London’s number one

The Lord Mayor of Westminster Susie Burbridge with her children and consorts Charlotte and James
The Lord Mayor of Westminster Susie Burbridge with her children and consorts Charlotte and James
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IT is one of the world’s most famous seats of power, an area of central London that is home to the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Downing Street.

IT is one of the world’s most famous seats of power, an area of central London that is home to the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Downing Street.

And as the newly appointed Lord Mayor of Westminster, Sheffield girl Susie Burbridge is its very first citizen.

The British Government must stand for her. Barack Obama has bowed to her. Condoleezza Rice has dined with her.

Not bad for a lass from Dobbin Hill, Ecclesall.

“It is such a special privilege,” she says today at her Westminster City Hall office. “You meet incredible, inspirational people every day. And really it’s quite amusing - I’m the first citizen which means officially, apart from the Royal Family, everyone must stand for me. I’m very proud.”

Her ceromonial duties include chairing council meetings and representing the authority to the wider world - but there has been more to this mother-of-two’s life than pomp, politics and American presidents.

In her Sheffield teens she dated legendary Wednesday footballer Peter Eustace, drank with pop star Joe Cocker and was one of the most popular scenesters at the city’s first nightclub, Penny Farthing.

It has, she says, been quite some journey.

And one which started, it seems, with said footballer.

“I left Sheffield to move to London in 1969 to get away from Peter really,” says Susie, who refuses to reveal her age but admits she has recently collected her free travel pass. “We are still friends to this day but we had dated for four years and I was terribly in love with him, and he was... a footballer – you know what they’re like – and I needed to get away from him. Sheffield was Peter.”

The former Hunter’s Bar Junior School pupil, whose last name was Sullivan, packed her bags and moved to a friend’s flat in London.

She was in her early 20s and opened a travel shop in the city when she met future husband Jeffrey Burbridge.

The pair stayed married 20 years, having two children – current Lord Mayor consorts James and Charlotte – but it was after they split up, and with Susie looking for a new challenge, her career in politics began.

She worked for Conservative MP for Billericay Teresa Gorman for eight years from 1990, working on everything from European fishing policy to encouraging more women to run for parliament, before being elected to Westminster Council in 1998.

Then, last December, having campaigned tirelessly on improving the area’s social housing, environmental credentials and its cityscape, she was nominated to be the authority’s 2011-12 Lord Mayor.

While in the post she will raise money for four separate charities but it is perhaps that meeting President Obama which is her most treasured memory so far.

As Lord Mayor she is also Deputy High Steward of Westminster Abbey, and, as such, she was on hand, when he laid a wreath there during his visit to the UK in May.

“We were introduced and he said he was very humbled to meet me,” says Susie. “Which took the words out of my mouth because that’s exactly what I was going to say to him. He was so humble and ordinary, and so was Mrs Obama who was very interested in the Lord Mayor’s charity work.”

She also dined opposite Condoleezza Rice during a recent dinner in remembrance of Ronald Reagan.

“She is such an inspiration I could listen to her all day,” says Susie.

She thinks for a second. “I do have to pinch myself sometimes but really I have worked hard and I am in my element.”