The candidates for elected mayor line up
July 16, 2012
With Bristol mayoral elections in November, candidates are beginning to declare and at first glance it looks like we’ll have plenty of choice. There’s a lot of visioning and aspiration floating around between them, but not much on policy. Maybe when we see actual manifestos we’ll get some proper ideas to consider. So far this is what we’ve got…
The Conservatives and Lib Dems have yet to declare a candidate, but, contrary to earlier reports, Bristol West MP Stephen Williams announced he won’t stand, fearing an ‘extremely vicious’ campaign against him. This has scared him off despite claiming ‘my name recognition is incredibly high, and polling shows people have a positive opinion of me in Bristol’. How odd that apparently so popular a politician should be so afraid of an election. This week he said fears over benefit cuts ‘wouldn’t appear to apply in Bristol’ because ‘Bristol is one of the most prosperous parts of the country’. It can only be good news that he’s too chicken to stand for mayor.
Marvin Rees is the Labour candidate. He’s 40, works in public health and is favourite according to the local press. His priorities are apprenticeships, childcare, making Bristol a ‘living wage city’ and sorting out the city’s transport. He’s young, which attracts accusations of political naivety, but has a strong political academic background as well as experience in Bill Clinton’s team. One of the few Bristolian candidates, he grew up in one of the poorest parts of the city.
Paulette North is the Respect party candidate. She’s a rights campaigner, vice chair of Avon and Bristol Law Centre and an anti-cuts activist. Unlike the others she’s given some detail about policy challenges including restoring the education maintenance allowance, apprenticeships with proper rates of pay, council tax replaced with income tax based on ability to pay, restoring cuts to community funding, improved care for older people, and improving public transport. She would only accept the average working wage as mayor.
Architect George Ferguson is an independent, but was previously a Lib Dem councillor. He wants to make Bristol greener, healthier, more democratic and better educated. Talks a lot about vision and listening, keen on red trousers and self-promotion. He’s constantly attributed with gentrifying my neighbourhood by installing a trendy café, whilst ignoring the coterminous rise of the local secondary school from sink to Bristol’s most-oversubscribed comprehensive through an incredible head teacher. Seriously, people don’t move house for frothy coffee.
Businessman and independent Andy Thorne is likely to get significant support from the business community. He wants to challenge planning bureaucracy, claiming Bristol loses development work because firms find it easier to work elsewhere. He lost an expensive dispute over a planning decision, which may be driving him a little, but through it he had the support of many Bristolians who felt the planning department showed ignorance of the city’s history, so that old wound it might work in his favour. He wants to take a simplistic view and run the council more efficiently and more logically.
Tim Collins, an independent candidate and former Labour and Conservative councillor, is standing on a single issue to save Filton airfield. His website invites you to post ‘one thought about Tim Collins’. Other than that it simply says (over and over) that he wants to save Filton Airfield, which, as it’s in South Gloucestershire, didn’t give me any information with which to form a single thought about him.
Former Conservative councillor Spud Murphy is an independent who says he won’t claim a salary if elected. He’s a plain speaking old warhorse and not afraid to upset people. He was a popular councillor but possibly too closely associated with party politics to escape the tarnish.
Eric Mutch, who is changing his name to Mr Corrupt Self-serving Lying B’stard, plans to print a Bristol pound (and I’m guessing probably quicker than the one in the pipeline) to pay all Bristolians 15k a year funded through a tax on spending. Lovely campaign slogan ‘Free Money for Everyone’. He has some entertaining videos on Youtube, where he doesn’t come across half as barking as you might expect.
Craig Clarke is starting the ‘state-educated party’ which will outlaw privately educated people from working in the public sector. Recently arrested for possession of drugs and assault, he’s tried to fund previous attempts at political power through rides in his sports car for a fiver. Let’s hope he’s got 100 friends to cover his deposit.
It looks like a long list but in my view there are two independent and two political candidates with any credibility. One thing seems clear from general conversations, discussion boards and the press is that people don’t want a political mayor because they feel that Bristol’s politics are poisonous and have held the city back for decades. Take that into account and we’ve got a long way to go to get a good selection to choose from..