The last rotten borough in England

7 December 2012

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One of the virtues of Occupy at St Paul’s was that it shone a welcome light on the workings of the City of London Corporation, which is the last rotten borough in England. As the poster – photographed in the City recently – demonstrates, the City of the London Corporation is the only place in the country where people get an extra votes because of where they work, and businesses get to vote as well. Of course, when the rest of the country’s electoral system was reformed in the 19th and 20th centuries, for some reason the City of London was excluded so that its ancient Saxon electoral system (opens pdf) could be preserved.

And of course, the City Corporation has other privileges, including its own police force, its own ‘observer’ at the House of Commons, and exemption from the Freedom of Information Act. Sounding awfully Starbucks it insists that “it abides by all laws and publishes all accounts and decisions it is required to.” Of course. At least in this coming election a group has been created to challenge the way the Corporation works. (The City maintains the fiction that everyone stands for election as an independent; the City Reform Group is offering support to candidates who are willing to sign up to a series of promises for more openness.)

As a colleague said to me, we’ve given the City its own government, its own police force, its own lobbyist, its own laws, everything it’s asked for, and all it’s done in return is bankrupted us. As with other demanding and selfish children, it’s probably time to put some limits in.

The picture at the top of this post is taken by Andrew Curry and is published here under a Creative Commons licence: some rights reserved.

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