Occupy London protest issues demands to democratise City of London
Activists at St Paul’s Cathedral call for end to Square Mile’s ‘unconstitutional power and influence’
- reddit this
Activists who have occupied the grounds of London‘s St Paul’s Cathedral have published their first list of demands, calling call for the democratisation of the Corporation of the City of London, the effective local authority which controls the UK’s financial centre.
The attack on the square mile which has a series of ancient prerogatives including a “lobbyist” in the House of Commons follows Thursday’s resignation of the canon chancellor, Giles Fraser, who also attacked the power of the City in an interview with the Guardian.
The page-long list of demands says that democratic reform of The City Of London Corporation is “urgently needed” and describes City institutions as “unconstitutional and unfair”.
The statement, which has been authored by 17 people over the last six days, also calls for an end to the corporations’s own police force and judicial system which affords the square mile vast amounts of freedom to run its own affairs.
“The risk-taking of the banks has made our lives precarious – they are accountable to no one but themselves, unduly influencing government policy across the centuries both at home and abroad. This is not democracy,” the statement adds.
The list, which is expected to be ratified before publication at a general meeting at 1.30pm on Friday, also called for:
• An end to business and corporate block-votes in all council elections, which can be used to outvote local residents.
• Abolition of existing “secrecy practices” within the City, and total and transparent reform of its institutions to end corporate tax evasion.
• The decommissioning of the City of London police with officers being brought under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan police force.
• Abolition of the offices of Lord Mayor of London, the Sheriffs and the Aldermen.
• And a truth and reconciliation commission to examine corruption within the City and its institutions.
The statement has garnered support from authors and Blue Labour thinker Lord Maurice Glasman.
Glasman said: “Until today, the reclamation of the public space around St Paul’s by protesters has been confused … It was better theatre than politics and that was frustrating because the backdrop, props and themes were superb.”
Glasman said that St Paul’s Cross was the site of the most ancient known democratic practice in the UK and it was the most appropriate spot to make a claim for the extension of citizenship.
“By declaring that the point of their protest is the democratisation of London the meaning of the occupation is transformed. It opens a prospect for civic renewal and the challenging of unaccountable power elites.
“The protesters have stumbled upon the source of financial power within the British state. This could get interesting,” he added.
Nicholas Shaxson – the author of Treasure Islands, a book about the world of tax evasion – described the demands as “incredibly powerful”.
“The City is something that has flown under the radar for so long, people have occasionally noticed the pomp and ceremony of the City but never really grasped what it is. This is a medieval commune dating back 1,000 years which represents the interest of international finance.”
Shaxson added: “If you go to the City they will say, ‘We’re just a poor little local authority with a few thousands souls – don’t worry about us.’ But their influence runs far and deep both in the UK and overseas and they have supporters all over the place. They’re not going to go away any time soon.”
In an earlier interview with the Guardian, the St Paul’s canon chancellor Giles Fraser said: “A great many people think that something has gone wrong in the City of London and that the wealth generated by the City does not exist for the benefit of us all.”
Bryn Phillips, 28, a camp member who works in PR and is a co-author of the statement, said he hoped this would be “the beginning of the restoration of our democracy”.
“It was drafted by 17 of us over six days and it has gathered even more signatures since we last spoke. We refuse to be evicted without first landing a blow to the corporation.”