Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Chairman of the City of London Corporation debates outside Saint Pauls

From guest blogger Philip Goff:

An extraordinary event took place outside St. Paul’s on Sunday evening outside St. Paul’s. The Reclaim the City campaign group had arranged for George Monbiot, John Christensen (Director of Tax Justice Network) and Father William Taylor (a former Councillor in the Corporation of London) to explain to the Occupation their concerns with the City of London Corporation. Unexpectedly Stuart Fraser, the Chairman of the City of London Corporation, turned up to debate with us.

The Occupation welcomed Stuart Fraser, and applauded him for having the courage to ‘enter the Lion’s Den’, as one protestor put it. His first words to the occupation were ‘I thought it was time the devil incarnate came to give his side.’

But what was remarkable was how easily Fraser conceded defeat on so many points. In an effort to claim that the City of London Corporation was a modern, democratic institution – in response to George Monbiot’s recent comment piece in the Guardian – Fraser claimed that anyone was able to become an Alderman. Father William Taylor pointed out that this was wrong on three counts:

1. You need to be a ‘freeman’, and in order for that to happen you need a Liveryman or Common Councillor/Alderman to propose and second you (and then you need to pay £30).

To be an Alderman, you have to also be accepted as a Justice of the Peace.

As an Alderman you are expected to take your turn as Lord Mayor. To be Lord Mayor you must have around £30,000 of your own money spare to throw a Lord Mayor's Banquet.

In other words, if you are poor and/or not well connected then you unable to stand as alderman

Fraser conceded all these points without qualification. While mainstream politicians are well used to ducking and dodging questions, one got the feeling that Councillors in the Corporation of London have not been subject to the regular challenges necessary to hone such skills.

And whilst Fraser claimed in the Guardian’s Responses column that "talk of the City of London being “an official old boys’ network” is wide of the mark", it become apparent when challenged in a public forum that there are ample grounds for applying to label “official old boys’ network” to the institution Fraser serves in.

Much of the media struggles to see the point of the Occupation. But it felt to many of us freely debating outside St. Paul’s Sunday evening that we were starting to see what real democracy might look like.

Join Reclaim the City this weekend 10.45-11.30 outside the Bank of England as we peacefully but vividly illustrate to those gathered for the Lord Mayor’s Show the nasty corporate reality behind the pomp and finery. If you like dressing up, come dressed as a banker. We will then proceed back to St. Paul’s to join the Occupation’s Lord Mayor’s Show activities.


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