What is the role of the lord mayor in the twenty-first century?” It is a common question that has been posed to me and my recent predecessors countless times.
The role has come a long way since the era of four-time incumbent Richard Whittington, immortalised in pantomime. Some parts have remained the same – advocate, cheerleader, ambassador. Much of the pageantry, unusual though it is, endures through events like the Lord Mayor’s Show – coming up on Saturday 8 November. However, like the businesses I represent in the Square Mile and beyond, the role of lord mayor has always adapted to remain relevant.
I am an ambassador for the whole of the UK-based services sector, with a particular focus on financial and professional services. I use old and modern links, some cultivated over centuries, to promote modern projects, learn about the freshest innovations, and endorse Britain’s brimming pool of talent. Much of this goes on in other countries – I have spent over 100 days leading overseas business delegations during my mayoralty – but the majority happens here, in the UK and the City of London itself. That is how it should be, because there are so many opportunities here.
Lord mayors get invited to many places and host a tremendous number of events, from the professional to the social. That has always been the case. But increasingly, my predecessors and I have tried to join the dots between those who want to do business in and with the City – using our position to get the right people in the right room at the right time.
We receive hundreds of these so-called inward visits every year. They are important because they bring together the very best of British trade and innovation inside our own communities, sparking new lines of communication and prompting productive relationships that might not exist otherwise.
That is because the City’s strength has always been its people. Our success comes from our incredible diversity – of backgrounds, skills and ambitions. I passionately believe that building on this diversity, by bringing together talented people, is the best and most sustainable way for us to power forwards to a more successful and responsible society across the UK.
The exact function of lord mayor changes with each incumbent, to meet the needs of a broad and diverse range of people. But in each incarnation, one thing is for certain: if we didn’t have the role, it would be in our interests to invent it.
800 YEARS OF THE MAGNA CARTA
Alongside a grand piano pulled by bicycles, this year’s Lord Mayor’s Show will have a special twist for the hundreds of thousands of Londoners who attend, as the City of London Corporation’s copy of the 1215 Magna Carta will travel along the parade route to celebrate its eight-hundredth anniversary. Magna Carta granted the citizens of London the right to elect a lord mayor annually, and it is one of the founding documents of English Law.