The London Government Dinner
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.