It’s time to challenge the power of the Corporation of London


10:51 am - November 3rd 2011

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contribution by ‘Reclaim the City

The economic experiment of the last thirty years was catastrophically discredited when the banks bought the world to its knees in 2008. Public anger against the finance industry is huge, but why don’t we see radical change?

There are powerful non-democratic forces working in the opposite direction. Perhaps the most important of these is the power of Corporation of London.

What is the Corporation of London? The Corporation is a weird entity. It is the local council for the Square Mile in the centre of London known as the ‘City of London’.

But it is largely voted in by corporations rather than people. Ordinary residents, such as those living in estates in Portsoken, are denied the democratic right to choose their local council, as their votes are outnumbered 4 to 1 by the votes of corporations.

But unlike other local councils, the Corporation has considerable private wealth. In addition to the money it uses to perform its function as a local government, the Corporation has a private account known as ‘City Cash’, which provides it with a few hundred million a year income from investments.

This money is officially held in trust for ‘the Citizens of London’, but a large part of it is used to lobby for the banks.

However, the main source of the Corporation’s power comes from its ancient status. Lead by the Lord Mayor, and going back a thousand years, it is embedded at the heart of our political life.

Sat opposite the speaker in the House of Commons is an individual called ‘The Remembrancer’, whose official role if to protect the interests of the City of London.

So we have an ancient and wealthy institution at the heart of our political life, which has been completely captured by narrow financial interests and now uses its money, status and resources to pursue deregulation and the interest of finance.

Action for Change – Alternative Lord Mayor’s Show 12th November

It’s time to do something about it. Reclaim the City is a campaign for Democratic Reform of the Corporation of London.

We have three concrete demands:
* We demand that the local council representing the Square Mile be chosen solely by the votes of the Citizens of London.
* We demand that the Corporation of London publishes its secret City Cash account held in trust for the Citizens of London.
* We demand that the Lord Mayor of London once again serve the interests of the Citizens of London rather than the interests of finance.

We will set out these demands at our Alternative Lord Mayor’s Parade, 12th November, which will be at the same time and place as the real Lord Mayor’s Parade, when the Lord Mayor flaunts his wealth and power through the streets of the City.

We would like to invite as many people as possible to get involved. Drop us a line if you want to get involved: democracy4thecity@gmail.com

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Reader comments


“Sat opposite the speaker in the House of Commons is an individual called ‘The Remembrancer’, whose official role if to protect the interests of the City of London.”

In reality, he ceremonially sits there and says nothing. There are better points to campaign on. Not even worthy of a mention IMO.

Just abolish it and make it part of London.

Leon Wolfson, it isn’t a case of ‘just abolish it’ and make it ‘part of London’. It already is part of London, in the same way that Hackney or Lewisham or Ealing are part of London. If you look at the historical context, you are right, the City of London has privileges which were awarded to it, it has had uninterrupted control since Anglo Saxon times. However, if the call is to democratise the Corporation of London, then I am all for it.

However, even in the event of a ‘democratic’ Corporation, it is worth bearing in mind that the makeup would probably remain remarkably similar. Given that the residential population of the City is about 9,000 and that much of this is in the Barbican estate.

Interestingly I have just discovered that the ‘business vote’ in most local councils (outside the City) was only abolished in 1969.

Either way, I feel that the independent nature of the City should be respected. Democratically reformed obviously, but it fought long and hard for its autonomy.

“Sat opposite the speaker in the House of Commons is an individual called ‘The Remembrancer’”

Bet he turns out to be the Master in disguise.

@3 – “Either way, I feel that the independent nature of the City should be respected.”

Why? It’s a parasite at the heart of London, just as the ACPO is a parasite at the heart of the police force. The parasites need to be burned with fire. Oh, the Lord Mayorality can be kept for tradition’s sake, but it should be pure tradition with the City being absorbed by it’s neighbours (see: ceremonial counties) and the money spent on the Bankers diverted to the people of London.

Utter tripe!
Either horrendous incompetence in doing his/her homework or deliberate lies.
The City Corporation is not anti-democratic – it is elected (unlike ‘Reclaim the City’ which is a self-selected group).
While individual ratepayers can also vote in elections for Common Council (one of the few places which still thinks that those paying the taxes should have a little say in electing the people who set them) all residential wards such as Portsoken have electoral registers dominated by residents with business voters (there are far more sole traders and partnerships than corporations) in a minority.
The Remembrancer has no vote or power in Parliament – his job is defined as “”to continue to attend Parliament and the offices of the Secretaries of State daily, and acquaint the Lord Mayor with the public affairs and other business transacted there, relating to the City”. The OP is just plain wrong.
City Cash is not used to lobby for the banks – what a ridiculous suggestion! Why on earth would the Corporation bother? The banks do their own individual lobbying and have their own British Bankers Association to lobby for the industry. City cash is largely used for charitable purposes.
FAIL

You want to abolish probably the most efficient and best financed local council and replace it with the sort of debt ridden councils the rest of the UK has?

Shouldn’t you be asking yourself how the rest of the UK’s councils can work to improve themselves so that their finances are managed as well as the City of London’s and how they can operate based on long term planning instead of trying to win the next election?

Leon Wolfson is so financially literate he lives on benefits – what else can be expected other than cretins to dream up and support this stuff?

@8 – No, I’d have earned MORE of I’d been on benefits, thanks to the Government. Your spite and contempt places you very nicely as a Daily Fail reader, though. Suck up harder to the government, shill.

@7 – Funnily enough they don’t have the city and 8k people to think about. It’s a pure parasite sucking up money for corporations which should go to Londoners. No legal fiction should have a vote, it mocks democracy.

More about the Corporation of London in this excellent piece by Nick Shaxson “The tax haven in the heart of Britain”
http://www.newstatesman.com/economy/2011/02/london-corporation-city

It’s weird how much is made of the Remembrancer.

Shaxson, Monbiot the other day and now Reclaim the City.

I wonder if you genuinely believe that the Remembrancer has so much power, and what the basis for this belief is, or whether this is just a rhetorical device used to influence the credulous to support your campaign.

This is the kind of thing the Office of the Remembrancer does:

http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/CityDerivatives.pdf

Yes, it used its extraordinary powers to…

… wait for it…

… submit a memo.

Credit to Shaxson for this:” I think it’s important to rein in one or two of the more effervescent assertions that are out there.”

I’ve been asked some quite specific questions today about the City of London Corporation by a protester who, like pretty much everyone else, is struggling to get to grips with the essence of this very peculiar ancient British organisation. …

The first big question is: what exactly can the City Corporation block, in terms of financial regulation?

The answer is: nothing directly.

13. Ciaran Osborne

Wow, who knew there were so many crazed supporters of the City of London hanging around this thread? It’s almost like somebody has arranged a PR response to articles like this…

It is clear that businesses shouldn’t be allowed to vote in local (or indeed any) democracy. Businesses are not people – they have no democratic rights. It is even more horrifying that their vote share should be based on their size (or more accurately, how much money they have) and exercised by their managing directors – it is the very definition of Corporatist power.

Merging the City with Tower Hamlets would seem to be the perfect solution to the problem to me – one borough with lots of people living in dire poverty, one with bags of money and no residents, what happier marriage could ever be created?

14. Man On Clapham Omnibus

John77

when you speak of individuals ‘democratically’ voting for the Common Council, I presume you are aware that out of the 25 wards, only 4 are ocuppied by residents.
Furthermore, Since 2002, thanks to ‘call me Tony’ the voting power of Corporations has been extensively enhanced, such that the weight of each corporation’s vote is dependant on the amount of employees they have. The proportion of personal votes to business votes is now something in the order of 9000 to 32000. I’d say that was a wrap! But I doubt any reasonable person would , with the influence of likes of Goldmann Sachs and the Chinese Goverment, regard these elections as democratic. Maybe you do!

15. Ciaran Osborne

@11

It’s an abomination that anyone sits in the Commons without a democratic reason to be there. The Remembrancer (other than sounding totally absurd) is a grotesque anomaly – it’s essentially the equivalent of having a PWC (or Shell, or McDonalds or whatever) lobbyist sitting at the Speaker’s feet.

If you can’t see the anti-democratic implications of that it’s because you don’t want to.

16. Flowerpower

Total tosh.

The resident population of the City is around 11,000. The daytime working population is closer to 350,000.

It makes no sense and would certainly be less democratic to disenfranchise the overwhelming majority who work in the City by day and give all power over local affairs to the tiny number who just happen to sleep there.

The system is already weighted in the residents’ favour to some extent: four residential wards (out of 25) elect 20% of the Court of Common Councilmen.

Abolish it. It sounds expensive.

18. Flowerpower

@15 Ciaran Osborne

It’s an abomination that anyone sits in the Commons without a democratic reason to be there.

He doesn’t “sit” in the Commons in the way MPs do – he’s seated in much the same way as journalists are in the press gallery or ordinary visitors are in the Stranger’s Gallery. He just gets a better seat (under the clock) alongside senior civil servants and others of a similar ilk.

19. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Thanks Flowerpower for adding on the extra 0. In terms of proportion of votes I am glad we agree. On the issue of

‘It makes no sense and would certainly be less democratic to disenfranchise the overwhelming majority who work in the City by day and give all power over local affairs to the tiny number who just happen to sleep there.’

Maybe I would agree if those that worked there voted (I propbably wouldnt agree actually) But in fact ,as chatels, there pure existance as employees is used by the Corporations,many of which are foriegn, to effectively mute any possible democratic decision making.

Maybe democracy is tosh to you ,in which case I apologise.

Flowerpower,

He doesn’t “sit” in the Commons in the way MPs do – he’s seated in much the same way as journalists are in the press gallery or ordinary visitors are in the Stranger’s Gallery. He just gets a better seat (under the clock) alongside senior civil servants and others of a similar ilk.

Oh no, please don’t destroy the illusion that the Remembrancer sits immediately opposite the Speaker, swinging his watch and saying “look into my eyes…”

Ciaran,

Wow, who knew there were so many crazed supporters of the City of London hanging around this thread?

It appears you are one of those people who thinks criticism of an article entails support of its subject. Clue: it doesn’t.

21. Ciaran Osborne

@18

Under the clock is not at all where Senior Civil Servants sit – they sit in the officials box and are forbidden from speaking to anyone except the Minister they are supporting.

The man is a lobbyist at the very heart of government, it is an utterly indefensible state of affairs.

22. Ciaran Osborne

@16

You fail to mention in your post that the workers in the City firms do not themselves get to vote. Their votes are held collectively by the MD of their firms. Certainly nobody will be asking the canteen workers what they would like the City of London to do.

You also fail to mention that in no other local authority, constituency or government region in the country are voters enfranchaised on where they work. Why, exactly, should the City be different?

23. Chaise Guevara

@ 16 Flowerpower

“It makes no sense and would certainly be less democratic to disenfranchise the overwhelming majority who work in the City by day and give all power over local affairs to the tiny number who just happen to sleep there.”

I agree that this looks like the kind of setting in which defining democratic rights simply based on residence would be inadaquate. If the great majority of people who use an area daily don’t happen to live there, only giving representation to residents would skew things rather massively. It would be a bit like saying the only people who can decide on changes to the M25 are those who live within walking distance of the ringroad.

However, the idea that the extra votes are given to corporations, rather than workers, and that the weighting of these votes is decided on financial power, seems even worse. It would make much more sense, in terms of representation, to simply give a vote to each person who works X hours a week within the area (though I can see why this would be hard to pull off).

Basically, I can see the purpose of a democratic council deciding on public matters, and a corporate committee deciding on issues of private ownership – but combining the two seems very odd indeed.

@16: The workers in the City already have a vote, WHERE THEY LIVE, just like everybody else. It may be unusual for day-workers to so massively outnumber residents across a council area, but there are many wards up and down the country where they do, and many councils and Parliamentary constituencies where they’d be a significant bloc if they got to vote. By your reasoning, therefore, our whole system is unacceptably undemocratic – yet for some reason I don’t hear you demanding that the residency basis for voting be abandoned across the rest of Britain.

But even if one did accept the novel and outlandish principle that residency should be replaced with place of work as a criterion for the vote, those 350,000 City workers DON’T HAVE a vote there. They get counted for the purpose of apportioning votes, but those votes are then cast by management. Is THIS a principle you’d like to see extended to other councils, and to Parliament? Would you be willing to give up your vote to your boss? If not, why is it good enough for the City?

To top it all off, you complain that the managers don’t get ENOUGH votes for the number of workers they have: 83% of the wards, representing (according to your figures) some 97% of the daytime population, elects “only” 80% of the Council, a mere overwhelming majority. Well, that means each worker is being counted as 82.5% of a person: at least it’s better than three fifths.

@ 15 & 13 Ciaran Osborne
Presumably you find the Hansard reporter an abomination?
The Remembrancer does roughly the same job: he listens and reports on what happens in Parliament. His job is not to lobby Parliament to to inform the Lord Mayor about what goes on there.
‘Reclaim the City’ has made a host of mistakes and you seem to be swallowing them hook. line and sinker, then added one of your own. Where on earth did you get “(or more accurately, how much money they have) and exercised by their managing directors” from?
Corporations do not have votes, and where – thanks to New Labour – non-resident non-rate-paying workers have votes they are not exercised by the Managing Director but by the individual in secret ballot. I did not and do not agree with that so-called “Reform”, but this is “power to the workers”.
“one with bags of money and no residents,” No, that is not and never has been the case. Residents have been outnumbered by workers for longer than I can remember but there have always been since, at least, Roman times.
I am concerned for the truth – why does that make me “crazed”

@ 21 Ciaran Osborne
Why don’t you actually find out the odd fact before ranting?

@ 23 Chaise
At last someone making a sensible comment!
But don’t fall for “the weighting of these votes is decided on financial power,” – that just isn’t true.

“In addition to the money it uses to perform its function as a local government, the Corporation has a private account known as ‘City Cash’, which provides it with a few hundred million a year income from investments. ”

Umm, no, not really.

So, we’re all agreed that The City has hardly anyone actually living there, yes? Good, that means it gets hardly any Council Tax as well, doesn’t it?

Except, of course, there is the Uniform Business Rate. That’s the old rates on companies and commercial properties. So The City gets lots of money from that, of course.

Except no it doesn’t. For the UBR is collected and then sent to *central* government, who then disburse it out across the country to those local authorities who need it. And The City doesn’t get any of that back.

City Cash comes from things like owning the freeholds to 20% or so of The City (Shaxson got this horribly wrong, he thinks it’s 20% of all buildings which is nonsense, they get ground rents, not full rents). That money is then spent on….umm, running the Local Authority. For they don’t get much in council tax and the business rates get sent off to Burnley and the like.

The City pays for several schools (bog standard primaries and the like), Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, cleaning the roads in The City, doing the rubbish collection and all that out of City Cash.

One way of looking at it is that The City really runs on a land value tax: and we’re all all in favour of those, aren’t we?

29. Man on Clapham Omnibus

John77

According to the City of London website

‘Unlike elsewhere in the UK, businesses, as well as residents, can register to vote in local elections. ……… sole traders and equity partners can register, and other businesses and organisations can nominate electors based on the size of their workforce’

Doesnt strike me that equates to one employee one vote.somehow. Can you tell me where you get your source to suggest each employee is part of a secret ballot please?

I’m getting tired of having to restate the facts
Everyone who is discussing votes should read the rules
http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/LGNL_Services/Council_and_democracy/Councillors_democracy_and_elections/Voting_and_Registration/appointment_proccess.htm
I don’t like businesses being allowed to nominate electors but anyone who says that the MD has all the votes is grossly ignorant or just plain lying.

Now Tim, please don’t let facts get in the way of this (confused and misinformed) rant!

As a City resident (perhaps needless to say) the last thing I want to happen is a merger with the corrupt borough of Tower Hamlets.

Still if this is the kind of windmill at which the “occupiers” wish to tilt, well, let them.

32. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Tim

you paint such an beneficient picture. I can almost see Dick Wittington coming over the hills.
If this were the case why in 2002, when the private members bill was going through the house to use employee numbers as voting chips, was opposition to it so fiercly contestested by the City?

@ 29 MoCO
I never said one employee one vote. The tiered voting system for workers was introduced by New Labour.
The old system just had votes for residents and individual ratepayers and that *was* one person one vote.
Since you have looked at the website, you can click on it to see that ballots are secret.

34. Flowerpower

@ 24 + Chaiese @ 23

But even if one did accept the novel and outlandish principle that residency should be replaced with place of work as a criterion for the vote

Not so novel, not so outlandish. Until (I think) 1948, business proprietors had a business vote in local elections throughout England (not sure about Scotland and Wales). It was scrapped on the grounds it wasn’t really appropriate in most place, but specifically retained in the City, where uniquely perhaps, it was appropriate.

the weighting of these votes is decided on financial power

….only up to a point. Sole traders and partners in an unlimited partnership (newsagents, barristers, etc) get a vote. From then on votes are dependent on the number of employees in a company: 1 vote for up to ten staff, one for every five staff between 10 and fifty, with a declining ratio for really big firms. Each firm has to nominate certain voters (who have to meet a basic test of 1 year working in the City). Once the voters are nominated, they then vote in a secret ballot (so the MD doesn’t get to call the shots necessarily).
Besides, there is more to democracy than majoritarianism. This is a system designed to make people feel that their many and varied interests are reasonably fairly represented. On that basis –
It ain’t perfect, but it works.

Ciaran @ 21:

“The man is a lobbyist at the very heart of government, it is an utterly indefensible state of affairs.”

No, he’s a person who makes notes of the debates and passes on any relevant information to his boss. He doesn’t intervene in the procedings of Parliament; and, if he is indeed a “lobbyist at the very heart of government”, then (a) could you provide some evidence of this, and (b) how will blocking him from sitting in on debates prevent him from lobbying?

36. Flowerpower

Ciaran @ 21

The man is a lobbyist at the very heart of government

Wrong. First, he’s not a lobbyist so much as a rapporteur.

And he’s not ‘at the heart of government’.

If you want an example of a “lobbyist at the heart of government” try those ministers in the last Labour government sponsored by Unite, Unison and so on.

But in any case, where else would you expect a lobbyist to be? Off at the races?

37. Man on Clapham Omnibus

The story so far……..

John77 said

Corporations do not have votes, and where – thanks to New Labour – non-resident non-rate-paying workers have votes they are not exercised by the Managing Director but by the individual in secret ballot.

The City of London Website says

Sole traders and partnerships are entitled to register all equity partners. All other organisations are entitled to nominate a certain number of electors based on the size of their workforce.

Which roughly translates to the Corporations use the number of employees they have to skew to vote in accordance with size of their businesses.

Hardly, one person one vote in a secret ballot is it John?

And given the dispropotionate weighting of residents to non residents kindly given by Flowerpower (11,000 to 350,000) we start to see how undemocratic this process is.

The global elites don’t like or want democracy. So they try to promkte anything that stops it. This divide and rule policy of creating little Northern Ireland’s all over the country is a favourate tory trick. They let the elite opt themselves out of democratic control, and are then ring fenced by bullshit boundries and bodies that are not accountable to the majority. Opted out schools, Gummers property planning laws are all examples where the tories divide and remove mass participation d3mocracy.

No surprise because democracy has always been class war against the elites. The alternative is the rich elites in a class war aginst the people. I’m for class war against the rich elites. SO these sudo elite bodies must be destroyed. They are designed to wage war against the people.

39. Ciaran Osborne

@25
@26

Hansard reports for the whole country – what specifically makes the Lord Mayor unable to use that version of the report?

Also, are you claiming that the Remembrancer never speaks to MPs or Ministers? If so, you’d better have a good source for it.

Facts appear pretty alien to you.

40. Flowerpower

Clapham @ 37

I think John77’s point still hold good.

There is a secret ballot. So if I were one of the 40 (or whatever) voters chosen by Goldman Sachs, I could vote how the hell I wanted and the MD would never know.

Added to that – Common Councilmen do not stand under party political colours. Each is an independent, and gets elected on his merits as a human being plus what he says in his personal manifesto will be his key priorities. These are generally to do with parks, litter, roadworks etc and not of much interest to the uber-capitalist boss class in the boardroom.

41. Ciaran Osborne

@36

I think it would be more appropriate if you were able to expalin why the Lord Mayor needs a specific person to feed back to him when the rest of the country relies on Hansard.

And if, it turns out, he doesn’t need a specific person – perhaps you could explain what the Remembrancer does with his time.

What makes the City of London important enough to have totally unparalleled access to the Commons, and why under any circumstances, should that access be allowed to continue?

42. Flowerpower

Ciaran Osborne @ 39

Also, are you claiming that the Remembrancer never speaks to MPs or Ministers?

Why the heck shouldn’t he?

I’m sure the Local Government Association (a kind of Remembrancer writ large) talk to MPs and ministers. As do the public affairs teams of Oxfam, Greenpeace, the BBC and every other interest group in the land. Good thing too. We wouldn’t want our MPs and ministers to get out of touch, would we.

Talking to people…advocacy….. is all part of democracy.

43. Ciaran Osborne

@40

I find it laughable that anyone could possibly suggest that a Corporation nominating which people get to vote is by any means democratic.

I could easily nominate 40 people in Stockwell who I know would vote socialist – if I did so, would you consider that democratic?

44. Ciaran Osborne

@42

He shouldn’t do so because he is given unparalleled access to powerful people by a legal quirk. He is permanently in the Commons – which gives him utterly unfair and undemocratic access to government, that is why he should be removed from the Commons.

If he then wants to watch Parliament TV and Remembrance from that in an apartment in Shadwell, that is perfectly acceptable to me.

I think it would be more appropriate if you were able to expalin why the Lord Mayor needs a specific person to feed back to him when the rest of the country relies on Hansard.

LGA:

http://www.local.gov.uk/parliamentary-watch;jsessionid=DA07509CD36137D40FE03231B5E4B9E6.wlb

Parliamentary watch

In this section you can find all the Local Government Association (LGA) briefings on Bills introduced by the Government in the 2010-2011 Parliamentary Session as well as details of our lobbying work both nationally and internationally, relevant Select Committee Inquiries and our weekly parliamentary bulletins.

NALC:

http://www.nalc.gov.uk/About_NALC/Benefits_of_Membership/Benefits_of_membership.aspx

Policy Advice

As well as providing policy advice and guidance on all political developments relevant to local government, the NALC policy and parliamentary affairs team represents the interests of local councils to MPs, government departments and Ministers. County Associations are kept fully briefed on local government activity at national level so that they are able to give you up to the minute advice on matters that might affect your council.

So all local councils lobby parliament then.

@ 37 MoCO
Are you trying to blame me for a distortion to the system – which until then *was* “one person, one vote in a secret ballot”” – pushed through by New Labour using a whipped vote in the Lords?
First you complain because it isn’t one employee one vote then you claim that Corporations can “skew to vote in accordance with size of their businesses” (sic) which you know isn’t true because the ratio of voters to workers declines from 100% at the sole trader level to 20% between 5 and 50, to 11% at 100, to 2.5% at 2,000 to 2% at 3500 to <1% for big businesses where its capped at 79 (for City of London employees, as the Corporation is the largest employer in the City). The system is, if anything, skewed in favour of small businesses: the sandwich bars, market traders and pubs.

@43. No, because there are political elections in the borough of Lambeth. The non-residential City wards hold elections on non-political lines – Labour stood last time in the four residential wards, and all their candidates lost – and the CEO of a major City company is hardly likely to care which independent beats another independent for Common Council.

Ciaran @ 41:

“I think it would be more appropriate if you were able to expalin why the Lord Mayor needs a specific person to feed back to him when the rest of the country relies on Hansard.”

Tradition, probably, and because the Remembrancer can help direct the Lord Mayor’s attention to the Bills and debates that specifically concern the City, and save him the time of having to wade through pages and pages of stuff that don’t concern him or his job. But even if we accept for argument’s sake that the Remembrancer’s job isn’t really necessary, it still doesn’t follow that his role represents an outrageous attack on democracy.

@ 39:

“Also, are you claiming that the Remembrancer never speaks to MPs or Ministers? If so, you’d better have a good source for it.”

You’re the one making the claim — i.e., that the Remembrancer is some sort of sinister lobbyist exercising a malign and anti-democratic influence at the heart of Westminster. It’s for you to provide evidence to prove it, not for everybody else to provide evidence against.

49. Man on Clapham Omnibus

John 77 @37

I am not blaming you for anything John. I do understand the weightings. The point I am trying to estabilish is simply that the generally accepted precepts of democracy are not observed in the City of London. I think whatever else this discussion has thrown up it has established this. The question as to what that lack of democracy achieves in relation to those participating groups is another matter. It is clear that Blair was lent on by the businesses in the City to introduce the electoral scheme that currently operates there. It is also clear it is of benifit to those businesses,otherwise they wouldnt have pushed for it.

Flowerpower @40

There is a secret ballot. So if I were one of the 40 (or whatever) voters chosen by Goldman Sachs, I could vote how the hell I wanted and the MD would never know

Tell me FP do you clutch straws for a living? ….maybe a kind of Thatcher eh!
.

50. Flowerpower

Ciaran Osborne

I think it would be more appropriate if you were able to explain why the Lord Mayor needs a specific person to feed back to him when the rest of the country relies on Hansard.

Because the Lord Mayor doesn’t have time to read all through Hansard every day and just wants a digest or heads-up on anything to do with the City.

I find it laughable that anyone could possibly suggest that a Corporation nominating which people get to vote is by any means democratic.

Funnily enough that’s just what union and party branches do when sending delegates to party conferences.

he is given unparalleled access to powerful people by a legal quirk

Wrong. There are many parallels.

He is permanently in the Commons

No, he isn’t.

perhaps you could explain what the Remembrancer does with his time.

Okay.

The Office holder is one of the City’s Law Officers as well as being a Parliamentary Agent and its Head of Protocol. The Remembrancer is charged with maintaining and enhancing the City’s status and ensuring that its established rights are safeguarded. As long ago as 1685 an order was made for the Remembrancer “to continue to attend Parliament and the offices of the Secretaries of State daily, and acquaint the Lord Mayor with the public affairs and other business transacted there, relating to the City”. In the contemporary context, this work encompasses day to day contact with officials in Government departments responsible for developing government policy, the drafting and promotion of legislation and responsibility for relations with both Houses of Parliament and their Committees including briefings for debates in which the City Corporation or its associated bodies have an interest. The Office also tracks the work of the GLA Assembly, and the GLA’s associated bodies.
As the City’s head of protocol, his Office is responsible for organising events and hospitality on behalf of the City Corporation. Functions range from small receptions to major State banquets and dinners in honour of visiting Heads of State and Government. ….The Office is responsible for the use of the Guildhall which may be made available on a permissive basis for certain private banquets, receptions and conferences.

http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/LGNL_Services/Council_and_democracy/Council_departments/City_Remembrancers_Office/

51. Ciaran Osborne

@50

“Because the Lord Mayor doesn’t have time to read all through Hansard every day and just wants a digest or heads-up on anything to do with the City.”

That’s absolutely fine. The Remembrancer can do that from an office in the City.

“Funnily enough that’s just what union and party branches do when sending delegates to party conferences.”

It really isn’t – there are local elections in most unions to see who is sent to conference. That’s not really the point though – it is evidently entirely undemocratic for delegates to be selected.

“Wrong. There are many parallels.”

And yet, you’ve failed to provide any.

“No, he isn’t.”

Okay then, he could choose to spend all his time in the Commons, assuming the Commons was open. In that respect he has utterly undemocratic access to the legislature.

“Okay.”

Basically – that description of the Remembrancer chimes pretty closely with any description of a lobbyist. Thanks for making my point for me.

52. Ciaran Osborne

@48

“You’re the one making the claim — i.e., that the Remembrancer is some sort of sinister lobbyist exercising a malign and anti-democratic influence at the heart of Westminster. It’s for you to provide evidence to prove it, not for everybody else to provide evidence against.”

As flowerpower has shown – the job of the Remembrancer is to lobby on behalf of the City.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that per se – what is wrong with that is that he is privileged beyond every other lobbyist in the country due to his seat in the Commons.

Now, I have no problem with him continuing to Remembrance, all that needs to happen is his right to sit in the Commons is revoked. What is your objection to that?

53. Ciaran Osborne

@47

“No, because there are political elections in the borough of Lambeth. The non-residential City wards hold elections on non-political lines – Labour stood last time in the four residential wards, and all their candidates lost – and the CEO of a major City company is hardly likely to care which independent beats another independent for Common Council.”

You think that a CEO won’t care what a councillor stands for because s/he is independent? If an independent socialist stood in the City, how many votes from corporations do you think s/he’d get? And how many of the cleaners/canteen workers/typists/chauffers/security guards etc. do you think might support her/him?

The workers do not vote in City elections – a carefully chosen bunch of corporate yes men vote. That is utterly undemocratic.

@ 47 test
Nearly right
Labour stood in three of the four residential wards – they couldn’t get a candidate even nominated in Queenhithe – and three non-residential wards; none of their candidates came within a street of being elected, with their best result in Portsoken where The Labour party candidate got one vote (out of four each) from 12% of the electorate. on average they got votes from 6% of the electorates where they contested elections.
If Ciaran brought in his 40 Socialists from Stockwell, it wouldn’t make any difference.
@ 49 MoCO
No, what this discussion has thrown up is, that with a couple of exceptions (you and Chaise) the lefties aren’t interested in the facts that get in the way of their rants. The generally accepted principles of democracy are recognised in the City [but not in Labour Party Headquarters where some people get six votes] – the distortion in the electorate was imposed by the Labour government.
“It is also clear it is of benifit to those businesses,otherwise they wouldnt have pushed for it.” I personally *don’t* think that is clear – I don’t think that 79 votes is enough to sway an election and if it was it would only be in one ward. Maybe they *thought* it would be of benefit – I suspect some Yank thought it would help him sway City Policy and failed to realise that he’d be outvoted by the partnerships and sole traders.Even if all the American banks combined they could not impose a new majority onto Common Council to vote in their interests.

Ciaran Osborne

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that per se – what is wrong with that is that he is privileged beyond every other lobbyist in the country due to his seat in the Commons.

Why, what do you think his “seat under the clock” gives him that others do not get?

56. Ciaran Osborne

@54

I find it amusing that you are complaining that people in the Labour leadership got more than one vote, while simultaneously championing the right for people to vote in local government elections in more than one constituency.

Should different rules apply to people in their guise of employees then? How strange.

57. Flowerpower

Man On Clapham Omnibus

With a screen name like yours, I shouldn’t need to ask you to be reasonable. But do take off your tinfoil hat and think for a mo.

The point I am trying to estabilish is simply that the generally accepted precepts of democracy are not observed in the City of London.

Well, actually they are.

Democracy is about giving everyone a voice and balancing interests. As John77 has explained, in the City you have to balance the interests of residents against business owners and employees.

That involves ensuring that newsagents, shopkeepers, publicans restaurateurs etc. have a voice, and so do bigger companies.

The system does that. The context is apolitical really – the City is only one square mile and there’s only one maintained school (a primary).

It is a very tiny local authority.

The City Corporation mainly runs stuff like the Guildhall School of Music etc…

Although its system may look to you quirky – the non-political nature of the City is actually much more democratic and representative than the borough where I live – a borough where the council is always controlled by the same party and the others have no prospect of changing that, a borough that is totally unresponsive to what local people or businesses say or want.

Ciaran @ 52:

“Now, there’s nothing wrong with that per se – what is wrong with that is that he is privileged beyond every other lobbyist in the country due to his seat in the Commons.”

Surely that would actually make him *less* privileged, because all that time he has to spend listening to debates would reduce the time he has to actually go around lobbying people?

@ 53 Ciaran Osborne.
If all the corporation stooges voted for an independent socialist, he/she still wouldn’t get elected because the residents and self-employed workers outnumber corporation stooges are not that stupid.
Go back and read #26

60. Ciaran Osborne

@58

Yeah, just like Adam Werrity was a ‘less privileged’ lobbyist than all the others because of all the time he had to waste in those meetings. Don’t pretend to be stupid, it doesn’t help anyone.

@55

What do you think? Do you think perhaps, as I have mentioned a dozen times above, that it might give him access to all the parliamentarians in the Commons, including a lot of Ministers? If you can’t see the benefit in that, I suggest you get your eyes checked.

61. Ciaran Osborne

@59

Nicely side-stepped the point there. As I have (repeatedly) said, the fact that such stooges exist at all is undemocratic.

Similarly, the fact that people have an addition vote because they work in the Square Mile is undemocratic.

Go back and read about democracy.

@53. Do you have any idea how City elections work, or what the Corporation does? It’s a souped-up local council with ancient baubles attached, and a role in lobbying the world to drum up trade for London. The leg work on behalf of the City is done by the Lord Mayor. Do you honestly think the CEOs of major corporations sit there thinking to themselves “We can’t have socialists on the Parks and Planning Sub-Committee! They’ll be raising the Red Flag over the church courtyards! I must handpick workers to vote in the local elections – quick, Miss Secretary, we must start the ideological screening process and make sure there are no lefties in the workforce!” like there’s nothing better for them to be doing.

In my experience, cleaners and canteen staff have voted on behalf of the firm I work for. They asked to appointed as voters. I’ve done the same, because I asked to. The candidates have nice old-fashioned election addresses and pick their own “party colours”. I voted in a church hall. It was all rather quaint.

I encourage you to stand in Coleman Street ward as an independent socialist, so I can vote against you.

63. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Flower Power

Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all the people have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. In the context of the UK this is normally registered householders .

This is not observed by the City of London and their electoral system is unique.

It is an uncontrovertable fact.

The significance of this is subject to the interpretation of what institutions and individuals hold power , the affect of this and issues of agency.

You and others might like to bend over backwards to explain the voting system is all to do, with who decides when and where to dig up a road /place a bollard etc.

But as I pointed out before there was a lot of firepower brought it against the opponents to this move in 2002. Why do you suppose this was the case?

Surely this is the nub of the discussion?

@60. Have you ever stopped to think that the Remembrancer probably only exists and gets to sit under the clock in the Commons because this is Britain, and it’s tradition an’ all that? If he has been sat there since 1685, then that’s probably the only reason he’s there to this day – tradition. I have an idea he probably sits there in a ruffled cloak with a large staff, which probably would be just out of tradition but makes him a less impressive political lobbyist.

You also seem to have the idea the Remembrancer has a seat in Parliament – ie that he gets to speak or to vote in divisions. He doesn’t. Nor does he nip round to the members’ bar to have a crafty word, or hang around in the lobbies waiting to catch a minister on his way to vote. If he is just sat under the clock saying and doing nothing, he is going to be a very crap lobbyist indeed.

Maybe in the days when London was the world and the City had 4 MPs, the Remembrancer may have had a role pulling strings. Now we have more formal channels of communication and ways of doing things. Your paranoia about this very English bit of quasi-legal tradition is very amusing.

“In the context of the UK this is normally registered householders .”

Umm, no. We abolished the property qualification near a century ago. So it’s not householders, no.

“But as I pointed out before there was a lot of firepower brought it against”

That story came from Maurice Glasman. I wouldn’t believe him if he said his own hair was on fire and I could see the dancing flames myself.

That’s the idiot who claimed that he wanted to be, when ennobled, a Baron “of the City of London”. When told he couldn’t be he claimed this showed how the City was beyond control, they wouldn’t let anyone be a Lord over them cont.pg 94.

What actually happened is that the City has the ceremonial rank of a county. Lif Barons don’t ger named after counties: only Earls and above do. Thjat’s all there was to it but Glasman’s an idiot so he went off on one instead.

Ciaran,

what do you think his “seat under the clock” gives him that others do not get?

What do you think? Do you think perhaps, as I have mentioned a dozen times above, that it might give him access to all the parliamentarians in the Commons, including a lot of Ministers? If you can’t see the benefit in that, I suggest you get your eyes checked.

Does he get up during debates to have words with the PM & co.?

67. Flowerpower

Ciaran Osborne @ 51

In that respect he has utterly undemocratic access to the legislature.

I’m amazed you think that having access to the legislature is ‘undemocratic’.

The word ‘lobbyist’ you always use in a pejorative way is derived from the very democratic tradition we have whereby any citizen has access to the central lobby of the Commons and can bend the ear of his MP on any matter he chooses.

Being able to lobby is the very essence of democracy.

You seem to have got yourself in a terrible lather because he has a designated seat (like ambassadors, permanent secretaries etc) – probably a hangover from when it was a Crown appointment ….but really NO BIG DEAL.

68. Man on Clapham Omnibus

John77

The ratio of votes is in the order of 9000 to 32000 in favour of businesses so I gather. To all intents and purposes that means a done deal election wise.
Unfortunately, a resident posted a short comment but seemed unwilling ,given the background noise, of commenting further. My understanding was that residents werent happy at all at the time. As to the ratios, I think given the ballot is secret, it would be difficult to break it down further. Would, given the complexion of the council, that make a lot of difference anyway?

69. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Flower Power

Do you think that having Mcdonalds advising a government on food policy is a good idea?
Whatever the historical context of lobbying you must surely accept that a group of individuals lobbying westminster does not have the same gravitas as a multinational company.
In so far as there is a bod in place in Westminster with a funny name I say who cares. The City hardly needs him. It funds most of the British economy anyway so I am sure any Government has its full attention.

@63. “Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all the people have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. In the context of the UK this is normally registered householders .

This is not observed by the City of London and their electoral system is unique”

True (although it’s residents not householders). It’s also true that the City also has 8,000 people living in it, and 400,000 working in it, a ratio of 50:1, which is also unique amongst the 500 or so local government districts in England. In fact it’s probably the only local authority in England in which the ratio is above 1:5 in the other direction. There’s a connection between these two unique situations.

@ 63
“Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all the people have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. In the context of the UK this is normally registered householders.”
Not any more. Lloyd George changed that*. We don’t have votes for most children yet, but Wilson started down that path.
“But as I pointed out before there was a lot of firepower brought it against the opponents to this move in 2002. Why do you suppose this was the case?”
Because it was a stupid idea, produced by a spin doctor who either didn’t know or didn’t care how things worked.
“Surely this is the nub of the discussion?”
No, that is whether ‘Reclaim the City’ should violently disrupt the Lord Mayor’s Procession based on a series of lies about the City. Discusion of New Labour’s deformation of the City electorate is a minor part of the spin-off. Labour candidates got one vote (out of several) from 8% of the electorate in the “residential wards” of the City, (there are a handful of residents in nearly every Ward but most of them are concentrated in four) so ‘Reclaim the City’ is an anti-democratic attack on the result of democratic elections.
* Despite, rather than because of, Mrs Pankhurst

72. Flowerpower

Man on Clapham Omnibus

Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all the people have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.

No it isn’t. You just smuggled that ‘equal’ in.

I’d say Britain was a democracy before 1950, wouldn’t you?

Before that, graduates of Oxford & Cambridge had two votes (one where they lived and one for the university seat).

In fact there was a lot of plural voting – business votes etc. and…. as has been mentioned earlier in this thread, plural voting is alive and well in the Laboour Party, where some people can have six votes in leadership elections.

Britain was also a democracy before the extension of the franchise to women.

In ancient Athens, where the whole thing started, slaves couldn’t vote. In fact, only adult male citizens who had completed military training could.

Today, residents of the District of Columbia have no voting representation in Congress – despite Washington being the nation’s capital. Yet the US is still a democracy.

73. Man on Clapham Omnibus

@65

Thanks Tim for the correction.

I didnt know that came from Glasman either so thanks for that too.

So you ,I presume, believe there was no controversy at the time?

Let me ask you Tim, why do you think the changes were made?

Why would Blair think them important?

74. Ciaran Osborne

@64

“He doesn’t. Nor does he nip round to the members’ bar to have a crafty word, or hang around in the lobbies waiting to catch a minister on his way to vote.”

Oh really – and how do you know this?

@66

Does he not? Everyone else in the Commons speaks to each other – why wouldn’t the Remembrancer? Labour MPs have told me how they get their best arguments across in the lobby before people vote – where they’re all milling around together. You’d have to be fantastically naive to imagine someone would pass up the opporunity to do that.

But I suspect you’re not naive, you’re just acting thick. Which, as tactics go, is pretty shit.

75. Man on Clapham Omnibus

@63 Test

Agreed there is a connection.

Do you suppose Big business wants a say in when the sewage gets rerouted or a bus stop is moved?
The idea , ( Left wing??whatever that is) is that Big business pressured Blair to bring these changes in.
I believe Businesses elsewhere probably have means of influencing amenities and so on, without resorting to electoral invention.
So the question is, what is so important in this change?

76. Ciaran Osborne

@67

“I’m amazed you think that having access to the legislature is ‘undemocratic’.”

Christ, you’re stupid – having unfair access to the legislature is the very essence of undemocratic behaviour. And it does you know favours to pretend you don’t know that.

77. Ciaran Osborne

@70

And both of those situations could easily be resolved by combining the City of London with the borough of Tower Hamlets.

78. Ciaran Osborne

@77

“No, that is whether ‘Reclaim the City’ should violently disrupt the Lord Mayor’s Procession based on a series of lies about the City.”

Nothing Reclaim the City have said is a lie – no matter what incredible truth you think you’re shining on the situation with your vague waffling at the edges and practised denial at the centre.

@ 68 MoCO
Total electorate 48k so even more business votes than you feared BUT most of these all sole traders and partnerships not big corporations. If you commuted in from Clapham for a day and went round counting the number of lawyers, accountants, sandwich bars, pubs you would realise that big corporations are going to be outvoted.
If you go through the list of Common Coulcilmen (some of whom are female), you will find that, as expected, the majority work in the City rather than live there. That has been the case every the first elections after the Blitz because until the Corporation built the Barbican Estate there were not enough residents to provide an adequate pool of willing and able volunteers to run the City. Since then, residents have contributed to the City’s governance – with a time lag because several of the Common Councilmen they inherited were devoted to their duty and kept going until they dropped (almost literally) – including several Lords Mayor. There still are not enough residents with the ability time and money to run the City without the help of volunteers from the business community, so residents were/are quite content with the ratepayer vote while unhappy/suspicious about the corporate electors. A *lot* of Barbican residents work horrendous hours, relieved a little by a short commute, so they just cannot run the City as well.

Ciaran Osborne is a rather stupid liar who seems to think that some of you will not notice after I have quoted references to prove it.
I shall not bother to reply to him further because I have yet to see a single wholly accurate post from him – in future just assume that either he doesn’t know what he is talking about or he is deliberately lying.

81. Ciaran Osborne

@67

“You seem to have got yourself in a terrible lather because he has a designated seat (like ambassadors, permanent secretaries etc) – probably a hangover from when it was a Crown appointment ….but really NO BIG DEAL.”

Oh, and this is a flat lie. Nobody else has a designated seat in the Commons – certainly not ambassadors or permanent secretaries. You are making things up to create the illusion that this is common, when in fact it is extremely rare.

82. Man on Clapham Omnibus

John77

Ok so I am intrigued. Are you supposing that a spin doctor pushed this through or do you know?
Why was it so heavily defended by the City?
My understanding was this was enacted by a private members bill. Was the private member the spin doctor?

83. Man on Clapham Omnibus

@79

This is good stuff. Thanks for taking the time to explain. I must do more research.

@ 82 MoCO
Sorry, I burned out the computer I had in 2002 and I don’t have the time to dig out and provide answers this evening because my wife is taking me to a lecture on Human Rights at one of her universities. By spin doctor I meant Campbell & Co not the MP.

Are you supposing that a spin doctor pushed this through or do you know?

McDonnell said, “new Labour was all too ready to become an adornment of the corporation. All it took was a few phone calls and a couple of dinner parties and, in the 1997 manifesto, the Labour party sought, not abolition or democratic reform, but only reform.”

The level of debate from Ciaran Osborne is worthy of Richard Murphy – keep it up, Ciaran, you discredit your side of the debate even more effectively than Sally would. If you ever walk around the City at weekends, you will notice the eerie lack of people or activity. The Golden Road estate and the Barbican must make up the bulk of the resident population. As Tim W pointed out, the City does not benefit from business rates and it will not get much from the council tax and yet it has to pay for roads, policing, refuse collection etc., the bulkk of those needs coming from the transient population of workers. Who will perform the functions of a council given that there are so few residents? If you want the business community to help out, you have to offer a carrot.

My, my, a lot of Tory butlers for the elites out today. Their grovelling to their masters is a sight to see.

These knuckle draggers will never stop defending every attempt by the elites to disenfranchise the people. Arse wipes the lot of them. These tory cretins will not stop until they have returned us to the 18 th century.

@80

Okay, lets go through your references.

Reclaim the City says:

“But it is largely voted in by corporations rather than people. Ordinary residents, such as those living in estates in Portsoken, are denied the democratic right to choose their local council, as their votes are outnumbered 4 to 1 by the votes of corporations.”

You say that’s a lie because there are a range of companies who vote, only some of which are corporations. You also say that it isn’t the corporation itself that votes, but individuals nominated by CEOs to vote *on the corporation’s behalf*.

The difference is so vanishingly small as to be insignificant. You have simply assumed that Reclaim the City mean one thing, when they mean another. You think that omitting details from an issue is ‘lying’ – but you are clearly wrong.

Reclaim the City says:

“This money is officially held in trust for ‘the Citizens of London’, but a large part of it is used to lobby for the banks.”

You say they are lying because “City Cash is not used to lobby for the banks – what a ridiculous suggestion! Why on earth would the Corporation bother? The banks do their own individual lobbying and have their own British Bankers Association to lobby for the industry. City cash is largely used for charitable purposes.”

Basically, you simply state that City Cash is not used to lobby on behalf of banks. If you think that simply stating the opposite is ‘providing sources’ then you need to consult a dictionary. If you have proof that City Cash is not used to lobby on behalf of the financial industry, I suggest you present it, or shut up.

Reclaim the City says:

“Sat opposite the speaker in the House of Commons is an individual called ‘The Remembrancer’, whose official role if to protect the interests of the City of London.”

You say that this is a lie because the Remembrancer doesn’t have a seat in parliament because he can’t vote and he isn’t there to lobby. The fact that he can’t vote has no impact on the access he has to the legislature, and the very job description set out by the City of London denotes him as a lobbyist!

Your idea of truth and lies is extremely bizarre. I suggest you think about whether people are actually lying, or whether you just can’t stand the possibility that someone might disagree with you.

@86

Congratulations on totally ignoring the argument there and combining an ad hominem attack with some utterly irrelevant information!

Do you have anything to say about the actual issue at hand, or should I leave you to your self-indulgent waffle?

Ciaran

Do you suppose that the banks and other financial institutions do not lobby for themselves? How does a person sitting in the chamber exert any influence when, if you watch the relevant channel, you will see that the chamber is effectively empty all day? Your attacks on the role of the Remembrancer are so stupid that they do not require debate. Your knowledge of the City of London is so feeble that it is impossible to argue with you. Get some knowledge before you try to debate things you know absolutely nothing about.

@90

You seem to be under the deluded impression that you can’t have more than one person doing the same thing. Whether banks have their own PR men is irrelevant, they clearly also have a PR man in Remembrancer.

You may also be surprised to know that the Remembrancer also has an office in the Commons – and let me assure you that the Commons offices are full 90% of the working day.

Claims that the Remembrancer is not a PR man seem to be motivated much more by a desire to win an argument by denial, denial, denial than any serious political position. I, for example, have not heard a single description of why the City should have an official at the very heart of the legislature, and why it is fair that they are unique in having such access. You know why? Because such a position would be utterly unjustifiable.

As for me needing to know more about the City, I think that it is pretty clear that you actually need to make an argument to take part in a discussion – rather than falling back on tedious ad hominems at every opportunity.

In case anyone still doubted that ‘Reclaim the City’ was lying, the Corporation of London publicly accounts for spending from City cash which is spent on three schools and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Port of London Health authority (I think that includes quarantine services at Heathrow), Billinsgate, Leadenhall and Smithfield markets, (part of) City of London Police, maintaining Epping Forest, Hampstead Heath, Highgate Woods, Bunhill Fields and West Ham Park,. Full accounts are available from the Guildhall on request and the budget is even available on line –
http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/D1BF0A3B-1097-404F-B4C9-6DCFF1BCB8A6/0/AU_FN_STRATEGICBUDGETBOOKFINAL2011.pdf

@ 82 MoCO and 68 (Revised)
Apologies for miscalculation in #79 – I calculated the number of voters for Sheriff forgetting that that includes Liverymen. The correct answer for ward elections is 21,417. So corporations are heavily outnumbered by residents, sole traders and partners – unless the latter have shrunk significantly since 2002 corporation voters are outnumbered by residents!
The 32,000 quoted for total business voters seems to come from an estimate made in 2002 that 17,000 workers would register to add to the pre-existing 14 to 15,000 which has not been changed when the number who did register was vastly different.
My memory is of the “City of London Reform Bill” being touted as a move to make the City more democratic by giving a vote to the Workers and part of New Labour’s reforming zeal. The Corporation was pushed into it by the government under threat of something worse such as being taken over by Tower Hamlets. It was unpopular with some, at least, residents because they did not want to have block votes (BP rather than the banks was the example cited). I can’t find my original sources in any reasonable timespan because I can’t remember where to look for them but it appears that there was little active opposition because there were only two people petitioning against the bill and six letters according to the first source(http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200102/ldselect/ldcolweb/21009/2100904.htm) I found while hoping to find a pointer for where to look. Incidentally it was a “Private Bill” not a “Private Member’s Bill”.

Let’s accept, for a moment, the premise that the Remembrancer is harmless.

If so, he’s also useless. If he really does no more than all his defenders claim, then he can do it without a Commons office and a seat under the clock; his presence there is pointless and wasteful.

Personally, my inclination WAS to think of the Remembrancer as nothing more sinister than a picturesque anachronism. The level of hostility aroused here by the idea of getting rid of him is starting to MAKE him look sinister. I know that’s probably just my suspicious mind, but seriously – why so defensive?

95. Frances_coppola

You are all completely missing the point. As is “Reclaim the City”, which doesn’t even seem to understand the purpose of its own protest.

The background to this is Shaxsom’s book on tax havens, which described the City of London as the centre of a web of “secrecy jurisdictions” helping large corporations to avoid tax and making £millions out of this nefarious practice. I’m not going to discuss here the accuracy or otherwise of Shaxsom’s work, but it is by no means coincidental that “Reclaim the City” launches a protest about the Corporation of London shortly after Shaxsom publishes an article attacking the City of London (quoted by @10 David Wearing) and George Monbiot publishes a cut-down (and inaccurate) version of that article in the Guardian.

This is not about reforming the Corporation of London in the interests of local democracy, or about eradicating ancient and obsolete privileges. It’s all about the financial system and tax havens.

Neither Shaxson nor Monbiot seem to be able to distinguish between the Corporation of London – which is a local authority – and the City of London in the sense of the banking industry. The fact that the banking industry now partly bases itself in Canary Wharf, and as someone pointed out earlier, hedge funds seem to like Mayfair, has completely eluded the pair of them. This confusion to my mind is a serious weakness in Shaxsom’s arguments, but unfortunately “Reclaim the City” and others have swallowed them whole and used them to justify an attack on the Corporation of London.

This is yet another example of protestors laying their axe to the wrong tree. Reforming the Corporation of London, while possibly desirable in itself, would make stuff all difference to the financial system.

96. Flowerpower

Ciaran Osborne @ 81

Nobody else has a designated seat in the Commons – certainly not ambassadors or permanent secretaries.

Not designated as in it’s got their name on it – but there is a bench at the far end facing the speaker – on the same level MPs sit – I sat there myself once – next to a Perm Sec.

Upstairs – at right angles to the Strangers gallery is a thing like a box at the opera for ambassadors etc.

97. Ciaran Osborne

@96

You’re talking about the officials bench. It bears no resemblance whatsoever to the position of the Remembrancer.

98. Man on Clapham Omnibus

John77

Hope you enjoyed your evening.

Thanks for your references. Looking at the it seems clear that as a Private Bill
this matter was not instigated as you suggest by Labour spin doctors but introduced by the City of London itself. (It was subsequently revived by the Tory MP Sir George Young in 1991)

According to the UK Parliament website:-

Private Bills are usually promoted by organisations, like local authorities or private companies, to give themselves powers beyond, or in conflict with, the general law.

Indeed from the submission of Miss Appleby QC (on behalf of the City of London) to the House of commons select committee ,the then current regulations were seen to be unfair( by the City of London) because,

. ‘ whilst it gives a non-residential vote, a business vote, it is limited to those persons who can bring themselves within clause 6(1)(b) of the City of London (Various Powers) Act 1957. In practice, it means that it is limited to sole traders and partners and excludes corporations and other similar types of bodies’

The inescapable conclusion therefore is that the City of London drove this through specifically to give Corporations (including those from China, Russia and the US) a vote in its affairs.

I find it extremely difficult to understand why the likes of Goldmann Sachs would be interested in the state of the roads in the square mile so the inference is getting the legislation through accrues an advantage to these entities beyond the normal operation of a small council. A financial advantage perhaps?

99. littlekeithy

From the City Remembrancer’s Office website:

“In the contemporary context, this work encompasses day to day contact with officials in Government departments responsible for developing government policy, the drafting and promotion of legislation and responsibility for relations with both Houses of Parliament and their Committees including briefings for debates in which the City Corporation or its associated bodies have an interest. The Office also tracks the work of the GLA Assembly, and the GLA’s associated bodies.”

So it appears that the City is quite ok with announcing that it has a role dedicated to lobbying. The protestors are right in that respect and the Tory shills on here denying it are wrong.

By all means defend the right of the Remembrancer to have such a unique lobbying role because we should all be ruled by rich corporations or democracy isn’t all that is cracked up to be. Even sit next to him/her and sympathise that their seat isn’t very grand. But don’t lie about the lobbying role when the City admits it. Otherwise you look foolish.

@98 MoCO
Tony Blair had included “Reform of the City of London” in the Labour Party programme with the threat that if they did not agree to reform he would merge the City with Tower Hamlets (Westminster to the west being Tory, Southwark being ridiculous as it was on the other side of the river and he himself lived in Islington so it would have significantly reduced his rates/council tax and left him open to attack by the Morning Star as well as the Daily Mail). With a metaphorical gun at their heads the Corporation came up with this plan which was marketed as Tony Blair’s reform nearly doubling the franchise and giving power to the workers. It has actually turned out to be a damp squib and the increase in voters is nearer 10% than 100%, but it fulfilled Blair’s pledge to his rank and file to reform the demonised City, without prompting a mass exodus to Geneva, Zurich and Amsterdam which would have followed if Tower Hamlets Council had taken over.
Not Goldman Sachs – irrelevant (not in the City); JP Morgan/Morgan Stanley/Merrill Lynch (most likely Merrill Lynch) may have thought it would give them some influence on planning decisions – the City has a policy of not allowing new buildings to obscure anyone’s pre-existing view of St. Paul’s which various Americans have moaned about on various occasions because it reduced their profits from property speculation by a few $m or a few tens of $1m. I honestly don’t know (not good at reading minds).
As I said, a case of policy made by spin doctors.

@ 94 Makhno
When did you stop beating your wife?
I am not defending the Rembrancer – I merely quoted his job description, which despite littlekeithy’s paranoid misreading does not involve lobbying: his job is to garner information (including listening to debates and reporting back a day or three before Hansard is published).
Let us look at two scenarios at the No 10/11 switchboard:
(i) Gordon, it’s the Lord Mayor on the line – he wants to talk about the double-taxation treaty with Slovenia.
(ii) “City Rembrandter?” Are you talking about the paintings in No 10? No? “Oh, “Rembrancer” – OK I’m putting you through to the Librarian”.
I personally don’t have problems with the City employing someone to lobby on behalf of Lloyd’s of London, the UK legal profession when it is acting as a trusted (and highly-paid) means to settle disputes between people from different foreign countries, and the Stock Exchange. However, that is not the job of the Remembrancer. Quaint and anachronistic should prima facie reduce efficiency but he is probably deemed more trustworthy than most of the political careerists and PR guys/gals that festoon Westminster so he can often get a straight answer rather than just the party line and so isn’t useless. Expensive, yes but if he enables the Lord Mayor to correct an error before it’s printed in Hansard, he’s probably worth it to the City.
Incidentally, the megabanks don’t rely on the City to lobby for them – they have a few US Secretaries of The Treasury to do that.

102. Ciaran Osborne

@100

Your fevered imagination is one of the most amusing things in this thread.

103. Robin Levett

@Ciaran #97:

You’re talking about the officials bench. It bears no resemblance whatsoever to the position of the Remembrancer.

Name 3 significant differences.

A number of points

1. As mentioned above, a key part of democracy is that the people affected by a government get to choose the government – the City is an unconventional democracy but it is still broadly a democracy. Elsewhere the local business vote was abolished as late as 1969.

2. As for voting in two council elections. This is perfectly legitimate, look at the electoral commission’s website. The only rule is no double voting in THE SAME ELECTION.

http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/faq/voting-and-registration/i-have-two-homes.-can-i-register-to-vote-at-both-addresses

3. Councils across the country lobby parliament, they lobby through the LGA. The remembrancer’s position in the commons is largely due to the age of the City. It was arguably the first ‘local authority’ in the modern sense. When it was founded it made sense for the City’s representative to be based in the commons. He doesn’t have a vote, but at best you can move him to the public gallery. Is his access different to the access held by anyone else? Regarding @81 – there are seats designated for foreign dignitaries, friends of MPs and all sorts. The fact that he sits in a slightly different position doesn’t change the fact that his ‘role’ in the chamber is slightly less important than the upholstery.

Additionally, lobbying itself is part of the democratic process. If you want to see effective lobbying in action, look to the RSPB for what a collection of individuals can do.

105. Leon Wolfson

@104 – Lobbying is out of control, you mean, and influencing politicians in very anti-democratic ways.

@103

1. There is one Remembrancer and his position is permanent – civil servants rarely occupy the bench for longer than a single session.

2. Civil servants are not permitted to speak to any member of the Commons beyond the Minister they are supporting – no such restrictions apply to the Remembrancer.

3. The Remembrancer supports no democratic office – all civil servants support duly elected Ministers with a mandate for being in the Commons.

That do you?

@ 103 Ciaran Osborne
LOL
1. So is the Rembrancer a vampire or does he go through a reincarnation cycle so fast that he’s adult again by the start of the next sitting of Parliament?
2. Ciaran thinks Andrew Tyrie and Margaret Beckett who interrogate naughty Civil servants are just stories made to frighten children, oops, I mean new recruits to the Civil service
3. The Lord Mayor is elected; ministers are appointed. So Ciaran’s definition of a democratic office is one to which the holder is *NOT* elected.

@105

Depends what you mean by lobbying. Corporate lobbying? perhaps. The point being that lobbying is everyone’s right, it’s hard to curtail what you might describe as ‘bad lobbying’ without curtailing people’s right to freedom of speech and association. If you have ever written or spoken to your MP then you have lobbied.

@107

Is that really the best you can do? Do you understand that there is only ever one Remembrancer? Do you understand that a Select Committee hearing has nothing to do with the Officials bench? Do you understand that every Commons minister has been elected as an MP, and that the Lord Mayor is elected by an arcane and ridiuclous hierarchy of voters that is so far from being democratic it is laughable?

It’s like debating with a child who has somehow become so old as to acquire senile dementia. I’m done with you.

“Do you understand that there is only ever one Remembrancer?”

No, actually there are three. Go look it up.

Thanks, Tim – I need an occasional break from dealing with Ciaran’s attempts to make me lose my temper with his lies.
@ 109 Ciaran
Lord Falconer and Lord Sugar (and Lord Young of Graffham to avoid party political bias) were elected by … whom …?
All Lord Mayors were elected as Aldermen by voters – the majority of the Lord Mayors that I knew personally were elected by resident voters – and to say “by an arcane and ridiuclous hierarchy of voters that is so far from being democratic it is laughable” just shows that either you don’t know what you are talking about or you don’t mean what you say (see below). The PM is chosen by MPs, not by a plebiscite
You stated: “Civil servants are not permitted to speak to any member of the Commons beyond the Minister they are supporting” If you don’t mean what you say, what does that make you (see dictionary, under “lia”)?
“Do you understand that there is only ever one Remembrancer?” Tim has already refuted this claim which is the basis for my previous question: “1. So is the Rembrancer a vampire or does he go through a reincarnation cycle so fast that he’s adult again by the start of the next sitting of Parliament?”. If you have an IQ in excess of your shoe size, you should not combat a query with a comment (especially a false one) that supports the query.
Insulting your intellectual superiors when they prove you wrong may feel good but doesn’t make you right.

112. Robin Levett

@Ciaran #106:

I asked for differences between the seating arrangements (your comment to which I responded was “You’re talking about the officials bench. It bears no resemblance whatsoever to the position of the Remembrancer”) not the office, but nevertheless:

1. There is one Remembrancer and his position is permanent – civil servants rarely occupy the bench for longer than a single session.

How often does the Remembrancer sit in his seat in the Commons? He has an awful lot of other work to do, you know. Would it be unfair to suggest that in practice he only goes there when there is a debate or bill of particular interest to the Corporation of London? Just as a minister (and hence his civil servants) will in general only attend if his portfolio is involved.

And there are two other Remembrancers, as others have pointed out; one of whom is a Master, if not the Master.

2. Civil servants are not permitted to speak to any member of the Commons beyond the Minister they are supporting – no such restrictions apply to the Remembrancer.

I’d love a cite to support the claim that the Remembrancer is permitted to speak to any MP in the Chamber. Until then; the civil servnats have privileged access compared to the Remembrancer

3. The Remembrancer supports no democratic office – all civil servants support duly elected Ministers with a mandate for being in the Commons.

The Remembrancer supports the Corporation of London, a democratic local authority. Civil servants support Ministers, qua Ministers, not qua MPs. No minister is democratically elected as such; some ministers aren’t even democratically elected as MPs, albeit they sit elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster, so will not be supported by civil servants in the Commons Chamber.

That do you?

Best you’ve got?

You may wish to read this. It’s a bit long, but gives an example of the kind of work the Corporation of London (and this ‘sinister figure’ The Remembrancer that everyone’s so het up about) does in liaising with Parliament.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmenvaud/writev/green/green.pdf

It’s a submission to Parliament giving some guidance to the coalition government on the adoption of a Green Economy. It’s well researched, concerned with balancing the need for jobs to remain in the UK and the adoption of a ‘Green Economy’, and contains a well balanced series of submissions from big and small business and, some of you may be surprised to learn, also contains submissions from the unions on this topic.

Quite the thing for a greedy, uncaring, fundamentally ungreen and rapaciously corporatist and capitalist behemoth to be spending a considerable amount of its time on, no?


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