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Posts Tagged ‘mayor’

The Cost of Living

Labour has decided that councillors in Bristol should preserve democracy by ensuring that there is a constructive opposition on the council. The debate about that decision is raging in plenty of other places, I want to think about what constructive opposition might mean. Opposition is easy, highlighting the mayor’s mistakes (which there are bound to be, no-one is perfect), use the council structures to frustrate his plans (very difficult given the power’s of a mayor) and use any opportunity to criticise.

Being constructive is more difficult. But being constructive is what is required and needed by the City. Below are a few ideas but there are bound to be more:

Scrutiny and overview. The scrutiny committees have struggled to find a role. Labour could use them as they were intended to look in detail at key issues, to engage with experts and citizens (these overlap of course – seeks Venn diagram) to develop policies to propose to the Mayor and or develop feasible alternatives to his policies (even he admits he doesn’t have many beyond urban design where his views are pretty sound so there is plenty of scope to influence).

The full council meeting: This meeting is and always has been the worse of the council, its structure, indeed the layout of the room encourages bad behaviour. It is also the place where members of the media and even sometimes the public attend and is thought to typify the way the council works, whereas it is often a twisted parody of what people expect of politicians. Labour needs to avoid falling to the trap of this meeting, using it to showcase policy proposals rather than loutish tribalism.

Mayoral commissions: It seems likely the mayor will establish policy commissions. We should encourage Labour members and supporters with the necessary expertise to play a full role in this, they will be an excellent opportunity to promote progressive policies.

Outside the council Labour should not concentrate on leaflets attacking the Mayor. The – door knocking which is solely about identifying peoples’ traditional support has limited value. The work with the citizens of Bristol needs to be a discussion rather than an opinion poll. The work Marvin Rees started at the beginning of his campaign needs to be continued. Holding meetings open to the general public on issues of importance to seek solutions to the cities problems, having a real debate with local people. These could be in large groups in meeting rooms and halls or among a small group in someone’s living room.

Constructive opposition’s aim is not to disagree and resist but to persuade and influence. It is not about focussing on the here and now but also about preparing for the future.

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Yeah Yeah Yeah

I’m voting for an elected Mayor for Bristol because
1) We need someone with the democratic legitimacy to speak for the whole city not just one political party
2) We should have someone who can be selected by the whole city not just a few councillors acting in secret with vested interests in the result
3) We should have a system where the most talented people in the City can seek to be the leader of the city not just drawn from people who can afford to be councillors
4) The mayoral system is already seeing powers moving from national to local government, the more city mayors we have the stronger voice there is for this
5) We need someone who draws votes from all of the city and doesn’t ignore areas where their party can’t win wards
6) Bristol council is in a rut it needs shaking up

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Following huge demand – well one request – above is my speech to the Bristol Labour Party on the case for an elected mayor for the city.

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An elected Mayor would have power, the Lord Mayor can keep the outfit

May 2011 could see Bristol finally having its referendum on an elected Mayor.  The current crop of councillors are opposed as it is a threat to their power but with the policy being promoted by the coalition Government the vast majority may find themselves caught by a pincer movement from their national parties.

I have always supported the idea of a mayor. The council’s current leader is selected by just over 30 councillors, in recent years when there has been a challenge the actual number supporting a leader has been as low as 17 people within their own political group prior to a council meeting.  17 people deciding who speaks for half a million!

Someone who has been put up for a universal city election has a clear responsibility to all Bristolians not just those in their ward.  They would be subject to scrutiny by the media prior to the election, in London they had televised candidate debates and they would have unrivalled authority (with amandate greater than that of the MPs) to speak for Bristol on the national stage.  It would also be clear where the buck stops.

The system of elected mayors is criticised by some as being an American model of politics but it is also standard practise in Europe where the City state lasted much longer than in Britain.

This is one Coalition policy which I will be supporting but will Bristol’s Lib Dems and Conservatives?

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