Tinning Ourselves

Remarks to: Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers Alias Wire Workers by Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli on Tuesday, 11 October 2022.

Master, Wardens, Visiting Masters, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is always an honour to be asked to address a livery company, particularly one as venerable as the Tin Plate Workers alias Wire Workers.  You are graced with an accomplished Master, a solicitor, a judge, a tax specialist and a plumber, active in ward clubs, fairs, and orchestras, and tireless advocate of equality and diversity in the City – as well as a fellow, brave Wolpertinger hunter, your Master Erica Stary.  In other words I wasn’t really asked to address you, I was told.  And that too is an honour.

Speakers often ‘steel’ themselves to address an audience, tonight I needed to ‘tin’ myself and find out a bit about the Company.  Given my charming hosts at previous Tin Plate Worker dinners and your generous sponsorship of naval ‘boats’, I thought you might all be submariners.  Of course, I’m delighted to find that your church is St Margaret Lothbury, and the ward church of my ward of Broad Street.  On a few occasions my wife, Elisabeth, and I have used your gold work in naval braiding, but I wanted to know more so I asked five Barber Surgeons which of their fellow liverymen were the best patients. 

Starting with the older liveries, one surgeon said it was the Painter Stainers, everything inside is colour-coded.  The second said it was the Scriveners, everything inside is alphabetically arranged.  Moving to the modern liveries, the third surgeon said it was the Accountants, everything inside is numbered.  The fourth surgeon said it’s the lawyers, “they’re heartless, spineless, gutless, and their top and bottoms are interchangeable”.  The quiet-till-now fifth surgeon interrupts, “well, I prefer Tin Plate Workers.  They’re always happy when you have a few spare parts left over at the end.”

Your Master wanted me to share a bit about my experience as Sheriff for two years, the two first two-timing Sheriffs since 1228, and then a bit about what I’m starting to plan for my mayoralty, subject to election, from 10 November 2023.  Being Sheriff truly is an amazing privilege and opportunity to represent the City. Absurd as it seems, since the 7th century two lay-people have been put in charge as light-touch chairman of the rule of law, taxation, and defence of the City and sent to live at the Old Bailey.  Yet there truly was a job for us, from rearranging the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, with the onset of Covid, to being the officers in charge during the Fishmongers attack and working on the subsequent inquest.  You learn, learn, learn, and sink ever deeper into history.  And history repeats itself.

You all know about the City Sheep Drives revived by the World Traders and now run so well by the Woolmen.  I found myself early on a Sunday morning last September at Mansion House to be greeted by a six foot two Amazon, our celebrity guest, Amanda Owen, the Yorkshire Shepherdess.  She had an ancient, antique crook she worried might be too frail.  She’d worn wool clothes for the occasion, and despite the cold had a bare midriff.  As she was explaining to me how flat her midriff looked despite nine children, suddenly my wife Elisabeth barrelled up, elbowed me to one side, shook Amanda’s hand and remarked, “Ah, I see you’ve met my husband.”

As we headed south over Southwark bridge she expertly crooked the hind leg of an errant sheep and swept it back into the flock without breaking a breath.  She then engaged the Lord Mayor in conversation, something concerning the whereabouts of a tattoo of a lamb which she didn’t think the Lord Mayor would easily find but might enjoy searching for.  Suddenly, the Lady Mayoress barrelled up, elbowed the Lord Mayor to one side, shook Amanda’s hand and remarked, “Ah, I see you’ve met my husband.”

But these wonderful roles we have are only worth having if you want to do something with them. As Sheriff my theme was Strengthening & Simplifying Anti-Money Laundering.  As Lord Mayor, my working theme, on which I’m working about four hours a day at the moment, is the Knowledge Mile.  The Knowledge Mile intends to celebrate the global knowledge connections of the Square Mile, London, and the UK.  London is the world’s coffeehouse where people bring their dreams to get them realised.  Over 40 learned societies, 70 universities, and 130 research institutes surround our City.  Our workforce is as much ‘science & tech’ as ‘finance’ with some 225,000 scientists, engineers, and technicians alongside 180,000 financiers.  It’s another reason I was so pleased to join the Worshipful Company of Engineers as an Honorary Liveryman last night and to the Master and other of her colleagues here this evening.  ‘The Knowledge Mile’ will draw upon the world’s most productive concentration of knowledge networks.  But why do dreams matter?  Because they lead to solutions for our problems, most notably the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Naturally, realising dreams involves everything from a creative and technical start to the support of professional and financial services.

Britons are not smarter than other people, but we are extremely well-connected.  If you have a Patagonian wind farm project solely for Patagonians, you’d still be foolish not to take it London and kick it around, where you’ll find advice ranging from turbine selection to power distribution to financing.

I would like livery companies to contribute their knowledge networks too.  What other Mayor in the world comes to office with a booster club of 50,000 enthusiastic livery supporters?  Already, the Information Technologists are looking at how we set a date to move to quantum-resistant computing, the Bankers are looking at economic crime, the World Traders at the space trade.  We are organising these intellectual themes into a webinar series of Phoenix Lectures sponsored by Mansion House but featuring as many livery companies as wish to participate.  We hope to have livery companies host relevant inward business delegations.  We hope to meet liverymen abroad on overseas trips.  We want to use the convening power of Mansion House to help increase livery membership. 

A surgeon friend of mine, actually a descendant of one of the surgeons in the Holbein painting behind me, teased me on email the other day about my Italian heritage.  He then moved on to wonder how long certain governments might last.  I replied, “Buon Natale!”

We know we are quite likely to have a tough winter ahead.  We know we face a lot of changes.  I trust in the health of our City, and I hope you do too.  Deep knowledge networks have combined opportunity and ingenuity in common purpose, to build afresh, new, global industries. 

On behalf of all guests may I ask everyone to join in drinking to the health of the Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers alias Wire Workers coupled with the name of the Master, Erica Stary.