Lord Mayor runs the gauntlet of protesters who want him gone

David Wootton tells Rob Hastings how he'll face anti-capitalists from his carriage today

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The Independent Online

It wasn't supposed to be like this. When David Wootton was elected London's Lord Mayor six weeks ago, he had no idea that today's procession to mark his investiture would involve running the gauntlet of a camp of protesters calling for his role to be abolished.

Add in the ever-worsening euro crisis threatening the financial institutions that elected him, and there may not have been a more difficult time to become Lord Mayor for decades.

It's with a wry smile, therefore, that Mr Wootton, speaking to The Independent in the Guildhall on his first day in the job, contemplates his coming year in office. "It's what people these days refer to as 'an opportunity'," he says.

This morning he will face the anti-capitalist protesters camped outside St Paul's when his golden carriage pulls up at the side of the cathedral for the Church to give its blessing to his appointment (it can't stop at the front as usual because of the tents).

Occupy London have promised their protest today will be peaceful, there are 1,200 children on 123 floats taking part in the parade. Yet they also say it will be "provocative". After all, the Lord Mayor is now the focal point of a campaign that began with few objectives but has coalesced to target the body he heads: the City of London Corporation.

He denies the Corporation is an unaccountable old boys' network, and bristles at the suggestion that with its archaic posts it makes the House of Lords appear modern. "The House of Lords is not elected at all. I think I have legitimacy because I'm elected, as is the council."

Ostensibly a local authority, the Corporation is unique in being elected largely by big business rather than residents. The Lord Mayor's main role is not to represent the 9,000 inhabitants of the City, instead, he says, his "main job is promoting financial services". This extends to lobbying the Government on policy and encouraging investment. He opposes a financial transaction tax. But the affable Cambridge-educated lawyer, 59, from Yorkshire says he recognises the legitimacy and importance of Occupy London's concerns about the sector he represents. "There are issues which ought to be addressed, which the public wants addressed – if you don't address them, then at some stage they might address you."

But he defends the voting influence of high finance. "You need a voting system which is representative." Given the Corporation's insider influence on financial policy and its bias in favour of the firms, isn't it partly culpable for the failed policies that caused the economic crisis? "I, I, I, I, I don't think so..." Mr Wootton stammers. "No more than large numbers of other people."

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