Yesterday, we reviewed Sir John Stuttard's new book on the 'other Mayor of London'. Whittington to World Financial Centre neatly captures the ceremonial and purposeful aspects of the role, but left us with a few outstanding questions. Sir John was gracious enough to respond to both our serious and more whimsical inquiries.
To date, there has only been one female Lord Mayor and no Lord Mayor from an ethnic minority. Is anything being done to address this?
Sadly, only one woman, Mary Donaldson, has been elected Lord Mayor in the 821 year history of the Mayoralty and this needs to change. To become Lord Mayor, you first have to become an Alderman, which means standing for election in one of the 25 wards of the City. Anyone can stand and it is very competitive. At present we have two female Aldermen. We also have a large number of ladies who have been elected as Common Councilmen, which is the route that many people choose before standing for election as an Alderman. If you know anyone who is a woman and has had a distinguished career in the City and who wants to serve the City's "Council" then please ask them to get involved. The same applies for ethnic groups.
We were staggered to read that you attended 466 formal meals and banquets during your tenure. Did it ever get to the point where it was all too much, and you craved a humble plate of fish and chips? Could a vegetarian cope in the role?
Hosts are very accommodating and I would always ask for fruit as a dessert. If you wish you can choose your own meal. There are plenty of vegetarians in the City so this doesn't present a problem. Many Lord Mayors have had a standing order of white fish and vegetables. Of course, you need to be self-disciplined and I would usually not drink until after the speech - not for fear of drunkenness but because wine has a temporary bad physical effect on the voice and you wouldn't necessarily get the messages out clearly. Plus, with almost 2,000 engagements, you burn up a lot of calories. I didn't actually put on weight during the year.
Could you tell us a piece of trivia concerning the mayorality, or the City, that you think none of our readers will know?
The Lord Mayor is Admiral of the Port of London, although I never found out what the duties were and I never discovered a uniform. As Lord Mayor you have to live on the premises in Mansion House and you don't get paid - in fact you pay for certain things - wine at key banquets, flowers and some other household expenses. When travelling abroad, the Lord Mayor has Cabinet rank. When not on formal ceremonial occasions, the Mayoral car is a gas powered taxi - environmentally very clean.
Whittington aside, who is your favourite Lord Mayor from the long history of the office, and why?
London has always welcomes foreigners - both those from the UK's regions and those born outside the UK. In fact London has always succeeded when it has been open. Former Lord Mayor Joseph Savory was a role model. A Huguenot by origin he was Lord Mayor in 1890/91 and was instrumental in welcoming and housing the pogrom-fleeing Jews from Europe. He helped achieve what London stands for - a welcoming City.
Image by Diliff, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license.