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.Read more "Racist Memorials In The City of London, Islington & Beyond"
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.Read more "List of Memorials In The City of London Linked To Slavery, Colonialism & Racism"
An unnamed spokesperson for the City Corporation was quoted as saying that “We are determined to ensure there are no barriers to any member of the community standing for the elected office of Lord Mayor”.The word “elected” was added before “office of Lord Mayor” presumably to “enhance” the impression of democracy, but there is nothing democratic about the Lord Mayor’s election. The Corporation’s website specifies that a candidate for Lord Mayor should “have a significant track record and be recognised as a leader in their field” (typically in the financial City) and “have an extensive network”. Here’s a translation into truth of the sentence in the press release, with added words: “We are determined to ensure there are no barriers except status and connections to any member of the community standing for the undemocratically elected office of Lord Mayor.” The press release proves the equation that PR + HR = nonsense. It also proves that adapting a feudal system of local government to the modern world is impossible. It’s time for the Corporation to be disaggregated.Read more "Graeme Harrower On The City Tinkering With The Rigged ‘Election’ Process To Become Lord Mayor of London"
In December 2019, the City Corporation backed down on the proposed expansion of its own City of London School for Girls, which would have harmed the amenity of its own residents and vandalised its own architectural heritage. A month later it has finally backed down in principle on trying to prevent its resident councillors from participating in decisions that affect their constituents, although it has done so in a muddled and unsatisfactory way. Both of these defeats for the Corporation have been achieved through strong resident action. The election of more resident councillors in March 2021 who are willing to represent their electors against the Corporation, rather than the other way round, should further contain the Corporation’s bias against residents. But if resident councillors remain only 20% of the total, instead of 100% as in any other local authority, that bias will remain. The business voting system isn’t democratic, literally: demos= the people, kratia = government. The ultimate solution is to abolish this system and to disaggregate the Corporation’s disparate and conflicting functions.Read more "Councillor Graeme Harrower On City of London Gagging Row"
Taken out of the broader context of their City of London political activities and affiliations, the arguments Tim Hailes and Edward Lord make for equality appear very reasonable; closer examination shows they’re pushing an agenda of paying lip service to diversity and making concessions that are hard to avoid, while attempting to preserve a patriarchal status quo whose main interest is defending the privileges of a super-rich elite. Both appear incapable of pushing beyond their current agendas to a more inclusive vision of equality that is critical of male privilege and class privilege in all their forms – including men only masonry.Read more "Tim Hailes, Edward Lord & The City Of London’s Twisting On Equality & Diversity"
A significant part of the financial City lies outside the City’s boundaries: banks and professional services firms in Canary Wharf, and fund managers in Mayfair. There are no business voters in these places, or in any other financial centre, like New York. No-one complains that the absence of business voters in these places affects business. So why are business voters needed within the City’s boundaries?Read more "Graeme Harrower’s City of London Corportation Xmas Quiz"
A City resident obtained, through a freedom of information request, the following information about Michael Snyder, a supporter of the proposed expansion of the City of London School for Girls. I thought you might want to have it by way of background. He became a City councillor in 1986. He has been a member of the Policy and Resources Committee for 22 years. He joined it in 1997, and was Chair from 2005 -2007 and Deputy Chair in 2008. He has been on the Board of Governors of the CLSG for 29 years, from 1989 to 2013 and from 2014 to the present. He was Chair from 2014 -2016 and Deputy Chair in 1990. I have checked with the Town Clerk’s department on whether there is maximum period for which a member can sit on either of these bodies. The answer is no. In fact, there is no maximum length of service on any City committee or board except the Audit and Risk Management Committee and the Standards Committee, which have a regulatory function, and the Barbican Centre Board and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which are “high status” appointments that many members covet.Read more "City of London Residents Battle Their Council To Save The Barbican"
“In the Dispensations Sub-Committee meeting on 4 June, a “co-opted” (meaning unelected) member rejected the notion that residential councillors should be trusted to exercise their judgment, because in future the “wrong sort of person might join the Corporation”. Since the only way a person can join the Corporation as a member is to be elected, the concern must be that City residents might in future elect the “wrong sort of person”. The residents are therefore being told that not only are they “confused” (as the Standards Chair called them in response to the petition), but that they must also be protected from the consequences of their voting decisions. The Standards Committee itself prefers to decide, through less than a handful of its own members, when resident councillors can speak and vote on matters which affect them and their constituents equally, but the answer – when it comes to voting, which is more important – is usually “no”. So decisions affecting residents may end up being taken by councillors who have no knowledge of the residents’ area. Most of those councillors are likely to represent business wards, so they may have no interest in residents’ concerns at all. The Standards Committee’s policy is therefore a barrier to democracy.”Read more "City of London Gagging Row Latest"
Aside from the business vote system, a major focus of the dissatisfaction of City of London residents with the undemocratic set up of their council has been its so-called Standards Committee. One concern has been the gagging of resident elected councillors by an inflexible dispensations policy, while the same committee is apparently unconcerned about potential conflicts of interest on the part of the 80% of councillors undemocratically elected on business votes and representing the interests of the finance and legal industries. Another big issue has been the willingness of the Standards Committee to allow various freemasonic lodges to meet for free or at discounted rates on council property. Given that as this blog has documented, members of the Guildhall Lodge are massively over-represented in top council posts – such as Lord Mayor – and so are men, these men only lodges should not be allowed to meet on council premises – let alone for free or at discounted rates. This is an equality issue.Read more "Ian Luder, Freemasonry & The City of London Standards Committee"
Disquiet over how the City of London council is able to operate because it is 80% elected on the business votes of non-residents and thus requires no democratic mandate from local people on anything it does, continues to rise. As Graeme Harrower notes, this is not an issue that is going to go away, and in our view not until there is democratic reform of this local authority. The range of voices speaking out against the business vote system does demonstrate that this is a burning issue with regard to democracy and not a party political matter.Read more "Graeme Harrower & City of London Residents Turn Their Fire On The Business Vote System"