Peter Scott - Demonstrating the way forward
Only six weeks ago during the Carnival against Capitalism, colleagues of mine watched as a car burned immediately behind our City office. It was a sight to concentrate the mind.
We found the demonstration caused a mass of contradictory views amongst our senior clients. While few felt the demonstration itself was likely to have done much damage to London’s reputation as a financial centre, opinions polarised on what the authorities could or should have done, and on what they ought to do were there to be a repeat.
Since then we have had two reports on how the authorities coped, but what of City views beyond anecdote?
Prompted by this debate we thought it would be interesting to seek the views of a key City group.
We commissioned independent researchers to ask the opinions of CEOs, MDs or directors of the top 25 investment banks of which 60% were contacted. Their willingness to talk to the researchers showed that the impact and handling of the event was a matter of genuine public interest.
What did we learn? The results are significant but perhaps not surprising. Understandably, there was much more concern about the possibility of a repeat demonstration than there was about the original event.
A total of 80% called for a firmer response from the authorities, should there be a repetition, whereas nearly 50% believed the authorities reacted appropriately first time round.
On the whole, the financial community seemed prepared to take the event philosophically and the general feeling was against ‘draconian’ measures by the authorities, favouring astute intelligence and swift reaction.
It is a good thing in our society that people can assemble and demonstrate over issues which arguably impinge on us all; what they should not be allowed to do is cause gratuitous harm to others in the process. Sadly, to achieve that probably requires more intervention by the authorities if there is ever a next time round.
Peter Scott is the London managing partner of Eversheds.