Racist Memorials In The City of London, Islington & Beyond

The effort to remove memorials celebrating slave traders, racists and colonialists, is part of a broader struggle against institutional racism. This struggle can’t be confined to one geographical area such as the City of London. Even if the City didn’t border Islington and share the EC1 postcode with this neighbour, we would have been dismayed when within four days of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston being pulled down by activists in Bristol on 7 June, Islington council had managed to issue a hasty and disingenuous statement on the matter. The local press immediately reproduced the council’s absurd claims under the dubious headline “Islington ‘does not have any statues or memorials celebrating the slave trade’ “. Here we look at some problematic memorials in Islington, move back to the City, and then shine a spotlight on the racist British colonialist Sir John Alexander MacDonald who has memorials in St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and across Canada – where he was the first prime minister.

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List of Memorials In The City of London Linked To Slavery, Colonialism & Racism

This is a partial list of public memorials in the City of London which commemorate individuals with links to slavery, colonialism and racism. We’ve drawn up this far from exhaustive inventory in part because we are not convinced the Tackling Racism Working Party announced by the City of London council on 11 June 2020 will deal effectively with this aspect of its remit (or indeed any aspect of it). Our lack of confidence is based on the council’s past record and in particular the ongoing refusal of Edward Lord as chair of the Establishment Committee to seriously address glass ceiling issues at the council. In contrast, until we see what it does we will withhold judgement on the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm established by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan on June 9, 2020 to review and access public tributes including statues and other landmarks. Both Khan’s Commission and the City’s Working Party ought to do much more than make recommendations on all the items listed beneath when it comes to dealing with the square mile. While it would be great to have all the memorials on our partial inventory removed or renamed, tackling other aspects of institutional racism and sexism is an even higher priority for us.

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The City of London & The Slave Trade Part 1

When discussing English slave trading the Royal Africa Company and the East India Company are key reference points and both have deep roots in the City of London. Many of the individuals implicated in the black holocaust through their involvement in these two slave trading entities also played key roles in local government in the City of London including as lord mayors, sheriffs and members of livery companies. Some of these slave traders are still memorialised in the City of London. Memorials tend to erase the complexities of history through simple celebration, which is why their removal from public spaces generally enhances historical understanding. That said, the undemocratic and still in many ways feudal local government machinery of the City of London is also in its contemporary form a product of the slave trade and it is more important that this is dismantled than that statues are removed and streets get renamed. It would, however, be ideal if both the governance of the City was democratically reformed and its problematic memorials removed.

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City Of London’s Culture Mile & Submission Of Markets Plan

Moving wholesale markets to the edge of the city is sensible and is to be welcomed, as is the use of some of the freed up land for housing; as long as this doesn’t turn out to be luxury ghost homes for investors. That said, the City has already made it clear it wants to use Smithfield and the site of the Museum of London (if it is vacated) for vanity Culture Mile projects rather than housing. We don’t want a dead culture pitched to the victims of an unsustainable tourist industry. None of the exciting new cultural developments – such as grime – that have emerged from London in recent decades were funded by artwashing out-of-touch ‘patrons’ such as the City of London. Rather they grew from the very communities the Culture Mile will effectively exclude. Building council flats to sustain social diversity would do a lot more for culture in London than the Culture Mile will ever achieve.

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City Construction & Lockdown Again

Although it is the COLPAI construction work to the north of Golden Lane Estate that we’ve given attention to in some recent posts, the ongoing work on Taylor Wimpey’s luxury investment flats The Denizen to the south is also making life difficult for those stuck at home during the current pandemic. Two days ago councillor Sue Pearson posted a statement she’d obtained from our local authority about government sanctioned extended working hours for construction sites to the GLERA website. The statement is probably more reassuring to Golden Lane Estate and Barbican residents suffering from the noise of work on The Denizen that operating hours there appear unlikely to be extended, than it is to Golden Lane Estate residents suffering intolerable stress from COLPAI construction during lockdown. Unlike The Denizen, whose entire site is within the City of London, the COLPAI project straddles the City/Islington border and so our local authority may try to pass the buck on decisions about working hours at the site to our neighbouring council, just as they attempted to do with the original COLPAI planning permission.

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COLPAI Construction Work, Lockdown & The Democratic Reform Of The City

The failure to suspend construction work on the City of London’s COLPAI project during the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown has generated enormous anger among residents of this local authority’s Golden Lane Estate. This is hardly surprising given these residents found themselves stuck at home a few metres from non-essential but ongoing noisy building work. Critical blogs on the subject by local councillors Sue Pearson and Graeme Harrower have been avidly read. Some of the comments beneath them are heart wrenching, such as one written by the father of a sick child undergoing treatment for cancer. This entire family must remain in isolation due to the high risk the pandemic poses to its youngest child. while the mega-rich City of London council turns a deaf ear on their plight.

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Abolish The Business Vote & Solve City Election ‘Conundrum’ At A Stroke!

The Covid 19 lockdown is causing a variety of elections to be held up and My London News reports this has caused a conundrum for the City of London, since its delayed common council elections may clash with the put back Greater London Assembly elections. As might be surmised from the My London News piece, 80% of City of London councillors are elected on undemocratic business votes given to bankers and lawyers who work in the City but who don’t actually live here. This feudal voting system is crying out for reform and if business votes were abolished there would be no need for City of London elections that clash with GLA elections – because City resident voters only exist in sufficient number to make up a small ward within another local authority. There is only an election conundrum now because of the out-dated political system in the City; modernise by incorporating the square mile into a neighbouring local authority (or two or more)  and the difficulty no longer arises!

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The Corporation Giving £30 Million From City’s Cash To The NHS Is The Best Way To Honour Captain Tom Moore

Our local council has decided to ‘honour’ Captain Tom Moore with a Freedom of the City of London ‘award’. The Freedom is hardly an ‘honour’ given that paedophiles like Hubert Chesshyre and Keith Harding have also received this ‘award’, not to mention disgraced politicians like Ian Paisley Junior. In the long run the best way to fund the NHS is through ending the tax breaks and tax avoidance schemes for corporations and the wealthy which the City of London council lobbies for under the guise of neo-liberal ‘light regulation’. In the short term if the Corporation really wants to pay tribute to Captain Tom Moore then it should match his charity raising feat and donate £30 million to the NHS from its sovereign wealth fund City’s Cash. It could easily afford to do this. Instead the City prefers cheap publicity from doling out its dubious ‘honours’.

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City of London Shows Contempt For Its Residents & Democracy With Covid-19 ‘Civic Leadership’ Claims

It was announced yesterday that William Russell’s term as Lord Mayor of the City of London will be doubled to provide ‘continuity’ and ‘civic leadership’ through the current pandemic. Civic is usually understood to mean relating to a city or municipality, whereas Russell’s Covid-19 statements are mostly about the global financial industry. Russell is the fifth member of his family to hold the top council job of Lord Mayor in just over 100 years, this nepotism will be compounded when he gets his second term. As we’ve already reported, the ‘election’ in which he gained office was rigged and the one that will allow him to remain in post will be too.

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City Of London’s Covid 19 Fail

The City Corporation could have joined the Mayor of London (Labour) and the local MP (Conservative) in calling on the Government to ban non-essential construction work, but has instead chosen to support such work by allowing it to continue on the Corporation’s own project, regardless of the harm this will do to residents in very close proximity. Unlike any other local authority, the City Corporation doesn’t need to worry about what its residents think, because only 20% of its councillors are elected in mainly residential wards; the other 80% are, uniquely, elected mainly by business voters, who typically have little interest in what their councillors do. This has for decades caused City residents to be poorly served by their council. When this crisis is over, that will finally need to be addressed. In the meantime, here on Golden Lane Estate most of the practical response to the crisis has come from volunteers in our own community, setting up a GLE Covid 19 HUB to support our neighbours in need. The City Corporation has played a very secondary role.

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