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The City and Me

October 16, 2018 2:01 PM
By Merlene Emerson in LibDem Voice

Castle Baynard byelectionLast week (9 October) I stood for the first time in the City of London elections in Castle Baynard ward that stretches from Fleet Street to Blackfriars, taking in St Paul's Cathedral. It was a 3-week whirlwind of a campaign. The by-election was called as one of the Common Councilmen in the ward was elected as an Alderman elsewhere and created a vacancy. There were 8 of us contesting one place.

My fascination with the City started way back when I landed my first real job as an articled clerk in the City firm of Norton Rose and then working as a solicitor involved in securitisation and cross border finance. My renewed interest in the City came about when I tried to get on the board of governors of my sons' independent school. No parent governors there. It was all in the hands of the Worshipful Company of the Mercers. This then led me to investigate the intriguing world of Livery Companies, only to discover that membership of the Mercers was closed (at least to me).

I persisted in my enquiry and 6 years ago joined a newer and more welcoming livery company, that of the World Traders in the year that Mei Sim Lai OBE DL became Master, the first Master of Chinese heritage in the City's 800 history! Yes that would be the livery company for me.

Most are familiar with the historical beginnings of London as a Roman walled city, and of the importance of the square mile today, but very few know how it is governed. Of how, to be eligible to stand as one of 100 Common Councilman, you have first be admitted to the Freedom of the City. Or that the Lord Mayor who is elected by the Livery Companies each year to promote investment in the City has to be drawn from the 2 Sheriffs who, in turn, must have first served as an Alderman of one of the 25 wards. Or that, by convention, Party politics does not play a role in City elections. That is until recently, when Labour fielded candidates in the 2013 elections in a few wards where there were more residential voters.

So despite being a Liberal Democrat, I obediently shed my party colours and stood as an Independent, only to be trumped by the Labour candidate. But I have since been advised by others more experienced in the ways of the City of London Corporation, that come 2021, the Independents will triumph in the all-out elections. So watch this space, as they say.