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Thomas Cromwell’s lack of xenophobia

We could perhaps do with a Thomas Cromwell in UK politics today. This is from Tracy Borman’s biography:

Cromwell’s love of all things Italian was highly unusual for a Londoner. Andreas Franciscius had been aghast to discover on his visit to the capital that its inhabitants ‘not only despise the way in which Italians live, but actually curse them with uncontrolled hatred’. This was corroborated by another Italian visitor of the period: ‘The English are great lovers of themselves, and of everything belonging to them; they think that there are no other men than themselves, and no other world than England; and whenever they see a handsome foreigner they say that “he looks like an Englishman” … They have a great antipathy to foreigners, and imagine that they never come into their island, but to make themselves master of it, and to usurp their goods.’

My 3-minute ‘speech’ at tonight’s Farringdon Within Ward Mote

Hello, I’m Virginia Rounding, and I was previously a Councillor in this Ward from 2011 to 2017, and would now like to take up the cudgels on your behalf again.

To summarise, and briefly expand on, the pledges contained in my election leaflet:

If elected, I commit myself to being available and attentive to your needs and concerns and, in particular, to help you get answers and navigate your way through what can at times appear like a byzantine system. The Corporation’s website, for instance, hides a wealth of information but it remains difficult to get at it. I will lobby to get that improved – a far more useful, comprehensive and engaging Contact Us page, for example, is needed, with clear links to clear answers and routes to information – but in the meantime, and in addition, I am prepared to provide that route, where necessary. People often tell me that, on balance, they enjoy living and working in the City – it can be and often is, a great place – but it is the accumulation of minor irritants – noise, roadworks, lack of sufficient recycling facilities, sometimes an overall sense of powerlessness to get issues addressed – that gets people down. I aim to improve that situation, including being available to advise and assist with crafting objections, when necessary, to poor planning or inappropriate licensing applications. In the worst case scenario, I do have hands-on experience of helping residents put together the evidence for a licence review. And I must stress that when I was last a Councillor I did this as part of a team of members, and that’s how I would do it again – it’s in working together that we get things done.

I will maintain pressure on City planners to improve the management of what used to be called ‘shared space’ – I learnt from one of the electors during this campaign that that term has fallen out of favour among urban designers – because actually we’re not very good at sharing space, with the competing demands of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, all of us in a hurry to get to where we’re going. I intend to champion the use of good research about street design and road safety, from wherever it comes in the world – such as that carried out by the Project for Public Space in New York – as well as pressing for more actual physical evidence to be collected here in the City about people’s behaviour at busy intersections – so that we don’t rely on anecdote or theory, but on what actually happens. One place where more evidence needs to be collected, and acted on – even if that just means banging on at Transport for London – is at Ludgate Circus, but that’s not the only place.

The austerity imposed by central government over the last few years has hit local authorities hard, and the City Corporation – in its role as a local authority, if not in all its other activities – is no exception. At a time when everything is being looked at to see if costs can be cut, I will add my voice to the need to maintain not just basic services, but all those strategies and initiatives that lead to people’s wellbeing – from protection from crime and the fear of crime, to the overwhelming need to improve our air quality and to combat climate change, to the provision of adequate healthcare for what is an expanding population of residents in our Ward, to the implementation and monitoring of an improved Homelessness Strategy.

And I add to that that I am politically independent, and passionately committed to equality and diversity, and to teamwork.

The value of independence in local politics

At a time when party politics can appear increasingly toxic, it is a strength of local politics in the City that the vast majority of City councillors do not operate on a party-political basis. It is vital that, on issues affecting local residents and workers, as well as stakeholders in other areas managed by the City Corporation- from housing estates to open spaces – Councillors should be able to work together to determine the best outcomes, irrespective of the differences they may have in political viewpoint and ideology. For members to be subjected to a party-whipping system when determining policy, or for card-carrying electors to be ‘instructed’ to vote on a party-political basis, rather than by determining who they think would best represent them and their local concerns, would be a step in the wrong direction.
The vast majority of the 100 Common Councilmen and 25 Aldermen who make up the City’s Court of Common Council declare themselves as ‘independent’, even if quite a few of them are signed-up members of political parties. And for the purposes of their role in the City Corporation, they are indeed independent – often fiercely so. The advantage of this is that each issue which arises is discussed on its merits; alliances among members are of course formed, but these will change depending on the issue at hand. In my previous stint as a Common Councilman, there were many members with whom I would not agree politically with a capital ‘p’, with whom I do not share a ‘worldview’, but with whom I could work in full accord and effectively in order to address some matter of local concern, from roadworks to almshouse maintenance to oak processionary moth. There was never any question of a ‘party line’, a sense that because A did not agree with B about, say, the benefits of laisser faire capitalism, B could not expect support from A when advocating for traffic lights to be installed at a dangerous junction.
In these days of fragmented politics, with many people feeling disenfranchised – unable to support the manifesto of any political party in its entirety – should not more local councils go the way of the City Corporation and embrace independence for its elected members? Rather than the City Corporation going the way of a tired old system in the way the City Labour Party seems to want it to?
Independence has its costs – particularly at election time, when you don’t have an army of party volunteers to help stuff your envelopes and accompany you in your canvassing. But it’s still worth fighting for.

Why I am standing in the City by-election on 24th July

VR photo #6 smallI have been involved in City of London life since I first moved into a flat in Long Lane in 1997. My side of the street was then in Farringdon Without, boundary changes bringing it ‘Within’ a few years later. I subsequently moved out of the Ward, but continued to be closely involved with it through my long-term association with the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great, and now work only a few minutes’ walk away.

I was a Councillor for the Ward from 2011 to 2017 and, in these last two years away from the Court of Common Council but still in the City, I have taken the time to reflect: on my personal achievements – on ‘what I have done and what I have left undone’ – and, more widely, on what works well in how the City Corporation manages itself and on what needs to change. I would now like to take up the cudgels again on behalf of residents and workers in the Ward.

I have also focused on the Ward in my profession as a historian and writer, my most recent book (published by Macmillan in 2017) having been The Burning Time: The Story of the Smithfield Martyrs, described in The Times as ‘gruesomely entertaining’. I believe my historical perspective assists in understanding how change and development have affected, and will continue to affect, the area, and enables me to approach such change with sensitivity for the needs of residents and other stakeholders.

In the other aspect of my professional life, I have been Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Builders’ Merchants, a Modern Livery Company, for nearly three years, having previously been Clerk to the Guild of Public Relations Practitioners – and, before that, having worked in administrative roles for various organisations, including St Bartholomew the Great, the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, and the Consort of Musicke, a renowned vocal and instrumental ensemble.

During my earlier six years as a Common Councillor, I worked with other Councillors and local residents to address noise issues in various parts of the Ward, including Carter Lane and Cloth Fair, and took an active role in both licensing and planning matters, in formulating objections where appropriate and assisting others to do so. I also chaired two Corporation committees: the Hampstead Heath Management Committee and the Housing Management Sub-Committee, which looks after the City’s almshouses and social housing estates, located in the City and in several neighbouring boroughs.

Virginia was fantastic to work with. She was knowledgeable, understood the issues facing residents, approached problems with immense common-sense, and was always prepared to speak up and fight for local people. As Chair of Housing Sub-Committee, she was passionate about social housing, and helping vulnerable tenants in particular. Residents appreciated her compassion and the fact that she made the time to talk to them and to listen. And staff had huge respect and liking for her because she worked so constructively and effectively with us. 

[Jacquie Campbell, former Assistant Director, Housing & Neighbourhoods, City of London]

At a time when party politics can appear increasingly toxic, it is a strength of local government in the City that the vast majority of City councillors do not operate on a party-political basis. It is vital that, on issues affecting local residents and workers, as well as stakeholders in other areas managed by the City Corporation – from housing estates to open spaces – Councillors should be able to work together to determine the best outcomes, irrespective of the differences they may have in political viewpoint and ideology.

The issues currently facing Farringdon Within are numerous, ranging from national and global problems (climate change, poor air quality, homelessness,  the uncertainties related to Brexit) to the very specific challenges surrounding the advent of Crossrail, the Barts Square development, relocations of Museum and Market, and the emergence of the Culture Mile, all bringing increased footfall and transport ‘corridors’ to the area.

All these issues need to be handled with sensitivity, in a non-partisan and collaborative spirit, but with a willingness to ask difficult questions, raise appropriate objections and hold developers and planners to account. I will do this.

 

Promoted by Virginia Rounding of 4 College Hill, London EC4R 2RB

My pledges as a candidate in the City of London by-election in Farringdon Within

  • I will not make false or reckless promises just to get votes but, if elected, I will always be attentive to the concerns of residents and workers in the Ward and argue forcefully on their behalf for what can be achieved.
  • I will work to make it easier for those who live and/or work in the Ward to report issues of concern and to be sure that their comments, queries or complaints are followed up.
  • I will maintain pressure on City planners to improve the management of shared space, so that all road users, including pedestrians, can move around the City in safety.
  • I will work with the existing team in this and neighbouring Wards to maintain pressure on Transport for London to re-address traffic flow and crossing times at Ludgate Circus.
  • I will champion the needs of the City of London Police in resisting further budget cuts.
  • I will be an independent, non-party-political, voice in representing electors’ concerns and working to improve the quality of life in our Ward, our City, and wherever the City Corporation’s influence extends.

 

Promoted by Virginia Rounding of 4 College Hill, London EC4R 2RB

By-election in Farringdon Within on 24th July

I am currently standing for election to the City’s Court of Common Council in the Ward of Farringdon Within, and here is my Election Flyer.

21 February 1846: Marie Duplessis marries Count Edouard de Perrégaux

Marie DuplessisOn this day in 1846 occurred one of the most enigmatic episodes in the brief life of the Parisian courtesan Marie Duplessis  – her marriage to Count Edouard de Perrégaux at the Kensington Register Office in London.

Marie had met Edouard a few years previously, at a masked ball at the Paris Opera House in the rue Le Peletier. Edouard’s grandfather was Jean Frédéric de Perrégaux, a financier who had been made a senator by Napoleon Bonaparte and who became the first regent of the Bank of France. His son, Charles Bernardin, was made a count during the Empire. Edouard had fought in Africa against  Abd-el-Kader, the great opponent of France’s conquest of Algeria, and had acquitted himself very well. Afterwards, however, his conduct deteriorated. He contracted debts, which increased on his return to France. On the death of his father, he found himself with a very large fortune at his disposal. He proceeded to dispose of it as fast as he could, becoming involved in all the high life of Paris. On meeting Marie, Edouard rapidly dropped another courtesan, Alice Ozy, in order to take up with her, installing her in an apartment at 22 rue d’Antin.

As an amant de coeur, Edouard had to put up with his mistress having a roster of paying clients who took up most of her waking hours, with just a few hours at night reserved for him. Unsatisfied with this situation, wanting Marie to himself and to be with her all the time, Edouard rented a house for her in the countryside at Bougival with the intention of freeing her from this daily round of Paris – and from the exigencies of other men. Here for a few weeks the couple enjoyed a pastoral idyll, though they also made regular excursions into Paris to attend the Opéra and to eat at the Café Anglais or the Maison Dorée. Marie was flattered by Edouard’s exclusive passion for her and willing to reciprocate his love as far as she was able and for as long as he was able to continue supporting her. All he wanted to do was keep her happy, and he fell out with his family and friends as Marie continued to dissipate his fortune. It was around this time that Marie began to show signs of illness, coughing blood for the first time.

Then, on their return from a two-month stay in Baden, Edouard realised that he could no longer afford to keep on the house in Bougival. Marie felt she had been deceived as to the extent of Edouard’s fortune, and realised that she again needed to find other protectors to support her way of life. Or, as Romain Vienne puts it:

It was then that she noticed, by the sudden cooling of her sentiments, that she had loved him only superficially, in the intoxication of deceitful hopes; that she had been the dupe of lying appearances, and that she had built her projects on shifting sand.

Edouard did not make a complete break with Marie, but she returned to dispensing her charms elsewhere – including acquiring a wealthy new protector in the shape of the octogenarian Count Gustav Ernst von Stackelberg, a former Russian ambassador to Vienna, who set her up in style at 11 boulevard de la Madeleine.

And then, out of the blue, Marie and Edouard de Perrégaux were married in Kensington on 21 February 1846. Marie had obtained a passport from the Prefecture of Police on 25 January which described her as ‘Mlle Alphonsine Plessis, person of private means, living in Paris at 11, boulevard de la Madeleine’ and provided the following additional details:

22 years old, height one metre 65 centimetres, light brown hair, low forehead, light brown eyebrows, brown eyes, well-made nose, medium-sized mouth, round chin, oval face, ordinary complexion.

On 3 February Marie obtained a visa from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and she and Edouard set off for London. The address for both Edouard and Marie is given in the marriage register as 37 Brompton Row, Kensington.

Husband and wife never lived together after this mysterious marriage. It was perfectly regular according to English law, and Edouard could have made it valid for France by having it properly announced according to article 170 of the Civil Code. Instead he abandoned his wife immediately after the wedding and let her return alone to Paris. Marie kept the surname Duplessis but began to use the title of Countess for certain business matters. With the help of a specialist she designed her own coat of arms, using part of the arms of her husband, and had them emblazoned on her carriage, her linen and her silverware.

The rest of Marie Duplessis’s brief and eventful life is recounted in my book, Grandes Horizontales.