Bristol mayoral election 2016: all you need to know

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Bristol City Hall, where the new mayor will be based. Photo by Nilfanion (Wikimedia Commons)

Bristol City Hall, where the new mayor will be based.
Photo by Nilfanion (Wikimedia Commons)

Welcome to Berkeley Squares‘s special feature on the 2016 Bristol mayoral election, which takes place this Thursday 5 May. In this article, I have explained how this elections works, I have written about who’s running and who’s likely to win, and to top it all off I have written a summary of a hustings I attended.

If you want to find out about the other elections taking place on the same day, I have written another piece for that here. There is a lot of information on the Bristol City Council website should you need it.

How does the mayoral election work?
  • Everyone has two votes which they can use to indicate which candidate is their first choice, and which candidate is their second choice.
  • If a candidate gets over 50% of the vote in the first round, they win the election and become the Mayor of Bristol.
  • If no one reaches that 50% threshold, then the two candidates who received the most first preferences remain while all the other candidates are eliminated.
  • The second preferences of all the people who voted for the eliminated candidates are counted.
  • Any additional second preference votes for the remaining two candidates are added to their existing first preference vote totals, while second preferences votes for any eliminated candidates are discarded.
  • The first and second preference votes for the remaining two candidates are now counted. Whichever candidate now has the most votes overall wins the election and becomes the Mayor of Bristol.

In 2012, George Ferguson won 35% of the vote, followed by Marvin Rees on 29%, Geoff Gollop on 9%, Jon Rogers on 7%, and Daniella Radice on 6%. Ten other candidates also ran, but all received less than three per cent of the vote. Since Ferguson and Rees were the two candidates with the two most votes, everyone else was eliminated and they remained. After second preferences were transferred to the two remaining candidates, Ferguson ended up with 54.4% against Rees with 45.6%. Only 6094 votes separated them in the final round. Turnout was just under 28%.

Who’s running?

In this year’s election there’s a field of thirteen candidates, five of whom also ran in 2012: current mayor George Ferguson, runner-up Marvin Rees of Labour, TUSC’s Tom Baldwin, and Independents Tony Britt and Stoney Garnett.

Quite helpfully, all of the candidates have been interviewed by the Bristol Post and Bristol 24/7, and for Bristol 24/7 they’ve all recorded a one-minute video and written a piece explaining why they should be mayor. I have also linked their websites (or equivalent) so you can explore their policies in detail. I’d recommend the one-minute video if you just want to get a sense of who some of the main candidates are. I’ve also written a brief profile of all of the candidates if you don’t want to read all the interviews. To indicate how likely each of the candidates are to win the election, I’ve added their odds according to Ladbrokes, as well their percentage chance.1 If you don’t understand how odds work, this is quite a good explainer.

In all honesty, most of the mainstream candidates’ policies are essentially the same, partly due to the limited powers available to the mayor, meaning that whoever wins will immediately get to work building more houses, delivering cleaner air, improving the transport system, and, excluding Ferguson and Dyer, launching a review into residents’ parking schemes (RPZs). It’s just a question of emphasis. However, there will be a lot of votes cast against Ferguson because of his support for RPZs and 20 mile-an-hour speed limits.

George Ferguson, the current Mayor of Bristol, Independent (Bristol 1st)

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol. Photo: PaulNUKCC BY 2.0

The New Statesman called him the ‘Marmite Mayor’ – loved and hated in equal measure – and they’re right. To call George Ferguson ‘divisive’ would be quite an understatement.

To some, he’s the charismatic “World Mayor” in the red trousers responsible for the Green Capital and other fun projects such as Make Sundays Special.

To others, he’s the tyrant of City Hall, hated far and wide for imposing 20 mile-an-hour speed limits and RPZs on the good people of Bristol against their will. His mayoral rival from the Liberal Democrats, Kay Barnard, jokingly references his former membership of her party by saying, “He may well still call himself a liberal, but he is most certainly not a democrat.”

Ferguson’s defence is that while he has made some unpopular decisions, at least he is getting stuff done, unlike the councils plagued by inertia that preceded him.

He stood for the newly created post of mayor of Bristol in 2012 “because of his frustration at watching progress being stunted by party politics.”

One of the reasons why he won in 2012 was because people wanted a truly independent mayor, rather than ‘politics as usual’ with any of the party candidates. He heads a ‘rainbow cabinet’ comprising city councillors from all the main parties who serve as deputy or assistant mayors. Marvin Rees now promises to include councillors from other parties in his cabinet if elected, having declined to do so when he ran in 2012.

Ferguson has been rewarded for his ‘Independence’ with support from across political lines, with Labour’s candidate for police and crime commissioner in 2012, a former Lib Dem Bristol City Council leader, and a group of seven Green Party members all urging the public to support him for a second term.

He has also been backed by a group of 41 local business people in a letter, praising his “clear vision for the future of the city” and for making “bold and brave decisions” which, whilst unpopular with some, “have been made to ensure that in the long term we will have a greener and more efficient infrastructure to allow everyone to participate in Bristol’s success”. They argue that “a change of Mayor at this point would be seriously detrimental to the future of our wonderful city of Bristol.”

But while he enjoyed underdog status in the last contest, this time he’s the clear target, as he likes to point out.

Judging by his campaign literature (see photo and article), Ferguson seems to think that the possibility of a return to the ‘bad old days’ of political “chaos” on the council will be enough to keep him in power.

George Robin Paget Ferguson first arrived in Bristol in 1965 to study architecture at the University of Bristol, and has lived here almost continuously since. He became a renowned architect, co-founding Ferguson Mann, and he has been behind a number of successful projects, such as the Royal William Yard in Plymouth, the Bristol Millennium Project, and the Tobacco Factory, above which he lives in a flat. He served for two years as president of the Royal Institute of British Architects and was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2010 for services to architecture and to the community in the South West. He was also a founding member of Sustrans and the founder of the Academy of Urbanism.

Ferguson was formerly a member of the Liberal Party (and after that the Liberal Democrats), and served on the Bristol City Council for two terms in the 1970s, but while he “went on the city council to change things” he “came off it totally disillusioned”. He stood twice for the parliamentary seat of Bristol West in the 1980s, back when it was still Tory (Stephen Williams eventually won the seat for the Liberal Democrats in 2005). After his second-place finish in 1987 he stayed out of party politics for twenty-five years, although he did serve as High Sheriff of Bristol for a year in the late 1990s.

In May 2012, a series of referendums were held in ten cities across the United Kingdom asking voters whether or not they wanted their city to be run by a directly-elected mayor. Nine of them said no. One said yes, which was, of course, Bristol, which split 53-47 in favour of mayors, albeit on a horrendously low turnout of 24%. Nevertheless, the proposals went ahead, and the date of the first election was set for November. Within the month, Ferguson had announced his intention to stand, resigning his membership of the Liberal Democrats in the process so that he could run as an independent. Sixth months later, he was the mayor of Bristol.

Ferguson has ruled out standing in 2020. He has said that his mission to make Bristol a better city will take longer than three and a half years, and so he is standing again to ‘finish the job’.

Even if you have a negative opinion of George Ferguson, try to go into this election with an open mind. This article on the New Statesman deals with Ferguson’s record in office quite fairly, and I’d recommend reading it to gain a balanced perspective of his accomplishments and failures. For a more critical take on Ferguson, try this piece. To hear from Ferguson himself, visit the website of Bristol 1st, the ‘party of one’ campaigning for his re-election as mayor. You can read his manifesto here. Bristol 24/7 has quite helpfully gone through his campaign promises in 2012 to see how he’s done, which you can read here.

Ladbrokes odds: 1/3, equivalent to 64%.

Video ‘Why I should be mayor’Bristol 24/7 interviewBristol Post interviewBerkeley Squares interview — Website

Mayoral rivals Marvin Rees (Labour, right) and Charles Lucas (Conservative, left) talking on stage after the Bristol 24/7 hustings.

Mayoral rivals Marvin Rees (Labour, right) and Charles Lucas (Conservative, left) talking on stage after the Bristol 24/7 hustings.

Marvin Rees, Labour

Three and a half years ago, the favourite to become the first directly-elected mayor of Bristol found himself standing on a stage behind George Ferguson, preparing to give a concession speech. He says realising that he had lost was a “painful feeling”, but, to him, the journey’s not over yet.

“The challenges are still there,” he says. “The challenges I am still passionate about.”

Rees, who works in public health, has a diverse CV, having worked for the BBC, charities, and even Bill Clinton’s spiritual adviser. He is a Yale World Fellow.

Rees tries to avoid political labels. While he voted for Andy Burnham in the Labour leadership election last year, he is happy to support Jeremy Corbyn, and has said that the Labour leader is asking “really important questions” about how the political and economic systems in Britain work.

He thinks Ferguson has done a good job advocating for Bristol on the world stage, but says he “focused on the wrong things,” and “while there’s been a fair amount of flamboyance, what we haven’t done is focus on issues that matter”.

Rees has a tendency to use political buzzwords quite a lot, and some of what he says can sound vague and meaningless, but when pressed for detail it’s clear that he knows what he’s talking about.

Inequality is at the heart of his campaign, having lived through it himself, growing up poor in Lawrence Weston and Easton. He cites striking statistics to help illustrate the scale of the issue: “Nearly a quarter of our children grow up in poverty and there are parts of the city that rank among the top 1 per cent most deprived in England. You can cross the border between Henleaze to Southmead and the life expectancy of people born in those areas drops by nine years. If you live in Clifton you have an 80 per cent chance of going to university. In Filwood it is five per cent.”

One of his key promises is to build 2000 houses a year, of which 800 will be affordable, by 2020. Another, perhaps designed to win the support of people unhappy with Ferguson’s transport policies, is to halt the expansion of RPZs and 20 mile-an-hour zones unless Neighbourhood Partnerships make an explicit request.

He has also pledged to lead a bid for Bristol to become the European Capital of Culture if elected mayor.

You can read his more detailed manifesto here.

Ladbrokes odds: 9/4, equivalent to 26%.

Video ‘Why I should be mayor’Bristol 24/7 interviewBristol Post interviewWebsite

Charles Lucas, Conservative

Charles Lucas, a 46-year old property developer, wine merchant, and Conservative councillor for Clifton, doesn’t see himself as a “career politician”. He thinks that “the current batch of career politicians leading the country,” which includes his party leader and Prime Minister David Cameron, “haven’t seen the real world,” while his business experience in the “real world” makes him better qualified and more equipped to provide “sound leadership” for the city. Lucas seems strangely detached from his party in London, telling the Bristol Post, “I’ve made it very clear that when [the results come in] on May 8 and you’re all suddenly wanting to talk to me, if Conservative Party central office all jump on the train and say ‘can we come and get some photographs?’ the answer will be no.”

As a property developer himself, Lucas thinks private development is the answer to Bristol’s housing crisis, and so he wants to relax planning laws, seeing this as the only way to end the city’s image as a “developer’s graveyard”. He is also in favour of social and council housing.

Lucas sounds most enthusiastic when discussing transport. He strongly supports MetroBus, but sees it as only a step in the right direction. While he suggests that the current administration doesn’t seem all that interested in the possibilities of rail, he wants a “substantial investment in rail” and is very keen on opening more lines and station. He hopes to bring in a Brunel Card (a Bristolian Oyster Card, an idea also floated by a number of other candidates) to create an integrated method of payment for transport around the city. Somewhat unexpectedly for someone who describes himself as “pro-motoristhe has always backed RPZs, and believes that opposition to them comes only from a vocal minority. Lucas’s campaign slogan is “Getting Bristol Moving”2, and he plans to review all 20 mile-an-hour zones and only keep them where needed.

Lucas is also making accountability a key part of his campaign. He has made clear his frustration with the balance of power between councillors and the mayor, believing that the ability of the mayor to overrule seventy elected councillors “has made a mockery of full council meetings”. To restore balance, he plans to introduce a new ‘Council veto’, where if 75% of councillors disagree with a mayoral decision they can block it and force the mayor to think again.

In 2012, the Conservative candidate only won nine per cent of the vote, so in this regard his chances don’t look that great. However, in the 2015 general election won almost 28% of the vote across the four parliamentary seats (see right), so he might stand a chance of getting into the final two, but Bristol is probably too left-wing a city to even consider voting for him (consider that Labour and the Greens together won 51% of the vote, and with the Lib Dems won over 60%. See also: Hustings Report below).

Ladbrokes odds: 33/1, equivalent to 2.5%.

Video ‘Why I should be mayor’Bristol 24/7 interviewBristol Post interviewWebsite

Tony Dyer, Green

Tony Dyer is hoping to continue the ‘Green surge’, which saw the party gain seven council seats last May and beat incumbent Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams to second place behind Labour in Bristol West – their second best result in the country. However, they only came fourth in Bristol East and Bristol South, and fifth in Bristol North West, achieving 14% of the parliamentary vote across the city (see above), well behind Labour and the Conservatives.

The Green party has been set back by a number of other difficulties. For instance, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in September stole their unique selling point as the only major anti-austerity party in Britain. Locally, a group of seven Green Party members declared their support for George Ferguson in a letter, forcing the party to fight back by launching a #TonyFirst campaign. Nevertheless, Dyer is confident that he stands a chance of winning. He made a well-received joke criticising Ladbrokes’ betting odds (see below) at a hustings event, saying , “I think it’s slightly ridiculous the odds that Labrokes have set on us. But just out of interest I’m at 33-1 so if every Bristolian put £10 on me it would generate £140 million. The people on Ladbrokes aren’t going to choose who runs this city, I think Bristolians will decide who is going to run this city.”

Dyer’s priorities are housing, transport, education and sustainable energy.

Ladbrokes odds: 33/1, equivalent to 2.5%.

Video‘Why I should be mayor’Bristol 24/7 interviewBristol Post interviewWebsite

Kay Barnard, Liberal Democrat

Kay Barnard thinks a ‘Lib Dem Fightback’ is in the works after the party’s dreadful general election last year, in which they retained only eight of their fifty-seven seats. There is an opening, she believes, after the Conservative party has “revealed its true colours” and returned to being the “nasty party” in government and Labour has shifted to the left under Jeremy Corbyn. Although George Ferguson might have been a member of her party as recently as four years ago, Barnard says “he may well still call himself a liberal, but he is most certainly not a democrat,” citing “the way he runs the council, the fact that he has all the power himself [and that he] does not delegate any of the powers at all.”

Her party has led the charge against Ferguson over his refusal to hand over accounts relating to the financial management of the Green Capital project.

Barnard, one of only two female candidates in the mayoral race, sees Bristol politics as “testosterone-fuelled” and “aggressive”, which she says is not how she works. Her leadership style is based around three Cs: cooperation, consultation and consensus.

She has set out her priorities in a “six to fix” manifesto, available here.

Ladbrokes odds: 100/1, equivalent to 0.84%.

Video ‘Why I should be mayor’Bristol 24/7 interviewBristol Post interviewWebsite

Paul Turner, UKIP
Turner isn’t your typical UKIP candidate. He doesn’t bang on about immigration, as one might expect, but instead sees his party as representing “common sense and practical solutions”. His three main policies are housing the homeless, conducting a review of RPZs and 20 mile-an-hour speed limits with local residents and businesses, and reprioritising council spending.

Ladbrokes odds: 100/1, equivalent to 0.84%.

Video‘Why I should be mayor’Bristol 24/7 interviewBristol Post interviewWebsite

Tom Baldwin, TUSC

Tom Baldwin is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate in the mayoral election. He is standing on an anti-cuts3 platform, promising to reverse all of the budget cuts implemented in the last three and a half years and to set an ‘illegal budget’, one which is not ‘balanced’. Were he to follow through with this promise, the central government could step in and take over the running of the council .

In his double-page spread in the voting information booklet sent to all registered voters across Bristol, I noticed that his name was written in a conspicuously similar way to how Jeremy Corbyn’s name was written in his leadership campaign logo as well as to the ‘Momentum’ symbol. When I asked Baldwin whether this was an attempt at subliminal messaging to get would-be Labour voters to back TUSC instead, he laughed, telling me that it was his campaign manager’s doing, not him, and that had he been responsible he wouldn’t have been as “cheeky”.4

On the topic of Labour, Baldwin said he thought that Marvin Rees and the Bristol Labour Party weren’t offering enough of an alternative to austerity, and so he decided to stand. He stood in 2012 as well, finishing tenth of fifteen with 1412 votes (1.6%). But with Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party, the tide might well have turned, and I’m sure Baldwin is hoping to improve on his last result.

Ladbrokes odds: 200/1, equivalent to 0.42%.

Video ‘Why I should be mayor’Bristol 24/7 interviewBristol Post interviewWebsite

Tony Britt, Independent

Tony Britt is running for Mayor of Bristol for the second time, having finished third last in 2012 with less than one per cent of the vote. He cares a lot about young people, promising to set up a ‘legacy pot’ to pay for their education. He is particularly passionate about parents not being able to see their children.

Ladbrokes odds: 200/1, equivalent to 0.42%.

Video ‘Why I should be mayor’Bristol 24/7 interviewBristol Post interviewWebsite

Stoney Garnett, Independent

Stoney Garnett is a comedian, known for being a huge Bristol City fan, who is running for Mayor of Bristol as an Independent for the second time. In the past has been a football referee and a postman. While George Ferguson is best known for his red trousers, Mr Garnett is usually wearing a bright red fedora. He told Bristol 24/7, “We’re going from red trousers to red hat, that’s what I say. Except I’m already fed up of hearing it, to be honest.”

One of his policies is to scrap cycle lanes, believing them a waste of money. He also disagrees with RPZs. Garnett plans to declare a ‘war on waste’ in the City Council.

At a recent hustings, to which he brought a magic wand, he told the audience: “I’ve gotta say, George you took a lot of flack in the last three-and-a-half years, I don’t think you was wrong all the time, but I’m going to try and put some of the things where you was wrong right again over the next four years.”

When he ran in 2012, he won 1413 votes (1.6%) coming ninth out of fifteen candidates.

Ladbrokes odds: 200/1, equivalent to 0.42%.

Video ‘Why I should be mayor’Bristol 24/7 interviewBristol Post interview

Mayor Festus Kudehinbu, Independent

In 1956, four years into her reign, Queen Elizabeth went on an official Commonwealth visit to Nigeria. With her went a number of mayors of British towns and cities. For some reason, after this visit ‘Mayor’ became a fashionable boys’ name in Nigeria. Sixty years later, one such child, Mayor Festus Kudehinbu, now a 58-year old cab driver living in St Paul’s, is standing in the race to become Bristol’s next mayor.

Kudenhinbu, who served in the Nigerian military for ten years and moved to Bristol in 1985, said that he was “urged” by God “to get into the race so that the voice of the minorities [could] be heard”. He hopes to open more park and ride sites across Bristol, and is against RPZs and 20 mile-an-hour zones, except outside schools and hospitals.

One of Kudenhinbu’s main priorities, which he raised a number of times at a recent event, is to bring back the St Paul’s Carnival, which has been cancelled for two years running, although it is expected to return in 2017. “The festival is very important to me because it brings Bristol’s ethnic minorities together,” he told the Bristol Post. “People can share their different cultures. The festival promotes racial harmony. Some events such as the Balloon Fiesta, the wine festival and Gay Pride Festival go ahead, so why not the St Paul’s Carnival.”

Mayor’s primary aim, according to his campaign literature, “is to move Bristol forwards in all aspects of human endeavour and to make Bristol one of the best cities in the United Kingdom in which to work and live and visit.”

He said, “People are telling me I’m the right person to save Bristol.”

  • Apparently Mayor’s grandfather was a King in Nigeria. Find out more here.

Ladbrokes odds: 200/1, equivalent to 0.42%.

Video Bristol 24/7 interviewBristol Post interviewWebsite

John Langley, Independent

John Langley drew national attention in last year’s general election campaign whilst he was a local election candidate after it emerged that he was a porn star. He was later suspended from his role as Vice Chairman of Bristol UKIP, although for a different reason.

Langley, who is also known as ‘Johnny Rockhard’, wants a shift of power from political parties to the people. Running as an Independent, he is keen to hold referendums to determine the City Council’s spending priorities as he believes that Bristolians should have a greater say over how their city is run.

Ladbrokes odds: 100/1, equivalent to 0.84%.

Video ‘Why I should be mayor’Bristol 24/7 interviewBristol Post interviewWebsite

Paul Saville, Independent

Paul Saville, who describes himself as a “chai seller, ice cream seller, artist and activist, and magician” is running for mayor as an Independent. He is a difficult character, best known for his frequent clashes with George Ferguson around Bristol.

Saville cares deeply about homelessness and Bristol’s housing crisis, having twice been homeless himself. He is very critical about what he sees as a lack of democracy in local politics.

Ladbrokes odds: 200/1, equivalent to 0.42%.

Video ‘Why I should be mayor’Bristol 24/7 interviewBristol Post interviewWebsite

Christine Townsend, Independent

Often, in elections, there are candidates who don’t expect to win and don’t particularly want to either. Not many admit it, but Christine Townsend does just that. The former teacher is using this election campaign as a platform to draw attention to injustice and unfairness in school admissions. She was recently profiled in a Guardian article, in which you can read about her criticisms in greater detail.

Ladbrokes odds: 200/1, equivalent to 0.42%.

Video ‘Why I should be mayor’Bristol 24/7 interviewBristol Post interviewWebsite

Who’s going to win?

The likelihood of all the main candidates winning the mayoral election, according to Ladbrokes. There has been little overall change since October, with Ferguson remaining the favourite throughout. Source:

If Ladbrokes’ odds are to be believed, George Ferguson is the clear favourite. I have been tracking the odds since last year, and the story hasn’t changed much: Ferguson has remained in the lead, with Marvin Rees quite far behind. The odds are a reflection of the money being placed on each candidate to win. Ladbrokes said last week that 77% of all of the money is for him.

However, these odds aren’t necessarily accurate. Whilst betting on other elections, such as the US presidential election or even the London mayoral race, is usually informed by information such as opinion polls or detailed, reputable analysis from political commentators, betting on this race isn’t as there haven’t been any opinion polls to give us an idea of who is really ahead. For instance, in the last election, Marvin Rees was the bookmakers’ favourite to win but he lost to Ferguson.

Further to this, there are plenty of precedents of underdogs coming from behind and snatching the prize. A number of candidates, when pressed on whether they expect to win the election, have cited Jeremy Corbyn, who went from 200/1 to favourite to Labour leader, as proof that they had a chance. Another topical example is Leicester City. With this in mind, it is certainly possible that something completely unexpected could happen.

Nevertheless, this election does seem to be a two-horse race between George Ferguson and Marvin Rees. As Bristol 24/7 notes, Rees has an advantage in terms of the resources and the large number of volunteers available to his campaign. However, Ferguson has also been quite successful in fundraising online, raising over £10,000 on

The Bristol Cable has produced a very interesting interactive map showing voter turnout in the last mayoral election per ward and how it links with deprivation. As one might expect, the least deprived wards tended to have the highest turnout, and some of the more deprived wards the lowest. This appears to be a disadvantage for Rees, for as the New Statesman explains, “Ferguson is a hit with middle-class voters” whereas “Rees’s support is strongest in low-income, low turnout areas like Filwood and Easton”. Turnout is expected to be higher this year, but “plenty of people are also completely unaware that there is an election coming up,” as this video by Bristol 24/7 shows.

It’s also unclear what factors are the most important for different voters in deciding how to vote. How many people will vote for “anyone but George” because of his unpopular decisions? How many people value independence from party politics above all else? How will right-leaning voters who don’t much like the look of Ferguson or Rees choose to use their second preferences? There isn’t nearly enough information to figure out who will win or lose, unlike in other, more widely covered races.

I’m still not sure who I think is going to win. At 1/3 (64%) on Ladbrokes, George Ferguson is certainly overvalued considering his unpopularity. If I were a betting man, which I’m not, I’d put some money on Marvin Rees at 9/4 (26%), who surely stands a better chance than that.

Either way, I await the results, expected two days after the election on Saturday 7 May, with great excitement.

Hustings report

Twelve of the thirteen mayoral candidates pictured (in part, at least) at the Bristol 24/7 hustings. From left to right: Martin Booth (editor of Bristol 24/7, standing, not a candidate); Tom Baldwin's legs; Kay Barnard; Tony Britt's head; Tony Dyer; George Ferguson; Stoney Garnett; Mayor Festus Kudehinbu; Charles Lucas; Marvin Rees; Paul Saville; Christine Townsend; Paul Turner's head and shoulder. John Langley had to leave early. Photo by Iain Walker

Twelve of the thirteen mayoral candidates pictured (in part, at least) at the Bristol 24/7 hustings. From left to right: Martin Booth (editor of Bristol 24/7, standing, not a candidate); Tom Baldwin’s legs; Kay Barnard; Tony Britt’s head; Tony Dyer; George Ferguson; Stoney Garnett; Mayor Festus Kudehinbu; Charles Lucas; Marvin Rees; Paul Saville; Christine Townsend; Paul Turner’s head and shoulder. John Langley had to leave early.
Photo by Iain Walker

With just one week remaining until the second Bristol mayoral election, I found myself at a hustings event arranged by Bristol 24/7 in the Lantern at Colston Hall.

Luckily, all of the candidates were invited, including the independents. At some previous events only the ‘serious’ candidates were allowed to attend (although Stoney Garnett and Paul Saville have been known to gate crash), leading to some controversy. This made for a more amusing event, to say the least.

One highlight was maverick two-time mayoral candidate and comedian Stoney Garnett producing a magic wand and choosing to stand up to answer all of his questions (talk about putting the “stand-up” in “stand-up comedian” – am I right?).

Unfortunately, the fact that there were so many candidates meant that they only had the opportunity to address the questions put to them, instead of engaging in a real debate about the issues. Additionally, this was officially a “cultural” hustings, and so important topics such as housing and transport weren’t discussed as much as they should have been. For a more intense, six-person debate, there’s one here on BBC iPlayer.

It became clear from the outset that this was a very left-wing audience: candidates of the left (Rees, Dyer, Saville, Townsend, Baldwin, etc.) were treated to rapturous rounds of applause, whilst Conservative Charles Lucas was met with a stony silence, even after saying some things, such as committing to invest more in railways, which would have proved more popular had someone from a different party said them. A few anti-George hecklers were present, which ruined the vibe at times, but by the third or fourth outburst they were told to keep quiet by irritated audience members.

Of course, the room wasn’t representative of the electorate (luckily for Lucas), and I think Ferguson has targeted his campaign literature quite well at Bristol’s “silent majority”. Whether it will change any minds, that remains to be seen.

Marvin Rees was rather impressive, and answered a potentially difficult question on his decision to study a ‘biblical economics’ module by linking it to the Jubilee 2000 project .

Christine Townsend, although she doesn’t intent to win (see profile above) came across as very well-informed, especially on the issue of inequality which was obviously close to the hearts of the people on the stage and in the audience.

All in all, it was great to see all of the candidates in real life, even if I still wasn’t sure who to support by the end of it.

It is easy to mock the candidates for one reason or another, in particular the more eccentric Independents, but all of them are standing because they truly want to make Bristol a better place. A number of them have experienced personal hardship and all want to improve the lives of everyone, especially the worse off, in Bristol, which is a noble aim.

For another recap of this hustings from Bristol 24/7, read this.

I hope this article has been helpful. Don’t forget to vote in the police and crime commissioner and local elections as well (read more about both here).

Happy voting!

  1. The percentages given aren’t directly equivalent to the Ladbrokes odds beside them. The probabilities sum to more than 1, so I have adjusted them accordingly. 
  2. Perhaps unintentionally, Lucas appears to have swiped this phrase from George Ferguson’s 2012 election campaign. A promise to “get Bristol moving and working” appeared at the top of the list of priorities that got him elected. 
  3. An observation: TUSC is an anagram of ‘cuts’, which I had never noticed before. 
  4. Corbyn actually urged Labour councils not to set illegal budgets. Baldwin would be wise to listen if he is elected.