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An Independent mayor for Bristol?

Category:Spark life
Posted by: Darryl on 16/05/2012

Darryl finds out what one of the candidates for Bristol's first elected mayor is up to.
If truth be told, the whole debate around Bristol having an elected mayor has left me a bit cold. I actually voted against having an elected mayor: yes, I was one of the 24% of the local electorate who bothered to turn out the other Thursday and express my opinion. However although that percentage was scant, slightly more than half of them disagreed with me and so, this coming November, we will return to the polls to choose who will lead the city for the next four years.

So far around half a dozen people have thrown their hats into the ring - including Bristol's LibDem MP Stephen Williams, Labour activist Marvin Rees and, for George Galloway's Respect party, Paulette North. But of those who have raised their heads above the parapet only red-trousered architect, philanthropist and saviour of Southville George Ferguson has, it seems, started to engage with the public - holding a meeting on May 14 to outline his ideas and begin building a campaign team.

It was a packed house: the meeting was originally intended for the small Green Room of the Tobacco Factory but the dozens of people who turned up forced George and his team to take over the whole café-bar area. I went along to that meeting, principally because I quite like George (he's always been perfectly pleasant to me every time we've met) but also to find out just what his vision is for Bristol. The usual suspects were present (Richard Jones of Tangent Books, Mike Zeidler of the Happy City initiative, June Burroughs – formerly of the Pierian Centre – and Paul Rainger of Forum for the Future included) meaning that George would be guaranteed a pretty easy ride from a liberal/left-leaning, highly sympathetic audience…although one or two dissenting locals did make him squirm occasionally.

“What we’ve got now is a really exciting and challenging task,” George announced to his audience. “A City can be changed by a moment like this. I want to make local politics about local people, not about national government. It’s important that the people of Bristol vote for someone who cares about Bristol and cares about them.” Clearly I am going to be more interested in backing a candidate who shares at least some of my own opinions on environmental issues and the green agenda, but I’m also very concerned about where all of the money is going to come from to pay for expensive elections, wages for office staff and so on. It was great to hear George say that the only paid position available would be for a campaign manager: everyone else backing him would be an unpaid volunteer.

What impressed me most was his assertion that he would be independent and would draw on the best talent available to help run the city: “The last thing I want to do is create yet another political party. I’m as independent as they come; no-one tells me how to think.” He insisted that he wants to run an open, fair campaign that will not resort to name calling:  I don’t want to win on the basis of dirty politics; I want to run an ethical campaign that works for all. Let’s respect our opponents, because we may be working with them afterwards.”

Although he didn’t go into too many details, George made it clear that urban regeneration would be one of his main priorities and that he saw an elected mayor as able to attract new business and, crucially, new investment to the city. “What matters to me,” he said, “is that we use the talent in this city to make it a better place. I want to identify the people who are passionate about this city and give them the resources they need.”

My personal opinion is that if we are going to have a mayor then we should try and make sure that it is someone passionate and independent. So far the only potential candidate that fits that bill is George Ferguson. Unlss a better candidate comes along I know where I’ll be putting my ‘x’ in a few month’s time.

Follow George Ferguson on Twitter @georgefergusonx

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