Bringing the City of London to account is more difficult than we realise


2:31 pm - February 2nd 2011

by Richard Murphy    


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Maurice Glasman, a lecturer at London Metropolitan University was appointed a Labour peer in the New Years Honours List. He has long researched the City of London and all that is abusive about it.

It is a power Maurice has threatened, as he told at a meeting at LSE last night, when he shared a platform with Nick Shaxson of the Tax Justice Network and author of the excellent Treasure Islands.

Maurice threatened that power in a very simple way. He asked to have the title when offered a peerage of Lord Glasman of the City of London. And he was told that was not possible.

It seems an obvious demand. But when the London County Council got near to being effective the City of London ensured it was abolished. And when the Greater London Council got near to being effective it too was assigned to history.

And now we have a pathetic form of London wide authority with a Mayor who has to bow and scrape to the City – because that, as Maurice points out is where the power is.

You see, the City of London is in a very real sense not a part of the UK. And peers are. They take their title from a territory and owe their loyalty for having lien over it to the Crown which bestowed the privilege.

But the City has never been subject to the Crown.

As Maurice related, when William the Conqueror conqured the rest of England and made it Norman he did not conquer the City. The City, with its origins in Roman times, made peace with him quite separately and in return kept all its rights and privileges – which it has had ‘from time immemorial’.

There is not time here to relate all the consequences. Suffice to say that the City has ensured since then that those privileges. It has repelled its population so that the rights are preserved now, almost entirely, for the benefit of the City Livery Companies – and the businesses and business people that make them up.

And it has a system of government that is wholly unaccountable – so much so that it has quite literally never published accounts of its considerable wealth – and is subject to no statutory obligation to do so – and as such that wealth is held unaccountably by a few for the benefit of a very few.

But that also means that the City is neither accountable to parliament or to the Crown – meaning that Maurice Glasman could not be Lord of the City of London becasue for these purposes it is not part of the UK – but a location quite separate to it.

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A longer version is over at Tax Research UK

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About the author
Richard is an occasional contributor. He is a chartered accountant and founder of the Tax Justice Network. He blogs at Tax Research UK
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Reader comments


Well yes, the ancient rights and privileges of the City of London are preserved in one of the remaining active clauses in Magna Carta as follows:

The city of London shall enjoy all its ancient liberties and free customs, both by land and by water. We also will and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall enjoy all their liberties and free customs.

Although, in practice, this covers only those liberties and customs that were in place between the reign of Richard ! (from 1189, which is the date of ‘time immemorial’ in law) to the signing of Magna Carta in 1215.

Any rights and privileges conferred in statute after 1215, and particularly after the first Statute of Westminster (1275) are fair game and subject to the full authority of the Crown, i.e. Parliament.

The City’s modern powerbase is purely financial – it generates a shitload of money – not constitutional.

I should add the the City of London and the City Livery Companies are in no sense synonymous with ‘The City’ as a collective terms for the financial institutions that maintain offices in the City of London.

The latter are fully subject to state regulation, taxation and company law, amongst other things, so I’m somewhat at a loss to understand exactly what you’re driving at here.

Unity,

I’m somewhat at a loss to understand exactly what you’re driving at here.

It’s just Richard Murphy showing us what Dunning-Kruger means in practice.

LC going downhill a bit recently and the retweets are just silly.

The City’s modern powerbase is purely financial – it generates a shitload of money – not constitutional.

Odd though then, why he can’t be Lord for that area then, no?

Wasn’t Keith Joseph made “Baron Joseph, of Portsoken in the City of London” by Margaret Thatcher in 1987?

Wikipedia says so, so it must be true http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portsoken

6. Luis Enrique

Pitiful.

compare and contrast:

a) the power of Big Finance – whether it is located in City of London, or in Canary Wharf, or on Wall Street

b) some crap to do with the City of London’s special rights in certain wholly unimportant areas

7. Luis Enrique

The unusual political status of the City of London has absolutely nothing to do with the power of “the City”, when used as a colloquial reference to financial sector, and only a swivel-eyed halfwit would think otherwise.

Sunny, are you familiar with the rules for creating and granting peerages?

Odd though then, why he can’t be Lord for that area then, no?

Because the title isn’t in the Crown’s gift, for historical reasons. And Unity’s right – the phrase ‘time immemorial’ has a specific date in English law of 1189. Glasman was presumably making a rather grandiose gesture – comparing himself to Jack Cade, who claimed the title for himself during his rebellion.

Making a wider point about the political power of the financial sector based on this is pretty fatuous though – banks and lawyers are rapidly migrating out of the City and towards Docklands.

Paul,

Wasn’t Keith Joseph made “Baron Joseph, of Portsoken in the City of London” by Margaret Thatcher in 1987?

A quick Google reveals that there have been 15 peers of somewhere in the City of London since 1801.

Glasman was told his request to be Lord of the City of London was “unprecedented” and “unacceptable”. It is “unprecedented” because no-one has been made a peer of the whole of the City of London before, AFAICS, hence there is literally no precedent.

Could it be “unacceptable” because you can only be a peer of particular wards in the City? E.g. “Baroness Wheeler of Blackfriars in the City of London”, “Lord Sacks of Aldgate in the City of London”, and “Lord Sheikh of Cornhill in the City of London”?

I don’t know the rules. Sunny doesn’t know the rules. Murphy is living proof of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Luis is spot on.

Ukliberty @10

Ta for the look up. I thought it might be that but decided I wasn’t interested enough to keep looking.

12. Roger Mexico

Isn’t this all to do with the subtleties of the British class system? To take your title from something as important as a city, you have to be at least an Earl (a Duke if you want a whole county).

If you’re a miserable little Baron, you’ll take a village, a suburb or a ward and be grateful for it.

Thanks Roger.

It appears Glasman is a Baron (of Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill).

.

12 – Not exactly. There’s a life peer Baron of Manchester for example.

15. Roger Mexico

Tim J

Once a Barony, always a Barony. A quick Google shows the first Baron of Manchester was created in Norman times, when the place was barely a village. So various people have been able to a Baron of it ever since, providing the previous titleholder’s died obviously.

The College of Heralds or whichever be-tighted officials are responsible aren’t going to let little things like nine centuries or industrial development alter their ways.

16. Mike Killingworth

Well, there used to be a Duke of Manchester, and the Manchester in question was Godmanchester, a village next door to Huntingdon. So if you can be a Duke of Tiny, I don’t see why you can’t be a Baron of Big.

Abd BTW, now that hereditary titles no longer come with a seat in the Lords, why don’t we flog a heap of them to keep some public services going?

It’s really sad that, in seeking hits and headlines, LibCon will publish and cross-post any old rubbish, like this post and the one about Vodafone in Egypt. It’s like a left wing version of Fox News.

@ 17 I haven’t been on here for a while but I agree. The quality of both the subject matter and the debate seem to have gone downhill. The unique mix of intellectual gravitas and man-on-the street debate seems to have degenerated into a collection on unrelated soundbites based on left wing dog whistles. Not sure if its a twitter effect (a medium less suitable for political debate is hard to imagine) or something deeper to do wih the left generally having lost cohesion.

@18 Adrian Short made a comment on a thread on Left Foot Forward a while back (another site which had a promising start but has since degenerated into a random rubbish generator aimed at getting retweets rather than serious debate:

http://www.leftfootforward.org/2010/11/the-student-movement-2010-the-rise-of-the-dissent-entrepreneur/

‘ 15 retweets on this article and not a single comment. That says it all. Welcome to the Retweet Generation where 99% of the participants can’t say anything more articulate than, “Look at this!” ‘

So many of the articles written here and on other previously sensible outlets for the left seem to be written purely with an aim to be retweeted. The good news is that when someone comes along in the comments section to point out how ridiculous the OP is, the retweets stop. For example, this article got a few retweets within minutes of it being published – not that someone could’ve actually read it in that time – but they seem to have stopped, now that it’s been shown up to be a load of tosh in the comments.

Ten Truths like this post and the one about Vodafone in Egypt. It’s like a left wing version of Fox News.

There’s a whole bunch of you who come here just to have a dig at LC as mindlessly as the people you want to complain about. Please feel to go to another blog and not comment here if you don’t like the content.

I don’t know enough about the Peers system, but the faux-outrage over Vodafone being condemned for Egypt was crap too.

A better explanation for why Vodafone isn’t blameless about what’s going on in Egypt is explained here: http://bit.ly/g3yHPM – so stick that in your pipe and smoke it. I can’t help it if some of you have no clue about human rights discourse or any inclination to listen / learn.

ukliberty: It’s just Richard Murphy showing us what Dunning-Kruger means in practice.

And these kind of idiotic ad hominems aren’t necessary either and will be deleted in the future. I’ve mostly stopped paying much attention to your sense of fairness since you started excusing police brutality during student protests. I bet you still think the Met are being proportionate with regards to protests.

@ 17 I haven’t been on here for a while but I agree. The quality of both the subject matter and the debate seem to have gone downhill.

Thank god Matt Munro. If people like you came here and liked what you saw – I’d be most alarmed. Please stay away from the site.

aimed at getting retweets rather than serious debate

And lastly – this kind of exemplifies the kind of stupid thinking on part of some of the critics. Some people come here to comment and discuss, while a far larger proportion just want to read or pass the link around because they like it. The site offers space for both. As I keep saying – no one is forcing you to use the system or site. Go away if you don’t like it.

22. bloke in spain

I can’t say I’m particularly enamoured of your political beliefs over here but you do have some thought provoking posts & it’s always worth a visit.
However.
Don’t you think you’ve rather ‘jumped the shark’ with this particular topic. Having read the full version over at Tax Research UK & tried to enter into dialogue with the author I can only presume he’s got some personality issues.
Does he have the vaguest idea what he’s writing about? The ‘financial’ City & the ‘City’ of the guilds have absolutely nothing to do with each other apart from occupying the same geographical space. It’s like discussing the advisability of the Queen mounting a horse & advancing at the head of an armoured division as Colonel in Chief of the Army on the same page as the Defence Review.

Sunny,

I’ve mostly stopped paying much attention to your sense of fairness since you started excusing police brutality during student protests. I bet you still think the Met are being proportionate with regards to protests.

this [the use of CS spray] does look pretty bad.

I’m not excusing the use of CS spray

if this specific police officer ‘overreacted’ that is by definition unlawful and they ought to be held accountable.

LibCon publishes several articles a day, day in day out, by lots of different people, and Sunny is always trying to draw in new voices. Like others, I don’t think this post is a great one, but I recognise that there’ll be another one along soon enough which does get me thinking, whether or not I agree with it.

Carry on, Sunny. They’re just silly.

So if we criticise any particular post and suggest that LibCon used to be better when more thoughtful (and better researched) posts were being written by the likes of Robert Sharp, FlyingRodent and Tygerland, we should bog off? It is a shame that Sunny prioritises the writings of Richard Murphy over more thoughtful and accurate contributors, simply because we’re living under a “Tory-led” government and Murphy has plenty of nonsense to say about his fake tax theories.

It is a shame that Sunny prioritises the writings of…

Yeah well, guess who’s the editor. It ain’t you. If you don’t like the articles, don’t comment on them.

Like I said, I’d pay more attention to some of the complaints if they came from people I respected, not just random new names whining about how people are hating on poor old Vodafone.

Thanks for the links ukliberty but I’m perfectly aware of your comments in those cases. I’m referring to earlier cases when many of us warned that the police were going overboard with their tactics and you accused me and others of crying wolf. Guess what, it turns out the police ARE actually going overboard with their tactics and have said they will. I look forward to you accusing me of crying wolf in the future too.

27. Chaise Guevara

@ “Yeah well, guess who’s the editor. It ain’t you. If you don’t like the articles, don’t comment on them. ”

Or, in other words: “I have a big stick. Your argument is invalid.”

28. Chaise Guevara

@ 26

“Thanks for the links ukliberty but I’m perfectly aware of your comments in those cases. I’m referring to earlier cases when many of us warned that the police were going overboard with their tactics and you accused me and others of crying wolf. ”

As I recall, in those argument UKliberty was generally making the case that you were jumping to conclusions based on insufficient evidence. If your conclusions happen to turn out correct, that does not mean you were right. Observe:

“All dice always roll six!”

*Rolls die, which comes up six*

“I was right!”

29. Chaise Guevara

*Sorry… “if your conclusions turn out to be correct, that does not mean that you were right TO JUMP TO THEM”. Obviously, it would mean you were right, but only by chance. You’re using benefit of hindsight.

30. Just Visiting

oh dear Sunny.

we’ll need a LiberalConspiracy-Watch site soon – to keep a track of the DailyMail-like depths of some the threads….

Meanwhile – if you’re short of good articles Sunny, it would be topical to ask one of your feminist regulars, to post something their views about Women under Islam – and what changes would be desirable in a changing Egypt?

31. Chaise Guevara

@ 30

Arrgh! This again? Seriously, just put a wig on and write the article already. Sunny doesn’t actually order people to write articles, you know. Look, now you’ve made me defend Mr “I’m the editor so shut up”. Cheers for that.

32. Just Visiting

Chaise

always happy to amuse (even when un-intentionally)

> Seriously, just put a wig on and write the article already

Sadly it’s more than the wig – I lack the years of feminist learning and activism…so I’m not able to fake it already!

> Sunny doesn’t actually order people to write articles, you know

We all assume not :<)

But I'm sure he lets people know when he thinks it would be good timing to hear from X on their views on theme Y.

But I'll shut up now – several times I've mentioned this glaring gap on LC to Sunny….and it's still a gap.

Captain Hyperbole,

Thanks for the links ukliberty but I’m perfectly aware of your comments in those cases. I’m referring to earlier cases when many of us warned that the police were going overboard with their tactics and you accused me and others of crying wolf. Guess what, it turns out the police ARE actually going overboard with their tactics and have said they will. I look forward to you accusing me of crying wolf in the future too.

Perhaps you’ll do me a favour and give me evidence for your claims that I “started excusing police brutality during student protests” and that I “think the Met are being proportionate with regards to protests”.

34. Chaise Guevara

@ 33

He’s the EDITOR. He doesn’t need such paltry things as evidence. Watch as he unleashes the awesome power of editorship!

35. Chaise Guevara

@ 32 Just Visiting

“”Sadly it’s more than the wig – I lack the years of feminist learning and activism…so I’m not able to fake it already!”

Try harder! I could fake an article like that easily. But my point was that you just seem to want a feminist, any feminist, to write that article. So why not declare yourself a feminist for 20 minutes and write it?

I suspect my “wig” joke would find me labelled an ignorant chauvinist bastard by some of the (mercifully few) ignorant chauvinist feminists who visit this site.

“But I’ll shut up now – several times I’ve mentioned this glaring gap on LC to Sunny….and it’s still a gap.”

Hence my “arrgh!”. I know that you feel that LC’s failure to plug that gap is revealing, and I can see your point, but it also seems that you bring it up in almost every thread you comment in. So I find myself going “Ok, here’s Just Visiting, he’s making some interesting points… oh, Christ, not that whole feminists-being-hypocritical-about-Islam thing again.”

Seriously, dude, it’s turning into a leitmotif.

No response to my comment @33?

Perhaps an apology will be forthcoming?

37. Roger Mexico

#22 said The ‘financial’ City & the ‘City’ of the guilds have absolutely nothing to do with each other apart from occupying the same geographical space.

Well they’re certainly not the same but there are subtle and long-standing links there. The Corporation of the City does its best to make things comfortable for the financial City and uses its considerable financial and political influence to make sure things stay that. You probably won’t find many hedge fund managers as members of one of the Corporation’s bodies, but you will find corporate lawyers and other service providers aplenty.

And to help them stay there, they have a unique electoral system where businesses hold the vast majority of votes in all but 4 of the 25 wards (and a business may have dozens of votes).

Of course as has already been pointed out none of this has anything to do with whether someone wants to call himself ‘Lord master of the Universe’ but then Richard Murphy has a unique talent for picking up the least important aspect of any subject and then obsessing over it.

Meanwhile can we accept that misleading headlines on Liberal Conspiracy posts (and complaining about them) are a British ritual almost as ancient and certainly as obligatory as anything the City of London carries out. Maybe Lib Con could form its own Livery Companies: the Worshipful Company of Trolls; the Guild of Whataboutery; the Angry Feminists Company; the possibilities are endless.

Also at least this site encourages outside contributions. Try getting that from the Daily Mail (mind you they pay).

38. Roger Mexico

#22 said The ‘financial’ City & the ‘City’ of the guilds have absolutely nothing to do with each other apart from occupying the same geographical space.

Well they’re certainly not the same but there are subtle and long-standing links there. The Corporation of the City does its best to make things comfortable for the financial City and uses its considerable financial and political influence to make sure things stay that. You probably won’t find many hedge fund managers as members of one of the Corporation’s bodies, but you will find corporate lawyers and other service providers aplenty.

And to help them stay there, they have a unique electoral system where businesses hold the vast majority of votes in all but 4 of the 25 wards (and a business may have dozens of votes).

Of course as has already been pointed out none of this has anything to do with whether someone wants to call himself Lord Master of the Universe but then Richard Murphy has a unique talent for picking up the least important aspect of any subject and then obsessing over it.

Meanwhile can we accept that misleading headlines on Liberal Conspiracy posts (and complaining about them) are a British ritual almost as ancient and certainly as obligatory as anything the City of London carries out. Maybe Lib Con could form its own Livery Companies: the Worshipful Company of Trolls; the Guild of Whataboutery; the Angry Feminists Company; the possibilities are endless.

Also at least this site encourages outside contributions. Try getting that from the Daily Mail (mind you they pay).

Sunny, Sunny,
Don’t be so precious ! You probably should be flattered that the commentators like your site so much that they express strong views when articles that they feel are substandard are posted.

In the past I have found the articles posed interesting and thought provoking, though I haven’t always agreed with everything (how boring would life be if that was the case).

This one, on the other hand is not very good, I’m afraid.

I find that the problem with the “strong views” is that they are so often knee-jerk and ignorant.

UKliberty has had a recent propensity for snide comments with no useful content, for example. In the past they have had more to offer.

Well, one reason why you cannot be Baron of the City of London is that there are other Barons of parts of it (of certain wards for example).

If you were Baron of an area that contained several other Baronages then that would be, in the feudal system, an acknowledgement that you are superior to those other Barons. That they are in fact your vassals.

And we’ve a way of doing that: you would be the Viscount, Earl, Marquess or Duke of London, not the Baron.

So, for example, we have a Duke of Somerset and also a Baron of Weston Super Mare (I think that’s Jeffrey Archer, isn’t it?). But we cannot have a Baron of Somerset because we’ve a Baron of a consitutent part of the county.

I think I’m right in saying that Richard Murphy is originally an Irishman. Perhaps not all that successful an idea to have foreigners commenting on the intricacies of the English system.

ukliberty: Perhaps you’ll do me a favour and give me evidence for your claims that I “started excusing police brutality during student protests” and that I “think the Met are being proportionate with regards to protests”.

How many times did you accuse me of crying wolf over police actions then? How many times did you make comments about how I was trying to blow everything out of proportion?

I’m surprised you forget so easily.

Or, in other words: “I have a big stick. Your argument is invalid.”

Heh, that too. Except he had no argument other than to say: ‘I don’t like this article, ergo LC is going down the pan and I’m going to make generalisations about everything and if you don’t like it you’re just a crap editor‘. How should I respond? Call him a Waambulance?

Chaise:
So I find myself going “Ok, here’s Just Visiting, he’s making some interesting points… oh, Christ, not that whole feminists-being-hypocritical-about-Islam thing again.”

Yeah well, he did pitch an article to me on that front. It basically said… (yes, you guessed it) that western feminists were ignoring misogynistic bits of Islam.

Sunny,

ukliberty: Perhaps you’ll do me a favour and give me evidence for your claims that I “started excusing police brutality during student protests” and that I “think the Met are being proportionate with regards to protests”.

How many times did you accuse me of crying wolf over police actions then?

I recall saying you were crying wolf (or getting close to it) once, although I can’t find the post.

How many times did you make comments about how I was trying to blow everything out of proportion?

I don’t know, do you? Probably more than once but less than ten times?

What does this have to do with your claims that I “started excusing police brutality during student protests” and that I “think the Met are being proportionate with regards to protests”?

Accusing you of ‘crying wolf’ and ‘using hyperbole’ is a different kettle of fish.

Does anyone imagine that Mr Murphy should need to learn just a little history (and possibly the difference between a person a business) before lecturing us on it? Heaven forfend that he notices that the first task of a new Lord Mayor is to swear allegiance to the sovereign or that all workers and residents are subject to English Law (unlike certain enclaves elsewhere) or that he should look on the Charity Commission website to find the published accounts of a charity. Oh no! That might clash wit his preconceived opinions

45. Just Visiting

Sunny

> Yeah well, he did pitch an article to me on that front. It basically said… (yes, you guessed it) that western feminists were ignoring misogynistic bits of Islam.

Why is a discussion on that (with feminists expressing their views too ) such a threat to LC?

Why the taboo ?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Bringing the City of London to account is more difficult than we realise http://bit.ly/eizl0j

  2. False Economy

    RT @libcon Bringing the City of London to account is more difficult than we realise, by @RichardJMurphy http://bit.ly/eizl0j

  3. Matt Hayes

    RT @FalseEcon: RT @libcon Bringing the City of London to account is more difficult than we realise, by @RichardJMurphy http://bit.ly/eizl0j

  4. Roy Bailey

    RT @FalseEcon: RT @libcon Bringing the City of London to account is more difficult than we realise, by @RichardJMurphy http://bit.ly/eizl0j

  5. Kate Hillier

    Bringing the City of London to account is more difficult than we realise | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/6L30SSI via @libcon Disturbing.

  6. Andy Bean

    RT @libcon: Bringing the City of London to account is more difficult than we realise http://bit.ly/eizl0j





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