The Mayor of London aims to promote diversity

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The new mayor of London wants people from different backgrounds to run for election in the historic organs of the City.

Vincent Keaveny, who became mayor yesterday, said the City of London Corporation and the councilors representing its 25 wards “are not as different as we would like.”

Keaveny, the first Irish person to fill the historic role, hopes it will change with the elections for the Court of Common Council – the decision-making body of the City of London – and some councilors in March. “It is really important to have more women and more people from different backgrounds,” she said.

There is a way to go. Only four councilors out of the current twenty-four are women. Only two, Asthal’s Baroness Scotland and Prem Goyal, the former banker, identify themselves as coming from a BAME background. In the past, many have been Freemasons.

Whoever stands up must convince an electorate made up of businesses and individuals registered in the city districts. The councilors, in turn, elect the mayor, together with the contribution of the livery societies of the Municipality, which are based on historical occupations extended over the centuries to other works.

Livery companies have also been in the spotlight for their lack of representation in society at large. One, the Venerable Company of Bowyers – historically, the makers of longbows – did not allow women to be members until recently.

Keaveny noted that the livery companies were “private organizations,” but was in favor of the change, including lifting the ban on women by bowyers. “No livery company is in that position, much to my delight,” he said.

Of course, the 56-year-old believes in his traditions, who takes on the one-year position of DLA Piper, the law firm of which he is a partner specialized in advising financial institutions. He’s been a councilor since 2013 and served as sheriff of the City of London in 2018, which involved him and his wife Amanda – an intensive care nurse – living in lodgings in the Old Bailey.

Now Keaveny settle in Mansion House with their new role. This is both exciting, according to the new mayor – giving them the opportunity to live in a Georgian mansion – and practical, as his schedule is busy.

He has chosen diversity in the City as one of his themes for his year in office. He is co-chair of a government-commissioned task force to increase the number of people from working class backgrounds who join and then progress in financial and professional services, working with Sandra Wallace, interim chair of the Commission on Social Mobility, and Andy Haldane, the former chief economist of the Bank of England. Keaveny’s job is to create a permanent body by spring to drive the results forward, including getting companies to sign the goals.

The work comes after The Bridge Group, a consulting firm, found that people from poorer backgrounds take on average an extra year to progress for every four of those from a more privileged education.

Keaveny takes over as mayor from William Russell (the fifth member of his family to fill the role) following the COP26 climate summit and in the midst of the push to make Britain a center for green finance. The other theme of Keaveny is to help stimulate the city to offer market-leading and climate-friendly products and to attract international investments to them. He believes the UK will have an advantage if such products are also at the heart of the ‘just transition’: managing the push to net zero equally for all.

“It is important to put London at the center of social impact investing,” he said. “Here we have all the right skills. The people, the capital, the regulators are right here on our doorstep, our language and our time zone. “

Keaveny has a busy schedule ahead, including trips to Ireland, Spain and Portugal and the west coast of America already planned. He hopes to bring delegations, particularly to the United States, with him as part of the push to attract international investment to London.

The story of the mayor’s role and the fact that he is free from party political associations plays well around the world, according to Keaveny. But at home, the new office owner wants to shake things up.

Silent start of a hectic year

The role of mayor is one of the oldest civic offices in the world, dating back to 1189 (writes Katherine Griffiths). In its early days – the 13th century – it was an elected position by the City of London rather than the monarch.

Yesterday Vincent Keaveny became No. 693 to fill the role, which has evolved to become an ambassador position promoting Britain’s financial and professional services sector. Many traditional rules still apply, including that officially only the monarch takes precedence over the mayor within the city limits.

The mayor is officially admitted to the role through an 800-year silent ceremony in the Guildhall, which took place yesterday. A louder tradition follows in today’s Lord Mayor’s Show. The Lord Mayor of London’s State Coach, used since 1757, will be the protagonist of a procession that includes floats, musicians and horses.

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