Aldermen accept blackball ruling

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The Court of Aldermen, one of the governing bodies of the Corporation of London, yesterday said it would not appeal against a court ruling over the blackballing of Malcolm Matson, a millionaire businessman.

The aldermen, widely criticised for allegedly archaic and undemocratic practices, will now be forced to give their reasons if they again reject Mr Matson's membership of the court.

Mr Matson, who was blackballed despite his successful election on a platform to reform the corporation and the aldermen, said yesterday he was pleased with the decision but would go back to court if he was rejected again and he considered the reasons inadequate.

Alderman Sir Alexander Graham, a former Lord Mayor, said: "We are pleased the Court of Appeal has acknowledged it is the duty of the Court of Aldermen to continue to make a judgment on the suitability of prospective aldermen. But we accept the law requires the giving of reasons for rejecting an alderman-elect. We will be amending our procedures to provide for this and will be reconsidering in October in accordance with these amended procedures the suitability of Mr Matson to serve as an alderman."

It seems unlikely that the controversy surrounding the Matson case will end even if the aldermen decide to accept him. His fight has exposed a number of questionable practices within the corporation - which governs the City of London and is the only local authority to retain the business vote - and its 24-strong Court of Aldermen. An impending by-election and the imminent retirement of some aldermen will give ample opportunity for further criticism.

Politicians from all parties have demanded that practices in the corporation change. There has been widespread criticism of the aldermen who, once elected, can remain in office until 70 without renewing their mandate. Critics say that they run a self-perpetuating club, guaranteeing privilege for the already privileged.

In a letter leaked to the Independent earlier this month Robert Jones, Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, ruled out any change to practices within the corporation because that would create widespread demand for radical reform and remove voting power from the partners of City firms.