Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Who has paid for entry to Boris Johnson's "business club"?

The following story appears in this morning's CITY AM:


LONDON mayor Boris Johnson played host to a star-studded launch for the corporate sponsors of the charitable Mayor’s Fund for London yesterday morning, with grandees of the City treated to an 8am poached egg and salmon breakfast in return for their paid-up membership of the London Business Club – an organisation for fund donors.

The newly refurbished Savoy played host to the likes of ITIS and Streetcar chairman Sir Trevor Chinn, Goldman Sachs head of economics Jim O’Neill and former chief economist and deputy chairman of Man Group Stanley Fink. They were rubbing shoulders along the breakfast table with incoming Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond, who flipped open his chequebook to deliver a £50,000 donation over the meal.

Does this make anyone else feel uncomfortable?

Senior hedge fund managers and bankers are paying for entry to a "business club" and on at least two occasions they have met with the Mayor of London and his advisers in private.

There is no obligation for any of their donations to be made public and at least one of the donors is the Chief Executive of the company awarded a multimillion pound sponsorship deal with TfL.

This deal which has still left Londoners with a multimillion pound bill, was chosen despite Boris's election pledge to provide cycle hire at "no cost" to taxpayers, and despite the fact that rival deals would reportedly have cost Londoners far less or nothing at all.

This deal was also described by one source as "payback" for Boris's support of financial institutions during the banking crisis.

The very same institutions whose chief execs are now paying for membership of Boris's "business club."

Now the Mayor's charity does seem to be doing some good work but that good work should not be allowed to get in the way of some important questions.

As it stands people who want to buy influence over politicians have to declare their campaign donations on an official register.

We may not like the fact that wealthy people can buy influence in this way, but at least we can find out who they are and how much they've spent.

No such declarations have to be made for donations to the Mayor's Fund. We don't get to know what they donate and we don't get to know what access they subsequently receive.

In his defence, the Mayor argues that the charity is independent.

But how independent can it be, when Boris is the major fundraiser, sole patron and apparent landlord of the charity on the third floor of City Hall?

And how independent can Boris be when his own charity is so dependent on the continued generosity of a wealthy few?

1 comment:

Helen said...

"Boris is the major fundraiser" - can't he just appoint some bird he's knocked up?