Any formal function at the Mansion House in London is normally the Lord Mayor’s show, but the annual London Government dinner — always held in early January — offers the incumbent Lord Mayor a challenge, as he is inevitably playing second fiddle to the Mayor of London, i.e. the man in charge of the whole city rather than just the City (financial district). The current Lord Mayor, Alderman Roger Gifford, acquitted himself far better than most, being skilfull in both cadence and content. That is no mean feat when one has the blond bombshell, Boris Johnson, to follow. What Boris had to say was hardly a surprise, as it had been extensively previewed in a leaked story to the Evening Standard. Basically, he was arguing that Britain should stay in the European Union — a rare bit of supportiveness for Prime Minister David Cameron, who is due to make what is billed as a “landmark speech” on Britain and Europe in the Netherlands tomorrow (how pleased he must be to be pre-empted by Boris) – but that we need to scrape the barnacles from the ship of Europe that are slowing us down. This is, frankly, bollocks, and I was pleased to see that many of the City figures predictably present on this occasion had their heads in their hands as Boris rambled genially on. It is simply not true, as Boris asserted., that the great outside world is just waiting for a dynamic Britain to go it alone, or at least situate itself in some far looser arrangement with our continental partners. As the Americans made abundantly clear the other day, they are interested in the UK precisely because it is a gateway to Europe. Close that door and we risk becoming an irrelevance. Of course Boris can be witty, and raise a laugh. But it was self-evident tonight at the Mansion House that he struck completely the wrong note. The City knows full well that it needs a prosperous Britain within a prosperous EU. And it is about time more City types stood up to be counted on the issue — and to blow Barnacle Boris a giant raspberry.
Posts Tagged ‘Mansion House’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 18th January, 2013
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 13th January, 2012
Once a year, in January, the Lord Mayor of London (currently the genuinely charming David Wootton) hosts a banquet at the Mansion House for 300+ movers and shakers and top officials in London government; I’ve been there for the past three years as Chairman of London Liberal Democrats. The surroundings are historic — the banqueting hall is magnificent and pristine — and there are some very good Old Dutch Masters on the staircase on the way in. Unsually there was venison as the main course at the dinner this year, and very good is was too. But of course it is not the food or the (excellent) wines that really count, but the political content and the networking. The Aldermen and Common Councillors of the City of London — most of them present last night – are strictly non-party political, and for once the party politicians from the GLA and London boroughs put aside their differences and mingled. Council leaders and mayors are invited, as well as Chief Executives from each borough and the occasional hack (Tim Donovan of BBC London and Peter Dominiczak of the Evening Standard). The key attraction at these events is the speech by the Mayor of London (i.e. of Greater London, rather than the City), currently Boris Johnson. This year he stuck largely to his script, prepared (with the addition of a few of his own jokes and asides) by his staff this year; in the past, he has been known to furiously scribble notes for a speech during the meal itself. Predictably, his pitch was how wonderful London is and what a fantastic year we will have with the Olympics and Paralympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, etc. He made fun of the very modest facilities provided at the 1948 London Olympics, which was a little below the belt, as Britain was still in a state of rationing and post-War fatigue then. But he is still fizzing with energy; love him or hate him he is a genuine character.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 14th January, 2011
The London Government Dinner really kicks off the calendar year in London politics. At least this year it was held in the second, not the first, week of January, so many people — including myself — were able to attend. There were fewer LibDems around than last time I was there (about four years ago), which was a sad reflection of the fact that the Labour Party did so well in Council elections in London last May (even though it lost the General Election). But it is good that each year a wide variety of new people do get to see a stunning building, brilliantly maintained and with a collection of pictures that takes the breath away. The main speaker, as is traditional, was not the Lord Mayor of London (whose fiefdom is the City), but his confusing namesake for the whole of this great city, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Boris’s hair was shorter than usual — though still looking as if it had been cut by one of his children with sewing scissors — and his speech was the usual charming ramble; I feel asleep at one point but woke up when he was highlighting the export of chocolate hobnobs to India. Bizarre, certainly, but classic Boris.