Monday, 7 May 2012

Make the Bristol Mayor Work for Us

It was a disappointing turnout on Thursday 3rd May for the referendum to vote yes or no for a Bristol Mayor. Apparently only 24% actually bothered to vote and although it resulted in a win for the yes campaign it was thanks to only 13% of registered voters. With very few people showing any interest in the referendum one has to wonder just what the future holds for the upcoming mayoral elections whenever they might be.

Whether it is voting in local and general elections, or a referendum, I take the right to vote seriously. For decades here in the UK  we fought for the right to vote, but even in the 21st century various governments of other nations deny their citizens that one inalienable right that should be available to all either by decree, or intimidation with view to steering elections in their favour. It galls me that here in the UK this right which is denied to so many and had to be fought for is cast aside for trivial apathetic excuses. The importance of voting for people to run the local and national affairs is why I voted yes for a Bristol Mayor. It is irrelevant now whether you voted no or stayed away altogether, the city has been given an historic opportunity to have a say in how it is run and by whom, and to hold that person accountable if they fail to live up to their promises.

I once joked on Twitter that the appeal of a Bristol mayor is we could have our very own "Red" Ken Livingstone. From everything I have read plus a couple of visits to our fair capital indicated to me that he was doing a grand job, clean streets, efficient transport (never once encountered a late tube train) and plenty of police on patrol. It was certainly safe to roam the streets late at night. This is what Bristol needs and deserves of its first mayor. Of course I also stated that the downside is that Bristol stands an equal chance of electing its own Boris, a thought that still sends shivers down my spine.   However what it does emphasize is that if Bristol citizens want what's best for the city then it is important to get off the sidelines, shrug off our usual political cynicism and start taking an interest in local politics.

Now that we have this remarkable opportunity what is needed is a mayor who really will put Bristol first. For me this means that they should;
  • not be affiliated to any political party. I am an avid Labour supporter but would be hesitant in backing a Labour candidate for Mayor. A partisan mayor will take his/her orders from the party hierarchy which is not always conducive to what is best for the city

  • in no way serve or be supported by big businesses. Let's face it when politics and business team up ordinary people and small businesses lose out. An elected official with support from big businesses will most definitely have their interests at heart. We know all too well what happens when a business is keen to secure prime property and has the means to bypass or overturn planning regulations

  • be Bristol residents. Now this might seem a little xenophobic (for want of a better term) but it is important for Bristol's mayor to be from Bristol, or lived here long enough to know the city very well.
It doesn't matter now if you voted yes or no, or just sat on the apathetic sidelines, this is the system of local government that we now have and to get the best changes for the city it is vital to get involved.

Image Credits BackBoris2012

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