The unveiling of the newest London memorial to the late Sir Simon Milton at Berkeley Group’s flagship One Tower Bridge development was quite an occasion. A large crowd made up of family, friends and colleagues drawn from the private and public sector including Sir Eddie Lister, Jackie Sadek, Pat Brown, Dame Gail Ronson, Mark Birley and many others from Westminster and the GLA turned out to pay tribute to Sir Simon, who died five years ago, aged just 49.
Simon Milton first made his mark as Leader of the London Borough of City of Westminster from 2000 to 2008 where he worked alongside his long term partner Cllr Robert Davis MBE. Then, when Boris Johnson was elected as London Mayor eight years ago, he became his Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning and then also Chief of Staff.
At Mishcon de Reya we remember Simon fondly as the star of our first City Hall debate to raise money for real estate charity LandAid and his image along with the other panel members has pride of place in my office (see image below). Those that knew Simon Milton often describe him as ‘self-effacing’. Boris Johnson in his speech talked about a man who had brilliant ideas ‘but didn’t need to claim them as his own’. He was, he said, one of the greatest civic leaders of his generation, if not the century! Mayor Boris praised Simon’s contribution to the early years of his administration and admits that he still thinks of him every day. Boris also pointed out, playfully, that Simon Milton now has more London statues than Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and John Milton! As it wouldn’t be a Boris speech without at least one classical reference, he told the gathering that he hoped the new mayoral regime wouldn’t adopt the Roman practice of ‘damnatio memoriae’ and destroy the statues erected during his mayoralty! If they do they will certainly have their work cut out as, at the last count, there were at least four memorials to Sir Simon to contend with, in addition to the new sculpture!
This new life-size sculpture, the work of acclaimed sculptor Phillip Jackson, is stunning. It captures Simon Milton incredibly well, which is all the more impressive when you hear from Cllr Robert Davis that Jackson never met Milton, and the likeness was created purely from photographs. When the One Tower Bridge development is completed, Sir Simon’s statue will sit peacefully in a landscaped garden area overlooking Tower Bridge, the Thames and, most fittingly, the GLA building.
In addition to Boris, we were addressed by an array of speakers each of whom knew Simon Milton well. Minister of State, Greg Clark MP explained that it was Simon who recruited him and gave him his first political role at City of Westminster. Tony Pidgley, chair of Berkeley Group, who commissioned the statue for their new One Tower Bridge development, also spoke warmly of a man who was always approachable, willing to listen and prepared to put ideas to Mayor Boris. In closing, Cllr Robert Davis admitted that Simon would most definitely have said no to the idea of commissioning the new sculpture. Nevertheless he would have been proud to see the great esteem in which his family, friends and colleagues hold his memory.