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New England meets Old England at mayor-making ceremonies

PUBLISHED: 13:16 22 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:06 07 September 2010

I attended two mayor- making ceremonies on successive evenings last week, one at The Burroughs in Barnet, the other in Judd Street, Camden. Same thing, only different, as they say. At one such ceremony many years ago I met the woman who was to become my w

I attended two mayor- making ceremonies on successive evenings last week, one at The Burroughs in Barnet, the other in Judd Street, Camden. Same thing, only different, as they say.

At one such ceremony many years ago I met the woman who was to become my wife. But what interested me at last week's annual events had nothing to do with the eligibility or otherwise of the ladies in attendance. It was the interesting contrast in the way the pomp and ceremony of the occasion was interpreted by boroughs joined at the hip geographically, but worlds apart in so many other ways.

The differences were obvious even before I arrived. In Barnet, I could take my pick of the many parking spaces on offer, legal or otherwise, without fear of a traffic warden surprising me from behind the bushes. In Camden, the invitation came with a warning about the Congestion Charge.

Barnet's ceremony took place in a chamber that would have graced a royal palace; Camden's in an austere town hall setting that reminded me of nothing quite so much as a Presbyterian church hall. Gordon Brown would have been very much at home.

And while some Barnet councillors proudly wore their fur-trimmed ceremonial robes as Her Majesty gazed regally down upon them from her portrait's high vantage point, Camden's councillors seemed more in tune with what could be benevolently described as 'street fashion' (though I thought Cllr Roger Robinson looked pretty dapper for a man of his years).

Camden had a jazz combo playing just outside the chamber - Barnet had only the dulcet tones of Brian Coleman echoing across the corridors.

And while Barnet needed only proposers and seconders to authorise the business in hand, motions in Camden were not only seconded but also thirded and fourthed, in the name of politically correct cross-party inclusivity.

A bundle of paperwork big enough to fill a briefcase was laid out for our edification on Barnet's ancient benches. The entire proceedings at Judd Street were documented on a single sheet of A4 paper. Obviously eco champion Alexis Rowell is winning his battle to save the rainforests.

But where Camden really came into its own was in the important art of name-dropping. The Queen, Boris Yeltsin, George Bush, Laurence Olivier, John Alderton and even the Ham&High were all invoked in the most worthy terms, while Barnet's councillors seemed content to bask in the glow of their own self-importance.

It was all a bit like Old England (Barnet) meeting New England (Camden) and agreeing to get along, while doing things in their own peculiar ways. I enjoyed both events immensely.

Geoff Martin


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