Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Horse, a horse! My Kingdom for a horse!

One of the delights of living in London is the Annual Lord Mayor’s Show held each November.

It marks the installation of the Lord Mayor of London and involves a procession of thousands, part military parade, part carnival, part Civic event. Unlike the other 31 London Borough Mayors plus one Lord Mayor who take office in May each year, the Lord Mayor of London has chilly and often wet early November to contend with.

The traditions around the Lord Mayor of London have lasted for centuries and involve the City Corporation (the equivalent of Barnet Council!) , the City Livery Companies and the over 30,000  Freemen of the City of London . However the role of the City has changed over the last couple of decades as it has refocused itself as a spokesman and supporter of the banks and business institutions that provide so many jobs and so much revenue for UK plc. In fact the Lord Mayor spends up to a third of his year of office touring the world and lobbying for British business, a job that the Mayor of London would simply not have the time to do.  In recent years I have seen first how hard Lord Mayors have worked and sometimes for scant reward. The disgraceful and small minded decision of the Gordon Brown Government to withhold the traditional Knighthood from the excellent Alderman Ian Luder (who accepted a CBE) and Alderman Nicholas Anstee (who reportedly declined an OBE) was somewhat reversed by the award by the coalition of a Knighthood to Finchley resident Alderman Michael Bear after his year of office in 2011.

This year’s Diamond Jubilee would have been a complete non event without the full role played (and indeed funded) by the City Corporation and the Special honours list issued last week thanked many involved in the arrangements including the excellent Paul Double, the City Remembrancer, a unique local government post, part Chief Lobbyist, part Head of protocol, part Political Advisor, but all round Mr Fix It. On certain occasions Paul is required to wear the traditional uniform involving tights and lots of lace but as a former Town Clerk of the Corporation (Chief Executive in Barnet terms) said to me “ wouldn’t you for £150,000 a year ? “

I was thinking of the changing role of the City (and the sniping at it by some left wing Politicians over the years) as I enjoyed dinner of Smoked haddock and chive crushed potato fishcake, followed by beef and chocolate and raspberry brownies with my Livery Company (The Farriers) the other evening at Vintners Hall following the traditional ceremony and Church Service for the Installation of the Master of the Company for the coming year. This year the honour of being  Master of the Worshipful Company of Farriers falls upon Major General Sir Evelyn Webb-Carter, KCVO, OBE,DL who after a distinguished military career (ending up as General Officer Commanding London District) has just retired as Controller of the Army Benevolent Fund .

The Worshipful Company of Farriers is not just some sort of City dining Club, like I suspect some Livery Companies are, and along with its’ charitable activities and support for our armed forces (especially those involving horses) actually plays a major role in the training, registration and standards of the Farriering business, many working farriers are Liverymen of the Company and numerous women belong also as Liverymen. A company that goes back to 1356 still has a role 650 years later.

In his address Sir Evelyn outlined plans for his year of office including the Company’s participation in the Lord Mayor’s Show where the Major General (a fine horseman)  will lead the Farriers float through the City streets with me and 50 other Liverymen dressed apparently in Hessian tabards (not sackcloth and ashes).

To the surprise of many, the Master also announced he would be writing a blog detailing his activities during his year of office.  

Who says the City of London is stuck in the past?


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