The Steeple Times’ debate ‘Should London go it alone and become the new Monaco?’ provoked heated discussion
On 22nd November at 12 Hay Hill in Mayfair, The Steeple Times gathered a panel that was expected to include the controversial columnist Katie Hopkins. She was kept away because of flooding on the train line she’d have to have taken from Devon to London, but instead what followed was far more heated than anything she’d have even said.
Assembled and seated after drinks, we brought together property mavern Nick Crayson, laywer and media personality Nancy Dell’Olio, top immigration lawyer Roger Gherson, financier Joaquin Lassala and tech pioneer James Pimentel-Pinto and let the fireworks commence.
With an audience of equally strong opinions – amongst them the firebrand Daily Mail columnist Alexis Parr, former ‘Flying Eye’ Russ Kane and staunch Brexiteer ex-headmistress Molly Bown – battle commenced when chairwoman Jackie Branston offered the question to the panel and room.
Roger Gherson was first to speak and suggested our politicians are destroying Britain’s ability to attract wealth. Seizing the funds of the moneyed classes and increasing stamp duty, he argued, is an entirely wrong approach to maintaining a successful economy. Surprisingly, given he’s an immigration lawyer, he announced he had voted for Brexit and added: “Don’t believe what you read in the papers as fact. What you read is just based on the bias of their respective owners”.
Spanish-Dutch Joaquin Lassala took an entirely different approach. He argued that an outflux of talent post-Brexit will kill London. “Foreigners don’t live off the system, they contribute”, he added. “Isolating London is not a solution”.
Nancy Dell’Olio explained though she’d been born in America and grown up in Italy, she perceives London to be her home. She blamed Gordon Brown for “destroying the success Tony Blair created” and championed the freedom of movement and democracy of Europe. She tempered this by suggesting that “London is different” and argued that “northerners worry more about immigration”.
Nick Crayson, a “lifelong Londoner”, took the view that “many sadly think ‘entrepreneur’ a dirty word” and suggested autonomy for London “would appeal”. He claimed to be an optimist for whatever will happen post-Brexit whilst James Pimentel-Pinto argued that “splitting London away from the rest of the country would be ridiculous”. He added: “People voted to get out of the EU, not out of Europe”.
Audience member and restaurateur Peter Godwin stepped up next and made the point that “leaving Europe has been nothing but negative”. He pointed out that we are now headed towards another war and that with Brexit and Trump in America, we are now in “unsteady times”.
Interjecting, Nick Crayson turned this on its head and suggested: “Be optimistic. Let’s f**k the blocs and think global”. He was immediately countered by Roger Gherson who remarked: “The rise of extremists is not because of Brexit, it’s because of the gap between the super rich and the rest of us becoming more extreme”.
A heated discussion about Romanian “peasant” immigrants followed at the behest of Jackie Branston and whilst Roger Gherson cautioned that “immigrants are human beings”, Alexis Parr challenged him and suggested it was “better to be egalitarian than PC”.
A joke about Ms Parr being “a woman whose bible is the Daily Mail” followed from Jackie Branston but with Peter Godwin claiming “we’re all foreigners” the discussion moved on to James Pimentel-Pinto pointing out that “the UK actually allows people to do their own thing wherever they’re from”. “It’s a melting pot and I wouldn’t have been accepted here given my dad’s Brazilian and my mum’s English if this country weren’t tolerant”, he added.
Next up, Nancy Dell’Olio told the room: “Democracy needs rules and not anarchy” and whilst American audience member Alyssa Sherman highlighted how “polarised” Britain has become post the referendum, Peter Godwin took the view that the vote had gone the way it had because those that voted in favour of leaving were people who subscribed to the view of “I don’t want to be told what to do”.
Referencing how he employees 53 staff – of whom only one is English – Godwin asked: “Is London that special?” and told of the benefits of immigration. He was countered immediately by Molly Bown. She announced: “I’m delighted by Brexit and London will continue to boom. Thirty years ago Monaco was superb. It isn’t now and London will always win two hands over. The banks will stay and we will boom and boom again”.
Crayson returned to remark: “I hate the fear press. Americans will have a far tougher time with Trump” but Alexis Parr came back at him. She stated: “Poor England. Our cities are flooded with immigrants” and immediately after incurring the wrath of Joaquin Lassala, added: “You are a NIMBY. Residents cannot get their children into schools”.
Again interjecting, Crayson responded to an audience member who highlighted how disillusioned the majority of the populous are, by saying: “Go for change. Give it a go. Don’t trust the polls. We’ve nothing to risk”. He was met with criticism from Roger Gherson who concluded: “We need to decide what kind of society we actually want to live in”.
This was quite a fun evening. I love 12 Hay Hill as a venue where wine is poured and you wonder where the rest of it got to! I had Peter sat next to me who had some serious wine giggles and laughed at all Nick Crayson said. I then met Christine (fun lady) who seemed bereft of food as she hungrily munched on bowl nuts and bites and talked at the same time while some ricocheted off my face! Then I spoke to the legend to a top school aka Molly Bown and her friend, both had links to Oxford. Molly once lived in a fine house owned by St. John’s College. Very nice. Upon leaving Molly’s friend said she was too shy to say goodbye to our dual host Matthew Steeples and quietly left. Finally as guest figures dwindled myself, Christine and Jackie went downstairs and onto the terrace where she could smoke! I ordered a much needed bloody mary and we joined two club members smoking cigars where we had a few laughs.