I’m voting for George, me
There’s a convention in local journalism that you’re not supposed to take sides in politics. You’re meant to be a neutral observer, and cultivate contacts with all parties.
It’s always suited me. Taking sides is fine when it comes to national and international politics, but it’s not so useful when you do it on the local level.
There are admirable, competent, scrupulously honest and hard-working councillors in all the parties on Bristol City Council. There are idiots, time-servers and weirdoes in the three bigger ones, too. (Two Green cllrs don’t represent a valid sample. Bristol Green Party remains entirely admirable for the time being.)
So it’s in as impartial a spirit as I can muster that I’ve tried right hard to consider all our mayoral candidates on their respective merits.
The four main parties have each put forward a plausible candidate. Geoff Gollop (Con), Jon Rogers (LD) and Daniella Radice (Green) are all good contenders. For what it’s worth, I reckon Geoff Gollop, from all the main party candidates, would probably do the best job. I say this having never voted Tory in me life.
However, if the polls and all the Twitternoise are to be believed, the front-runners are Marvin Rees (Labour) and George Ferguson. Ferguson is an independent, but has started his own party, and some folks get cross if you call him an independent.
Marvin Rees is a charismatic and thoroughly decent man. You can see how the Labour machine took a shine to him. That’s the problem, though – the Labour machine. He’s already said that his cabinet will only include Labour people.
Again, there are lots of good Labour people in Bristol. Marvin Rees is one of the best, though I can think of at least two other local Labour activists who would bring more muscle and experience to the job. A Labour mayor with a purely Labour cabinet probably won’t achieve much. It would be a waste of a fantastic opportunity to do things differently and better – and that includes bringing in talent from all over the shop, not giving jobs to some of the frankly useless people prominent in the local Labour party (as well as the good ones) just because they’re big Labour cheeses.
There is, and has been for some years now, a growing sense of Bristol exceptionalism. This narrative, shaped by individuals and organisations as diverse as the Bristol Partnership, the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, the Bristol Festival of Ideas and many others is that Bristol does things differently. Bristol is more innovative, creative, more likely to think outside the box (whatever that means.)
It does Bristol no harm to have this image; it helps sell the place to tourists and investors. It gives us a distinct personality. Being the only city to vote in favour of elected mayors in the national referendum has reinforced that sense of difference. So let’s see it through properly and elect someone different from the usual crowd, and not just make Bristol a fiefdom of some national political party.
This is why I want George Ferguson to be our mayor.
I want him to be our mayor because down the years he’s demonstrated a creative approach turning areas around. None of the other candidates have a better understanding of Bristol’s built environment and its potentials.
I want George Ferguson to be our mayor because, as former RIBA President, he has some national stature. I believe he will be far better at thumping the table on Bristol’s behalf in Whitehall than almost all the other candidates. (The Tory guy would also be good at this, while the LD might be able to demand some compensatory scraps. A Labour mayor will probably get no favours at all; this is not a reason to not vote Labour, of course, but just saying.)
I want George Ferguson to be our mayor because he’s been an active citizen of Bristol for 40 years. Some of that time was as a Liberal councillor and Parliamentary candidate. His understanding of local issues is more fluent than that of most other contenders. (Also, this dreary smear that Ferguson is “still a Lib Dem” from the Labour camp is nonsensical. By the same logic then I’m “still a Labour voter”.)
I want George Ferguson to be our mayor because he is not in hock to national politics, and because he says his cabinet will be made up of able people from all over the shop. He can potentially achieve more because of that. I believe he will make more things happen to bring investment and jobs here than any of the others.
I want George Ferguson to be our mayor because he’s in a stronger position than any of the others to carve out an authoritative role for the new mayor, and give Bristol a strong independent voice in the national arena.
I want George Ferguson to be our mayor because he, more than any other candidate, will make Bristol a more interesting and fun place to live in.
This election represents a brilliant opportunity for Bristol, and we need to vote in someone who puts Bristol before party politics.
Hopefully, this election will not see Bristolians voting according to how much they like/hate the parties nationally. Hopefully they will vote for Bristol, and in my humble, the best way to do that is to vote for the man in the red trousers.
Good guide to the mayoral elections here: http://www.bristol247.com/bristol-mayor-and-pcc-elections/
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