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Politics review #3

Catch up on the latest local politics with our first politics update of 2016.


The true austerity

All politics is local.
Tip O’Neill

Happy new year, and welcome back to the world of Bristol politics. A lot has happened in the last month and a half – here are the highlights:

  • In less than four months, Bristolians will go to the polls to elect the Mayor of Bristol (currently George Ferguson), the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (currently Sue Mountstevens), and all 70 local councillors. You can read more about the upcoming elections here.
  • 2016 marks the end of Bristol’s tenure as European Green Capital. George Ferguson, unsurprisingly, thinks it has been a great success. But has it really? Bristol 24/7 investigates.
  • Long serving councillor Ron Stone (St George West, Labour) died on December 31 after a short illness. Tributes were paid by figures including George Ferguson, Kerry McCarthy and Marvin Rees. He was first elected in 1985.
  • December saw the House of Commons vote to authorise airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria. Here’s how local MPs voted, with links to some of them explaining their reasons for whatever decision they made:
ConstituencyMPPartyVoted
BathBen HowlettConFor
Bristol EastKerry McCarthyLabAgainst
Bristol North WestCharlotte LeslieConFor
Bristol SouthKarin SmythLabAgainst
Bristol WestThangam DebbonaireLabUnable to vote
Filton and Bradley StokeJack LoprestiConFor
KingswoodChris SkidmoreConFor
North East SomersetJacob Rees-MoggConFor
North SomersetLiam FoxConFor
Thornbury and YateLuke HallConFor
Weston-super-MareJohn PenroseConFor
Find your MP here. Read more about all of them here.
  • Thangam Debbonaire, Labour MP for Bristol West who was diagnosed with breast cancer less than two months after her election in May, is now in recovery and easing back into work. She hopes to return full-time to Westminster by May. You can read her interview with the Bristol Post here, and you can read her blog post about what her job actually involves here.

    Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire shows Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn around Bristol on his visit in October. He was in the city to support Mayoral candidate Marvin Rees (third from left). Photo by BBC.
    Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire shows Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn around Bristol on his visit in October. He was in the city to support mayoral candidate Marvin Rees (third from left).
    Photo: BBC.
  • The good news doesn’t stop there for Debbonaire, as she’s been promoted to the opposition frontbench. She will be a Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, under the leadership of the new Shadow Secretary of State Maria Eagle, who was recently moved from the Shadow Defence brief as part of the “revenge reshuffle″ to replace the “disloyal″ Michael Dugher. Debbonaire, a former professional cellist, wrote on her website that she was “thrilled to bits″ at her appointment. Her position is fairly minor (she won’t be attending shadow cabinet meetings), and she will only sit on the frontbench during Culture, Media and Sport questions in the House of Commons, remaining on the backbenches in other occasions. She joins fellow Bristol Labour MPs Kerry McCarthy (Shadow Environment Secretary) and Karin Smyth (parliamentary private secretary to Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander) in working under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
  • The aforementioned Kerry McCarthy has been busy in her capacity as Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs holding the government to account over its handling of the floods.
  • North Somerset MP and former Defence Secretary Liam Fox became one of the most senior Conservative MPs to come out in support of leaving the EU in the upcoming in/out referendum. See his reasons for doing so here.
  • The Green Machine is back in town! Green party leader Natalie Bennett has already come to Bristol twice in the past month to meet with local activists and mayoral candidate Tony Dyer. Privately, senior Greens concede that they don’t expect to win the mayoral race this year, and are instead playing the long game for 2020. They do, however, hope to win a number of council seats, having more than doubled their representation on the council last May. But has the election of left-wing Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader stolen the Greens’ selling point as an anti-austerity party? Could this, to adapt Hobsbawm, be the forward march of the Greens halted?

    (Left to Right): Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson with mayoral candidates Marvin Rees (Labour) and Tony Dyer (Green). Photo by @TonyDDyer, Twitter
    (Left to right): Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson with mayoral candidates Marvin Rees (Labour) and Tony Dyer (Green).
    Photo by @TonyDDyer, Twitter
  • Three mayoral candidates put aside their differences to partake in a climate change march, and a good photo even came of it.
  • A sexism row erupted between two city councillors over the use of the word chairmen. This dispute later grew to include a third councillor. Read all about it here. (Warning: industrial language)
  • Last month I raised the possibility of 16-year olds being given the vote in the upcoming EU referendum. Ultimately, this won’t be the case.
  • UKIP watch: still no sign of a mayoral candidate!
  • Mogg watch: MP for North East Somerset Jacob Rees-Mogg spoke in parliament to oppose England getting its own national anthem to sing at sporting events. He criticised Jerusalem, the favourite to become the new English national anthem, as it didn’t include a reference to Jesus visiting his constituency. You can read his amusing speech here.
  • Bristol 24/7 reports that Mayor George Ferguson is the most-followed local government leader on Twitter. What does this mean for the mayoral race? Not a lot, I’d imagine.
  • Ferguson has promised to pedestrianise parts of the Old City if elected to a second term as Mayor.
  • I have yet to profile any of the mayoral candidates, so in the meantime why not read this article to get acquainted with the contenders. The piece seems to have caused a bit of a storm, with fringe candidate Paul Saville writing a response on the same website. Oh, the drama.
  • Speaking of the candidates, here are the latest odds on the mayoral race:
Latest odds on 2016 Mayoral Election
CandidateOdds
George Ferguson (Bristol 1st)1/2
Marvin Rees (Labour)2/1
Charles Lucas (Conservative)16/1
Tony Dyer (Green)50/1
Kay Barnard (Liberal Democrat)100/1
Laurence Duncan (Independent)100/1
John Langley (Independent)200/1
Paul Saville (Independent)200/1
Christine Townsend (Independent)200/1
Don’t understand odds? See here.
Source: Ladbrokes, as of 18 January 2016