seems less in touch with this part of his domain. He’s not quite sure how much the National Minimum Wage is: “Ummm… it’s less than £10… but… Next thing I know you’re going to ask me about the cost of a pint of milk.”
Go on, then. How much? “I bought one the other day. It was about 35p.” Perhaps Russell is mates with a dairy farmer; or Tesco’s CEO. But the rest of us pay more like 50p. And the Minimum Wage is £8.21.
Russell’s embarrassed; he quickly points out he was up at 3am on City business…
Interview: William Russell – he’s the fifth in his dynasty to be the Lord Mayor of London but Etonian calls for wider access to City by Lucy Tobin, Evening Standard, 25 November 2019: https://web.archive.org/web/20191128061508/https://www.standard.co.uk/business/interview-william-russell-he-s-the-fifth-in-his-dynasty-to-be-the-lord-mayor-of-london-but-etonian-a4296166.html
Local press coverage from Cambridge(shire) where William Russell lives – and which is where he should have stood for Mayor since he covets office of this type – is more fawning.
Thriplow is thought to be the first village to ever take part in one of the country’s most historic parades, The Lord Mayor’s Show.
The South Cambridgeshire village is home to the 692nd Lord Mayor of the City of London, William Russell –and it provided the first float in the parade on Saturday (November 9)…
Speaking to the Cambridge Independent after the event, the Lord Mayor said: “One of the highlights, of course, was that after the bands came through, the first float was Thriplow. That was a wonderful start – as they came around the corner one couldn’t help but smile and wave.
“I think we’re pretty sure it is the first time that a village has ever taken part in the Lord’s Mayor’s Show, so that was huge. We are a very close-knit village and we all get on very well partly due to daffodil weekend.”
He added: “Lots of the people on the float were very good friends, we all meet in the Green Man in Thriplow, which is a community-owned pub so we all have a stake in it – and I’m sure they all went back to the Green Man on Saturday night to celebrate.”
The Thriplow float featured villagers pushing yellow wheelbarrows with daffodils, with some dressed in cricket whites as Mr Russell is a member of Thriplow Cricket Club.
Mr Russell was born in London in 1965 and studied at Durham University. He is married to Hilary who also went to Durham University but was brought up in Queen Edith’s Way, Cambridge.
They moved to Triplow in 1997 and have four children – Edward, Nicholas, Alistair and Helena….
His wife Hilary – the Lady Mayoress – is a farmer and a member of the Farmers Livery. Her family is involved in The Gonville Hotel in Cambridge, and was represented on the Cambridgeshire float, which also featured in the parade.
“She started the show, in fact, some say stole the show, driving a tractor. She led the show before I came in the state carriage,” Mr Russell said.
“The Lady Mayoress’ grandfather, Harold Ridgeon, founded a company called William Sindall, which is now Morgan Sindall. That’s very much a family connection she has with Cambridge. Her brothers David Chaplin and Simon Chaplin are all very much Cambridge people.”
The Cambridgeshire float celebrated many of the things the county contributes to the world, including the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and science park, skilled jobs and industry, and sustainable construction. It featured AstraZeneca, G’s Fresh, Marshall, Mick George, Mills & Reeve, and The Gonville Hotel.
Thriplow resident William Russell becomes Lord Mayor of the City of London by Gemma Gardner, Cambridge Independent, 15 November 2019: https://www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk/news/thriplow-resident-william-russell-becomes-lord-mayor-of-the-city-of-london-gallery-9090304/
If William Russell wishes to avoid being seen as having a trust problem similar to that of Boris Johnson, then to make his claims about wanting to open up the City in The Standard appear credible, he should immediately step down as Lord Mayor and at the same time resign as a City alderman.
The headers shows current Lord Mayor and Mayoress Hilary and William Russell.